Written by UConn Dietetics student Monique Mazaika
Wanting some ketchup for your yummy lunch, you open the fridge and scan each shelf to find it. After eyeing it, you reach towards the back of the shelf, struggling to maneuver past the various bottles of dressings and sauces and grazing the 1-week-old strawberry jelly you forgot to clean off the wall—we’ve all been there. The fridge stores solid and liquid (and sometimes messy food!). With spring right around the corner, it is the perfect time to do a little spring fridge cleaning!
The outside of the fridge is less intimidating. It is a flat solid surface and easily wipes down. The inside, now that’s a bit more intimidating! But step by step, it can be done easily! And we’re cleaning everything—walls, shelves, drawers, doors, and all. Check your fridge manual to see what your specific fridge maker recommends for cleaning. Then, round up the supplies!
Fridge cleaning supplies include:
- a sink or bucket full of hot water
- fragrance-free dish detergent
- baking soda or vinegar
- spray bottle
- microfiber cloth
- soft toothbrush
Step 1: Remove the food from the fridge! Place the food on a counter or table (leave space for cleaning!). With the refrigerated food removed, go ahead and take out the removable shelves and crisper drawers. You’ll wash these in warm soapy water. You’ll want to wait about 15 minutes for the pieces to warm to room temperature to avoid cracking. While you wait, you can tend to the inside of the fridge! This is also a great time to get your soapy water ready to go.
Step 2: Make your solution and spray for the inside of your fridge! While there are many cleaners you can use in your fridge, I recommend a baking soda or white vinegar mixture because they seem to be accepted by many fridge manufacturers. Fill a spray bottle with 2 Tbsp of baking soda (or the vinegar if you have it) and 1 quart of hot water! Spray all areas of the fridge—walls, nonremovable shelves, inside of the door—then scrub all with a clean sponge or clean rag/towel. If there are any trouble spots, try gently using a toothbrush on them!
Step 3: Once the inside is cleaned, you can move to the outside. For this, you can use the same soapy water you prepared for the removable fridge pieces and a cloth (preferably microfiber; it is typically known as “Handi-Wipes”). Wipe the outside and don’t forget the top! If you want to go above and beyond, vacuum around and under your fridge.
Step 4: Next is the step you’ve been waiting for: scrub the removable shelves and refrigerator drawers with your soapy sponge! Once the old peanut butter, jelly, and dried yogurt is unstuck from the shelves and drawers, rinse them with water and let dry. At last, you can put the shelves and drawers back and do one final wipe with a dry cloth.
Step 5: Put the food back into the fridge. But wait! Before returning the food, take a minute to check the expiration dates on the packages. Is your milk past the expiration date? Toss it! Is your ketchup 2 years old? Toss it or use it in a soup or stew!
- Put newer items towards the back and older items towards the front so you’ll use them first.
- It is also important to properly store your fruits and veggies. For example, keep your new store-bought fruit dry until you are ready to eat. If you wash them immediately after coming home from the store, they will be mush in a day or two—especially foods like berries!
- For vegetables, it is handy to trim the bottoms of foods like asparagus or even to wash and dry lettuces. Then those foods will be ready to go for lunch or dinner! The prep has been done! Most will keep perky and fresh after washing and drying and placing in a plastic bag.
Good luck! And here’s to clean refrigerators! Perhaps all you need to obtain a clean, organized fridge is a little spring cleaning. Your summer self will thank you for it!
- Food Network Kitchen. “How to Store Asparagus.” Food Network, 2020, www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/packages/help-around-the-kitchen/how-store-asparagus.
- The Home Depot. “How to Clean a Refrigerator.” The Home Depot, 2020, www.homedepot.com/c/ah/how-to-clean-a-refrigerator/9ba683603be9fa5395fab90121f10fb9.
This material is funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
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