How To Clean The Refrigerator

Daily (and before grocery shopping)

  • Food remnants, juices, and other spillage inside the fridge could transfer odors among foods and trigger mold and  bacteria. They provide the substrate for these organisms to live on. Wipe these up with hot, soapy water, then rinse. Sanitize raw meat juice spills with a blend of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach to 1 quart water.
  • Throw out perished or stale food.

Monthly (at least)
Remove everything from the refrigerator, and clean the interior and exterior, including shelves and drawers.
Here’s how:

  • Clean the exterior with a soft cloth and mild liquid dishwashing detergent.
  • Wash interior with hot, soapy water. Avoid chemical and abrasive cleaners likely to damage the fridge or affect food.
  • To remove mold, use a household cleanser, or mix one-fourth cup of baking soda with a quart of warm water. If there is any mold remaining after this process, these surfaces should be sanitized with bleach water to inactivate any remaining spores.
  • Scrub mold from rubber casings with 3 teaspoons of bleach in a quart of water.
  • Zap odors with equal parts of  white vinegar and water, or place an open container of fresh coffee grounds in the bottom of the fridge.
  • Between cleanings, an open box of baking soda will absorb odors.

Several Times a Year

  • Brush or vacuum lint and dirt from the condenser coil and the front grill.

When in Doubt

  • Look over the instructions for care that came with your refrigerator. 
  • Call the manufacturer. 

Susan Brewer, Ph.D,, University of Illinois, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
eHow: How to Do Just About Everything  “How to Store Fruit in a Refrigerator”
USDA Fact Sheets Safe Food Handling   Refrigeration and Food Safety
USDA Factsheet: “Molds on Food”
University of Hawaii and USDA factsheet: “Store it. Don’t Ignore it!”
USDA Handbook: “Kitchen Companion”
The Today show website: “Fridge Findings: Learn Where to Store your Food” (2006)
Brewer, M.S. and Chapman-Novakofski, K. 2006.  “Meat Safety for the Consumer,” University of Illinois Extension 


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