There are plenty of reasons to clean a fridge (unidentifiable leftovers, funky odors) and one big excuse not to — namely, lack of time. But you don’t need to set aside several hours to complete a basic cleanout and scrub down. Get it done in 30 minutes when you follow this guide.
Before you start
There’s no reason to clean out your fridge the day after a big supermarket trip. Pick a day just before you go shopping, when your fridge is relatively empty.
For safety reasons, it’s a good idea to unplug your fridge before you start cleaning it.
Gather your supplies:
- small bucket
- small cleaning brush
- terrycloth towel
- large sponge
- new box of baking soda
Get to it
Take food from the fridge and place it on the table or counter. As you do this, check expiration dates and toss anything that’s no longer edible.
Fill the bucket with warm water, and add a half cup of baking soda. (Save the rest of the baking soda — you can put the box in the fridge later to neutralize odors.) Use this solution to wipe down the empty shelves and interior with a sponge, starting from the top and working your way down.
Use a brush to clean around brackets and gaskets and to dislodge any dried food. Wipe the interior dry with a terrycloth towel.
Rearrange, reseal, restock
Before you put the food back in the fridge, take a moment to group similar foods together. This will help you find items easier. Separate ethylene-sensitive produce (e.g., apples, broccoli) from produce that releases ethylene gas (e.g., bananas, pears) to prevent premature decay. Make sure that all containers are sealed properly and that anything wrapped is covered completely. Airtight storage will help prevent spills and spoilage.
As you begin to put items back in the fridge, be careful to space food out to allow a free flow of air. Keep eggs, poultry, meat and seafood separate from all other items to help limit the spread of bacteria. For more food safety tips, visit foodsafety.gov. And if you’ve unplugged your fridge, don’t forget to plug it back in!
A final note: A basic cleanout like this is no substitute for a thorough cleaning, which your fridge and freezer require periodically. To do that, you’ll need to remove and clean shelves, vacuum coils and wipe down the exterior. Consult manufacturer’s instructions for details.