When you psych yourself up for a serious cleaning session you might envision an afternoon of mopping the floors, spraying down the counter tops, and scrubbing the toilet. It’s not pretty but with Beyonce’s new album blaring in the background it can be a good excuse to sing loud and clean hard. What I tend to forget about, however, and I’ll be the first to admit it, is the refrigerator.
Not the outside — that will get a wipe down with the counter tops — but the inside has a tendency to get neglected. According to HomeFoodSafety.org, mold, spills, and bacteria lingering inside the fridge can be responsible for food poisoning. It got me thinking, I need to review my cleaning priorities. What’s the point in having a polished floor that looks good if the refrigerator is neglected and could make me sick? It’s time to slot this workhorse of the kitchen into a regular cleaning routine.
The Bare Minimum
If you’re pressed for time and the thought of a thorough refrigerator rehab sounds daunting, fear not. FoodSafety.org reports that simply wiping and checking daily will keep you in good graces with your fridge. Wipe up spills as soon as they happen to prevent them from drying and festering (that’s how bacteria and mold will grow). If you are defrosting, make sure the item is covered and on a rimmed plate on the lowest shelf to avoid chances of spillage. Be sure to isolate raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.
Check daily for fruit, veggies or leftovers that are past their prime. They will not only start to rot, but they will create nasty odors that will stink out your kitchen and make the rest of the food in the fridge taste bad.
If you do find yourself plagued by smells (sometimes odors linger even after the offending food has gone) try spreading a box of baking soda onto a rimmed baking sheet and leaving it in the fridge overnight. The extra surface area will absorb more than just an open box of baking soda. Fresh coffee grounds on a tray will also soak up odors as will unscented chlorophyll cat litter – just make sure it’s well labeled!
Middle of the Road
Once a week, when you have a little more time on your hands and are prepared to do more than the bare minimum, wipe down the doors, the door handle, edges and the top of your fridge — all that dust that can accumulate on the top of a tall fridge can find its way into your food every time you open and close the doors. Also, keep the front grill free of dust to allow free airflow to the condenser for best cooling and efficiency.
Pay attention to the door seals which can be a good hiding spot for crumbs and bacteria. Use hot soapy water or an antibacterial spray. Once clean, use either a stainless steel spray on the exterior or mix up equal quantities of baby oil and rubbing alcohol in an empty bottle and use a soft cloth in the direction of the grain to avoid streaks.
Obsessed with cleanliness? Good. Once a month or at least once a season, unplug the fridge and roll up your sleeves. Remove everything from your fridge and have a sort through. Do you really need two jars of pickles? How long has that jar of mayonnaise been hibernating in that back corner? Check expiration dates and toss anything that’s past its prime. Do the same for your freezer and throw out old ice allowing space for the freezer to produce new.
Next mix up a solution of two tablespoons baking soda for every quart of hot water in the sink and use it to wipe down the interior walls of the fridge. Remove the shelves and let them soak in the solution in the sink.
When all is clean, dry, and organized, put it back in the fridge with a new open box of baking soda and heave a sigh of relief that you don’t have to do that for at least another month!