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Refrigerators

Your refrigerator is filthy—here's how to clean it

Bye bye, bacteria!

A person wearing rubber gloves wipes down the shelves in a fridge with a cloth Credit: Getty Images / Andrey Popov

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Wondering what the stubborn white patch or the sticky red streak is on the shelf of your fridge? Everything from dried milk to maraschino cherry juice (when was the last time you had a make-your-own sundae night?) can build up over time and make the inside of your refrigerator, well, rather gross. We should all be cleaning our refrigerators more thoroughly and more often.

Cleaning your refrigerator isn’t particularly difficult, in fact you probably already have everything you need to clean it. It can be tedious because, in addition to cleaning, you'll need to unload and reload all of your food. The best time to clean the fridge is before you go grocery shopping or anytime your fridge is nearly empty.

When it comes time to clean, you don't want your fridge packed with food for one very important reason: You don't want it to spoil while it's not in the fridge, and for the hour or so it takes for the fridge to get its temperature back to around 37°F. According to the FDA, bacteria grows quickly between 40°F and 140°F.

Once you’re ready to get started, here's how to clean your refrigerator.

What you’ll need

Person wearing rubber gloves wipes the outside of a refrigerator with a cloth.
Credit: Getty Images / Andrey Popov

Cleaning your refrigerator is easier than you think, and you already have everything you need to get started.

How to clean your refrigerator

  1. Remove all food contents of your refrigerator, and then remove the door bins, crisper drawers, and shelves from the refrigerator.
  2. Dissolve two tablespoons of baking soda in a quart of hot water and then wipe the inside of the fridge down. Baking soda absorbs odors without adding its own scent. You can also use a few drops of dish detergent in place of baking soda.
  3. Rinse away the baking soda mixture from the inside of the fridge with clean water. The dry thoroughly with microfiber cloths.
  4. In your kitchen sink, was the bins, drawers, and shelves with the baking soda solution. (You’ll probably have to make more of it.)
  5. Again, rinse these items with clean water and dry with cloths. Once dry, return to refrigerator.
  6. Repeat the steps above for the freezer compartment.
  7. Wipe down the outside of the fridge with water and dish detergent or a stainless steel cleaner, if applicable.

Once you deep clean your fridge, it’s easier to maintain day-to-day. Wipe up any spills immediately. (Some refrigerators have spill-proof shelves that contain liquids to make cleanup easier.) And, always toss spoiled and moldy foods as soon as you notice them, so they don’t contaminate the rest of the fridge.

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