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How to clean a refrigerator
Think you know how to clean a refrigerator? Follow our step-by-step guide and have a sparkling clean fridge in no time.
- Multipurpose cleaning spray
- Paper towels
- Rubber gloves
- Dish towels (optional)
While cleaning up those inevitable spills before they spread or harden will help keep your refrigerator gleaming, it’s also important to regularly clean it entirely, inside and out. This will prolong its life, better preserve your food and keep your fridge looking as good as it did the day you bought it.
Step 1. Gather all cleaning supplies
It may be an obvious step, but sometimes people start unloading their refrigerator only to discover that they are short on key cleaning supplies. It’s best to do an inventory before getting started.
Step 2. Empty the contents of refrigerator
Cleaning a refrigerator does not need to take an immense amount of time, but some food should not sit out for very long.
It’s a good idea to have a cooler with ice packs ready to keep perishable food in a cold environment while you’re cleaning the refrigerator.
This is also a good opportunity to get rid of older food.
Step 3. Turn off power to refrigerator
Unplug the refrigerator (if the outlet is accessible), or flip the refrigerator circuit breaker or remove the appropriate fuse from the fuse box.
Step 4. Remove shelves and drawers
Some refrigerators include shelves and drawers that can be taken out.
Put on your rubber gloves and wash the drawers in a sink with soap and warm water.
Ensure that any soap residue is thoroughly rinsed off so that food does not absorb the smell.
You can dry the drawers and shelves by hand, or let them air dry while you clean the rest of the fridge.
Step 5. Clean all surfaces
Wipe all surfaces clean, including shelves, drawers and interior walls.
Stubborn food buildup may require a bit of scrubbing with a sponge.
If you discover mold or mildew as you are cleaning, see our steps for removing mold from a refrigerator.
Use a multisurface cleaning product along with sponges or paper towels, but read labels carefully to ensure the product is appropriate for use in a refrigerator.
Tip: Homemade cleaner can be made with 2 tablespoons of baking soda and a quart of hot water. If you use this solution, it is wise to let any glass shelves warm up to room temperature so that they do not crack from the abrupt change in temperature when the hot water hits it.
Step 6. Thoroughly dry surfaces
Thoroughly dry any residual moisture before returning food to the refrigerator. This will minimize future cleanups, and it will help avoid any smells getting into the food.
Pay particular attention to gaps, cracks and crevices where moisture can become trapped.
Step 7. Return food to refrigerator
As you put food back on the shelves and into the drawers, wipe jars and containers using paper towels to prevent future drips and spills. This is another opportunity to conduct an inventory and make sure foods are placed in appropriate locations so they can be found easily.
Step 8. Clean freezer compartment
The process of cleaning the freezer can include the previously mentioned steps, but a thorough cleaning requires defrosting the freezer first.
To completely defrost the freezer, the unit must be unplugged.
The defrosting time may vary depending on the amount of ice that is built up in the freezer.
As any ice melts, carefully remove the ice and dispose of it.
Pay attention to how fast the ice is defrosting so that water does not leak out of the freezer.
Absorb water with paper or dishtowels.
Once the ice is removed and the water is mopped up, clean the surfaces.
WARNING: You may be tempted to accelerate the defrosting process with a hair dryer, but electrocution is a real danger. It’s better to be patient and take care of other chores while you’re waiting.
Tip: Dampen a cotton pad with vanilla extract and wipe the inside to keep your freezer smelling more pleasant than it currently does.
Step 9. Clean exterior
Cleaning the exterior will improve the look and the longevity of your refrigerator.
A multisurface cleaner with paper towels or a sponge may be the best solution for removing dirt, dust and germs.
The handle in particular should be cleaned weekly to remove common household germs.
Note: If you have a stainless steel refrigerator, look in your owner's manual for instructions on proper cleaning, or see our guide to cleaning a stainless steel fridge.
Clean the door, door frame and the door handle weekly using a cloth damped with dish soap and warm water. (If you have a stainless steel refrigerator, follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning.)
Wipe away spills as you find them to save yourself the trouble of having to scrub old, sticky and hardened spills later.
Line the shelves of your refrigerator with press-and-seal plastic wrap to protect the newly cleaned surface. Just peel it away and toss it when it gets dirty.
Clean your refrigerator before you are about to head out to the grocery store to restock it. It will save you time.
When in doubt, throw it out. Don't risk mold growth in your refrigerator.