How to deep clean a refrigerator in 11 steps

Keep your refrigerator sparkling clean with these cleaning tips.  

cleaning refrigerator

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The refrigerator is the most important item in the kitchen, but are you cleaning it as often as the other household items? Probably not. While the fridge is built to last for years, you shouldn’t neglect its cleanliness and maintenance. Food stains and residue will build up on the surfaces of the shelves and drawers if you don’t upkeep it regularly. 

To keep your fridge in top condition, it’s best to clean it every three to six months. We know it’s not the most pleasant task, but we hope that with these cleaning tips, you will find it more tolerable. 

Step 1: Remove everything from the refrigerator

First thing first, empty your fridge, yes, including the items in your freezer. There’s really no point cleaning it with all of your fresh fruits and vegetables and soda sitting on the shelves.

You can set two areas on your dining table: One for things that need to be cleaned and the other for items that need to be put back into the fridge once the cleaning is done. Don’t forget to remove any shelvings, crispers and other removable surfaces from the refrigerator. 

If you have a cooler, a freezer or a second fridge, you can keep items that need to be refrigerated into the second fridge to avoid food spoilage. But most food will be fine if you leave it out in the open for a short period of time, just make sure you don’t leave them out for more than an hour. 

Step 2: Throw any expired, aged, mouldy or inedible food

Woman taking bottle with juice out of refrigerator in kitchen

© belchonock | 123rf

Hands up if you’re guilty of leaving expired food in the fridge. There’s really no shame in admitting it, it happens to the best of us. Take this time instead to purge your refrigerator of all the expired and inedible food and beverages.

Check each and every expiration date, if a food product’s going to expire soon, label it with a sticker to remind yourself to finish it asap. Remember to empty your trash bin afterwards to ensure your house doesn’t reek of spoiled and rotten food. 

Step 3: Clean its content

Now that you’ve removed every single item out of your fridge, take a look at the content. If their conditions are less than pristine, take a wet cloth and wipe down all the products. No point returning these if they’re going to spread messes around in your cleaned refrigerator. 

Read more: How to clean a washing machine

Step 4: Wash the shelvings, crisper drawers and other removable surfaces

You can wash these items with dish soap. Just lather them up, scrub them clean and air dry them before returning them. Never place the shelving units and drawers into the dishwasher. Remember, just dish soap and water will do. 

Another important thing to note: Don’t ever wash a cold glass with hot water. The sudden change in temperature will cause the glass to shatter. You can wash it with cold water or leave it out for them to reach room temperature before tackling it. 

Step 5: Wipe the inside of the refrigerator

cleaning refrigerator

© Janis Smits | 123rf

To clean the inside of the fridge, you need a mild and unscented cleaning solution, but of course, if you can go natural, by all means, please do.

It’s cheaper and more eco-friendly anyway. All you need to do is mix two tablespoons of baking soda with 900ml of water in a bowl. Then, use a clean sponge to wipe the surfaces down. Use a toothbrush to clean cracks and crevices you can’t reach. 

Step 6: Remove odours

If you have expired food lying around in your fridge prior to this, you may have foul smells. Luckily, it’s something you can tackle easily without harsh chemicals involved. Deodorise it by leaving a bowl of dry baking soda on the bottom shelf. It’ll help absorb any unpleasant scent in your fridge. 

Read more: How to clean stainless steel appliances

Step 7: Clean the refrigerator gasket 

Here’s something people often overlook during cleaning: the rubber gasket around the fridge door. Like everything else in and outside of your fridge, it needs to be cleaned regularly to maintain a tight seal.

To clean the gasket, use a solution of ½ cup water and ½ cup vinegar. Rinse thoroughly before wiping them dry with a clean cloth. You may apply lemon oil on the gasket to keep the rubber in its top condition. 

Step 8: Return everything  

Once everything is cleaned and dried, return them into their own respective places in the fridge. 

Step 9: Clean the outside of the fridge

woman cleaning kitchen

© Rob Marmion | 123rf

Now turn your attention to the exterior. You don’t need to do much heavy-duty cleaning for the exterior, just wipe it down with a cloth sprayed with an all-purpose cleaner. Don’t forget to wipe the top of your refrigerator too. 

Step 10: Clean the condenser coils and fan blade

And now it’s time for parts of the refrigerator that you can’t see: condenser coils and fan blades. They, too, need the occasional cleaning to remove any dust or debris that gather in that area. If your coils are covered with dust, then heat won’t release properly, and if heat isn’t released properly, then the refrigerator will have to work twice as hard to keep it cool.

Follow these steps to clean refrigerator coils and fan blades: 

  1. The first thing you should do is unplug the refrigerator. 
  2. Once the power’s off, take a coil brush to gently remove dust from the coils. Be careful when you’re doing this, you don’t want to puncture any of the coils. You can use a vacuum cleaner with an attached brush to clean up the excess dust around the coils. 
  3. Next, we move on to the condenser fan. Use the coil brush to brush away the dust before taking a damp cloth to wipe them clean. 
  4. Sweep or vacuum the area before moving the refrigerator back in place and plug it back in. 

Read more: How to keep fruits and vegetable fresh for longer

Step 11: Clean the fridge water dispenser

Refrigerator with ice and water dispenser

© belchonock | 123rf

*You may skip this step if you do not own a refrigerator with a water dispenser. 

Yes, even the water dispenser needs to be cleaned from time to time. However, the water dispenser system varies from model to model. The best approach to this is to consult with the owner’s manual before tackling it. You should also replace the filter as recommended in the manual to keep it in good working condition. 

The water dispenser tray, on the other hand, is rather easy to clean. Use any vinegar-based cleaner to wipe the tray down before drying it. Remember to clean the bottom of the tray too!

How to remove mould from a refrigerator?

Like most cold and (sometimes) damp environments, your fridge, too, can harbour mould and you should get rid of them as soon as possible.

First, you need to create a baking soda paste.

Mix one tablespoon of baking soda into a quart of warm water. Then wipe down the mouldy surface with the mixture with a clean cloth. Once you’ve removed the mould, wipe the surface dry to remove any excess moisture to prevent another mould outbreak. 

Should I clean a new fridge before use? 

Yes, it’s always a good practice to clean your new fridge before using it. You don’t need any harsh chemicals for this, just dish soap and warm water will do. Treat it like how you would wash your refrigerator. Remove each compartment, rinse and dry them completely before popping it back in. 

Read more: A chef’s tips on how to care for your kitchen knives

How to remove grease off the fridge? 

Like all kitchen appliances, you can remove grease with baking soda. Mix warm water and baking soda in a bowl to make a baking soda paste. Let the paste sit on the grease for 5 to 10 minutes before scrubbing it off with a clean sponge. 

How often should a fridge be cleaned? 

You should give your refrigerator a deep clean every three months. However, it’s always a good practice to take a few minutes to check the content of your refrigerator for any expired food once a week or once every two weeks. 

What happens if you don’t clean your fridge? 

Mould and bacteria will start to grow if you leave your fridge unattended for too long. You really don’t want these things to be near where your food is. Your fridge will reek of foul smell too. And not to mention, cleaning up is going to be a pain. 

Can a dirty refrigerator make you sick? 

Unfortunately, yes. A dirty fridge can act as a breeding ground for mould and bacteria like salmonella and E. coli. You can’t actually see these bacteria with your naked eyes, but they could be hanging out by your food and contaminating them, thus making you sick. Clean your fridge regularly to prevent bacteria from harbouring in it. 

There you have it! We hope these tips will come in handy the next time you clean your refrigerator. If you need guidance on how to organise your fridge, you may refer to this article.

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