Spring Cleaning Your Refrigerator
It’s March (hard to believe) and for me that means it’s time to start thinking about some heavy-duty spring cleaning. In my kitchen, it’s definitely time to clean out the fridge. How do I clean out my refrigerator? To be honest, it’s a bit of a process and I do it every 3 or 4 months; but it’s one I’m always glad I’ve done. So, let’s gather some supplies and get started…
What do you need?
Cleaning rags, towels, sponges, including ones to dry the inside of your refrigerator as you go.
Replacement filters if your refrigerator has them (produce fresh filters, water filters, etc.). This is a great time to replace those filters if you haven’t recently.
A gentle, all-purpose cleaner that’s safe for food contact surfaces. I usually mix up a gallon of warm (not hot) water, a tablespoon of baking soda, and a tablespoon of dish detergent.
Let’s get cleaning!
I like to completely empty my refrigerator when I clean it. It’s not always possible, but if I get to it when it’s not super full, it’s not too hard to take everything out for an hour. If you are more comfortable, you can work through in sections.
As you take items out of your refrigerator, be sure to check expiration dates. If you have expired condiments, toss them. I make a lot of salad dressings and sauces, so there are always mason jars with masking tape labels in my fridge at home (and here at KAM come to think of it). Double-check the dates on those and toss anything old. You’ll also want to look at lids/seals of those jars to make sure they haven’t started to rust or corrode. Acidic foods can cause canning jar lids to oxidize and rust. This isn’t great for your food, so it might be a good idea to transfer those items to clean jars with plastic lids, if you have them. (Did you know that many mayonnaise, peanut butter and plastic jar lids fit regular mouth mason jars? When you’re done with the jar, check the fit and if it works, toss it in your dishwasher so you have it for your mason jars later.) You’ll also want to take a look at any leftovers you have in your refrigerator. If it’s more than a week old, toss it. If you saved it because you felt like you needed to, but you aren’t going to use it, toss it.
Once your refrigerator is empty, remove any drawers or bins and wash them. If they are dishwasher safe, follow manufacturer instructions and run them through the appropriate cycle. If not, wash in warm, soapy water and let air dry while you’re cleaning the rest of the refrigerator. Do the same thing with your shelves.
Now that you’ve washed drawers, bins & shelves, it’s time to clean the inside of the refrigerator cabinet. Before you start, double check your manufacturer’s instructions for any recommended cleaners or cautions. Grab a soft rag and wipe the inside down with the soap, water & baking soda solution. If there are any stubborn stains, use a little bit of pressure, to scrub it off. A little bit of baking soda can be helpful here too. You don’t want to use a scouring pad or scrubby sponge because it may scratch the finish. Even if it looks fine, those scratches are where mold starts to form, and you really don’t want mold to grow in your refrigerator. Speaking of mold, mold likes moisture, so be sure to use a clean, soft cloth (I like microfiber towels), to dry the inside of your cabinet as you go. Be sure to wipe down the insides of the doors as well.
Before you start putting your drawers & bins back in, as well as your food, you’ll want to clean the gaskets around your doors. Wipe them down with some warm, soapy water, making sure to get into the grooves as well. Don’t forget to dry them off too.
When you’re ready to reload your food into your refrigerator, make sure everything is dry. Replace filters if needed. Wipe any stuck-on food residue from containers as you put them back in, and think about what makes sense for location of items in your refrigerator. For example, I have a French door refrigerator at home and based on the layout of our kitchen, we tend to open the right-side door first, so we put frequently used items on the right side of the refrigerator, and the less used items on the left. I also like to put things I need to use up, right in front of my face when I open the refrigerator door. If you need to adjust shelf height, or location of door bins so that they work for you, please do. I have one shelf from my refrigerator in storage in my basement because we tend to have larger containers and I needed to make room for them.
Finally, be sure to clean the exterior of the door as you normally would, depending on the finish, and admire the sparkle, both inside and out!