With the holidays approaching, now is the opportune time to clean out your refrigerator and make room for your family’s favorite dishes and leftovers! Start your holiday cleaning preparations with the appliance that gets the most the use.
Cleaning the Interior
Gather the cleaning products you will need:
- Clean Sponge
- Dish Soap
- Lint-Free Dish Towels (flour-sack style is recommended)
- Microfiber Towel
- Paper Towels
- Counter Space
- Sink or Tub
- Trash Can
- Thin Washcloth
- White Vinegar (in a spray bottle)
- Olive Oil
Keep in mind that you will want the most natural products available. Bleach or other harsh chemicals or disinfectants are not recommended. Once you have organized your cleaning products, it is time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. This entire project should take less than an hour, depending on the state of your refrigerator.
Begin by removing all the food; this makes the process of cleaning faster and easier. Consolidate like foods on your countertop. For example, all salad dressings should be kept together, all condiments together, cheeses together, and so forth.
Remove shelves and drawers and place them into a sink or tub full of warm, soapy water. While the shelves and drawers are soaking, wipe interior surfaces with soap and warm water. (If you want to go 100 percent natural, mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda into one quart hot water and use in place of soap). After the overall wipe down, rinse surfaces with clean water. Finally, take the time to towel dry with a soft cloth.
For stubborn stains on interior walls (or even on shelves or drawers), make a paste with baking soda and water. Apply this paste to the stain and leave it for up to an hour before wiping away.
For door seals, use your index finger and a thin washcloth to wipe the seals thoroughly with warm, soapy water. Remember to rinse and dry the seal. To keep it in the best condition, lubricate seals with weather stripping or petroleum jelly every time you give your refrigerator a deep clean.
While we are on the topic of the door seals, take the time to do the dollar bill test. It is as simple as it sounds: place a bill between the seals and the door, then close the door. If the bill falls out, it is time to have the seal replaced.
Repeat all steps for the freezer.
Organizing the Interior
Now that your refrigerator’s interior is sparkling let us get that food back inside! Of course, after all of that work, you do not want to just put your food back in the way it came out. Wipe down the jars and bottles, then group them in the refrigerator by use. Always put the labels facing forward so you can find what you are looking for faster.
Believe it or not, there is a science to organizing your food within your appliance. Here are the basics:
- Store fruits and vegetables in separate, designated drawers.
- Keep your meats, poultry, and fish on the lowest level shelves. This will minimize any cross contamination if you experience any leaks or drips of these items.
- It is not suggested to keep your milk in the door, but rather in the back (corner) of the space for the best regulation of temperature. When the door opens, whether searching for milk or not, the temperature of the milk adjusts.
- Keep eggs near your milk for the same reasons.
- Store sauces, condiments, jams, and jellies in the door for easy access.
- Cheese and lunch meat can be stored together, similar to a delicatessen. Make sure any open packaging is resealed tighly.
- Group leftovers together and store in clear containers for easy identification of the contents. Out of sight often means out of mind, and that is an easy way to lose a perfectly good meal!
- Finally, do not overfill your refrigerator. Having a packed interior lessens the circulation of air, and your food will spoil faster.
If you have a handful of smaller items that you regularly use, such as jarred garlic, put them on a lazy Susan inside the fridge. You may rearrange the shelves when you put them back in. Place the shelves to suit your preferences, whether it is moving a shelf up or down to make room for tall containers on the top or bottom, etcetera.
Now that your interior is clean and organized move on to the outside of your appliance.
Cleaning the Exterior
Start by wiping down the front and sides of the appliance with a damp sponge. If you have a stainless steel refrigerator, a simple combination of white vinegar and olive oil is a great cleaning solution. Pour some white vinegar in a clean spray bottle and lightly spray the exterior of the stainless steel. Wipe the surface with a clean microfiber cloth. Then dip the cloth in olive oil and proceed to move it along the grain. You will see a beautiful shine begin to develop without streaks or marks.
Make sure to remove any moisture from the drip pan under the fridge. It might be full of water or just have a few drops. Either way, wipe it with paper towels, then pull it out and wash it with warm, soapy water. If the drip pan is not removable, wrap a damp dishtowel around the end of a broom handle, secure it with rubber bands, and use it to “clean” the pan.
Coils should be vacuumed at least once a year. Coils might be on the top or bottom of the fridge, depending on the style. If the coils are dirty, the fridge works extra hard, and it could lead to burn out.
Finally, some simple details to keep in mind:
- Examine your food items once a week, just before you do your weekly meal planning and shopping. Check the expiration on products and condiments and plan to use or throw away. You will save money by avoiding duplicates and will also avoid “science projects” growing inside!
- Check the temperature regularly. The ideal temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Any warmer and you risk the growth of harmful bacteria; any colder and your food may start to show
signs of freezing.
- Wipe spills immediately after they occur.
- And, of course, keep a fresh box of baking soda on hand to replace each month.