5 Steps to a Clean and Fresh-Smelling Fridge

A refrigerator is one of the most commonly used appliances in any home. But because of this constant usage, it’s also easy to overlook its need for regular cleaning.

The fridge is where most perishable foods are stored, including raw ingredients and leftovers. Spills and other food residue can contaminate other foods and leave stains on the fridge shelves and drawers.

If your refrigerator is stuffed, it may be difficult to see and reach for some of the contents, so you might forget about these food items. Together with the spills, the spoiled food can cause your refrigerator to build up unpleasant odors.

Aside from having to deal with the off-putting smell, allowing your refrigerator to remain dirty can put your and your family’s health at risk. The bacteria and mold from spoiled contents can contaminate other foods in the fridge. Consuming these contaminated food items can cause you to become sick, so keeping your appliance clean is necessary to preserve your health. 

Whether you have a top freezer or a side by side refrigerator, here are five steps you should follow for a clean and fresh-smelling fridge.

Clean fridge

Sort Through Its Contents

Before anything else, make sure to unplug your fridge so you don’t waste any energy while cleaning it. If your appliance has a cooling mechanism you can temporarily switch off, you can do this, too. Once done, proceed with emptying your refrigerator of its contents.

Apart from making it easier for you to clean the interiors, this process also allows you to take inventory of what you have in stock. As you do this, check the quality of the food you take out.

See if their use-by dates have passed, and toss them out if they’re expired. If there are changes in their appearance or odor, it’s probably best to throw those foods out as well.

Place all food items that you intend to keep in a cooler with ice to keep them cold while you’re cleaning the fridge. This is especially important for meat and dairy products, as these foods tend to spoil easily. The cold storage prevents bacteria from multiplying in the food, so the ingredients can be stored for longer.

An empty fridge

Take Out the Shelves and Drawers

After removing all the contents of your fridge, take out the removable drawers and shelves. Set them aside until the shelves and drawers gradually warm up to room temperature.

Unless the drawers and shelves are completely made of metal or plastic, don’t run them under hot water to hasten the process. This will damage the drawers and shelves constructed from ceramic or glass as the hot water will cause the cold shelves and drawers to crack and break.

Once the shelves and drawers have warmed up, clean them using warm soapy water. Be careful when handling glass shelving as it can get slippery when it’s all soapy. To prevent breakage, wear rubber gloves during this process. 

If you must scrub parts of the shelves and drawers to remove grime or food stains, use a soft brush or an old toothbrush. Otherwise, use a soft sponge. Once clean, dry the drawers and shelves thoroughly using a dry cloth.

Man removing the shelf from the fridge

Clean the Fridge Interior

When it comes to having a clean and fresh-smelling fridge, you need to make sure the entire interior is spotless and mess-free. At the same time, you don’t want to damage the surfaces with rough scrubbing. Instead, use a clean cloth, hot water, and mild dish soap to clean the fridge.

Work from top to bottom so you don’t miss any spots. Doing this will also help prevent dirt or debris from falling on areas that are already clean. Remember to also clean the back and the bottom crevices of the refrigerator. These are the usual areas where spills tend to settle.

As you’re cleaning the fridge, regularly rinse the cloth you use. You can also use multiple rags to ensure you don’t transfer any dirt to different parts of the fridge. If you find spills that have hardened on the surface, you might need a non-abrasive scrubber to remove them.

Alternatively, you can lay a warm wet cloth over the area for a few minutes. This should cause the substance to soften and become easier to remove, so you can wipe it away with little effort. 

Woman wiping the inside of the fridge

Wipe Down the Door Seals

Another part of the fridge you need to clean is the door seals. Also known as the gasket, this area is made of rubber and is responsible for keeping an airtight seal so that cold air won’t escape and hot air can’t enter. Since it features crevices, the door seals can also collect food crumbs and spills. To remove any dry debris, use a vacuum or a dry brush. 

If there are dried-up spills in the rubber seals, mix a solution of white distilled vinegar and water. Then, take a soft cloth and wrap it around a blunt knife. Dip this in the solution and gently run the cloth along the seals to remove the gunk. Once done, wipe the seals using a dry cloth.

Man wiping the door seals

Place Natural Deodorizers to Combat Odor

Another way to ensure your fridge smells fresh long after you’ve cleaned it is to use natural deodorizers such as ground coffee or baking soda. Unlike artificial deodorizers that may contain perfumes, coffee and baking soda won’t impart any strange smells. This makes them ideal for neutralizing odors without affecting the quality of the food stored in your fridge. 

Spread the coffee grounds on a tray and leave it in the fridge. It will soak up all odors within a couple of days. As an alternative, you can place a cup filled with baking soda inside your fridge. Baking soda is effective in absorbing strong smells and preventing them from lingering inside the refrigerator.

Bad odors inside your fridge are a sure sign that the appliance needs cleaning, but don’t wait for this to happen. Instead, schedule a thorough cleaning of your refrigerator once a month so you can continue to safely store your food in it. A clean fridge will run more efficiently, so you can expect reliable performance for years to come.

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