If you’ve ever found yourself longingly watching #fridgegoals clips on TikTok, you may feel inspired to transform your own refrigerator into one of these gleaming, perfectly organized appliances. But before you can even think about organizing apples and juice pouches into those irresistible matching plastic bins, you’ll need to deep clean your refrigerator in order to achieve the desired effect. Here’s how to do the job.
Step 1: Take everything out of the refrigerator
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In order to properly deep clean a refrigerator, it needs to be totally empty, which means taking everything — yes, everything, including the box of baking soda — out of the unit. Stash highly perishable foods like milk or raw chicken in a cooler, or in the freezer, to avoid spoiling.
Once you’ve taken out the food, remove any detached shelves, drawers and door inserts.
Step 2: Throw out old and spoiled food
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As you transfer food from the refrigerator to the cooler or freezer, check for spoiling and throw away anything that’s gone off, or that you simply know you will not use.
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If your refrigerator is home to a lot of leftovers in food storage containers, this is a good time to review the contents and throw out any food that you know you will not consume. Disposing of leftovers can be an unpleasant task, but donning a pair of rubber household gloves can help to make scooping old food out from storage containers a less disgusting job.
Step 3: Wash shelves and drawers
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Start by washing the shelves, drawers and/or door inserts you removed from the refrigerator, which can be done just like you wash dishes, using a sponge and dish soap.
However, don’t feel beholden to perform this entire operation in the kitchen: Because refrigerator shelves and crisper bins are bulky and oddly shaped, you might find it easier to wash those parts in the bathtub, a large utility sink, or even outdoors with a hose. Nessa Misiuda, who documents her fridge cleaning process on Instagram and TikTok, uses the bathtub to rinse refrigerator shelves to avoid what she calls, “making a disaster around the kitchen sink.”
If the refrigerator shelves are made of tempered glass, a bit of caution is required when cleaning them. Priyanka Rathore, a communication manager for KitchenAid, says, “It is important not to clean glass shelves or covers with warm water when they are cold. Shelves and covers may break if exposed to sudden temperature changes or impact, such as bumping.”
Step 4: Clean the interior of the refrigerator
When it comes to choosing a solution for cleaning the interior of a refrigerator, there are a number of options and personal choice should certainly play a role. If using a disinfectant like diluted bleach solution makes you feel more comfortable, that is a fine choice. If using bleach in the place where you store your food makes you feel uncomfortable, that is also okay.
There are, however, some products to avoid when cleaning a refrigerator, Rathore says. “Do not use abrasive or harsh cleaners such as window sprays, scouring cleansers, flammable fluids, cleaning waxes, concentrated detergents, or cleansers containing petroleum products on plastic parts, interior and door liners or gaskets.”
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In my own home, I typically use either a solution of diluted dish soap or a gentle all-purpose cleaning spray like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day.
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When it comes to the tools used for scrubbing — sponges, rags, paper towels, etc. — I strongly recommend using a Dobie Pad. These non-scratch scrubber sponges are the perfect thing for scouring surfaces without causing any damage to plastic or glass.
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After scrubbing with a sponge, use a microfiber cloth or paper towels to give the interior of the refrigerator a going-over. Use an old toothbrush to reach tight or oddly-shaped parts, and a thin cloth for cleaning the rubber seal around the door.
Step 5: Treat stubborn spills and stains with these tricks
To remove a stubborn, stuck-on mess, wet a sponge or rag with very hot water, wring it out and press it on the spill just as you would a compress, repeating as needed and being careful not to burn yourself with the hot water. The heat and moisture will reconstitute the dried-on mess, making it pliable and easy to wipe up.
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To treat surface stains, try a Magic Eraser; to use, wet the eraser sponge, squeeze it out then rub it vigorously on the stain.
Step 6: Clean the exterior
The exterior of plastic refrigerators can be cleaned in the same way as the interior, using a microfiber cloth or sponge with a mild cleaning solution. Stainless steel refrigerators can be wiped clean using a microfiber cloth; very dirty exteriors may require a stainless steel cleaner, though typically one is not needed. If fingerprints and smudges often show up on your stainless steel appliances, a wax-based cleaner can help to prevent them
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Regardless of material, don’t overlook the top of the refrigerator when cleaning its exterior as it is likely very, very dirty.