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The Complete Guide To Cleaning a Refrigerator

Updated Jan 4, 2023

Updated Jan 4, 2023

Home > Home Warranty > The Complete Guide To Cleaning a Refrigerator

As one of the central components of a kitchen, your refrigerator is one of your most used kitchen appliances. Even though a fridge gets used daily, we may not think about cleaning it as often as cleaning other things throughout the house. A refrigerator can build up dirt, gunk, and grime inside and out without regular upkeep.

In the most extreme cases, forgotten items on the shelves or drawers can go bad and be the source of foul odors. To avoid this and keep your fridge in good, working condition, you’ll need to clean it regularly. To help, we’ve compiled some of the best methods and cleaning tips for keeping a clean refrigerator

dirty refrigerator
Image Source: Canva

Gather Your Supplies

The first thing you’ll need to do is gather cleaning supplies. We recommend using natural, biodegradable cleaners. If you use harsh chemical cleaners, not only will they off-gas inside your fridge, but they could also affect how your food tastes. Imparting your food with harmful chemicals is something you want to avoid. Here’s what you should collect to prepare for cleaning your refrigerator:

  • Natural surface cleaner
  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap
  • Dry cloth (paper towels or microfiber cloths)
  • Nonabrasive scrubber

Once you’ve gathered these supplies, transfer the perishable contents of your fridge into a cooler. Keeping everything at a safe temperature while you clean is critical to minimize food waste.

Cleaning the Interior of a Fridge

woman cleaning the inside of a refrigerator
Image Source: Canva

When cleaning a fridge’s interior, start by taking out all the removable drawers, shelves, and compartments. Next, scrub and wipe the fridge’s inside with a baking soda and water mixture — about half a cup of baking soda mixed into 3 cups of water.

Pro Tips

  • Work top to bottom. Doing so will prevent liquid from dripping onto surfaces you’ve already cleaned.
  • A toothbrush or toothpick will help get the job done for hard-to-reach cracks and crevices.
  • After washing everything, dry all surfaces with a microfiber cloth.

How To Clean Drawers and Shelves

You can soak removable drawers, shelves, and wire racks in warm, soapy water while you clean the inside of the refrigerator. However, it’s important to take special care that any glass shelving should come to room temperature before you place it into hot water. It may crack or break if you put it in hot water while it’s still cold.

If sticky, stubborn spills need extra attention, you can cover them with a warm, damp cleaning cloth for a few minutes. Afterward, treat the spill with a nonabrasive scrubber — it should come right off.

How To Clean the Gasket

The gasket is the rubber door seal around the interior of the refrigerator. For the gasket to perform optimally and keep a tight seal on the fridge door, it needs to be cleaned regularly. For regular cleaning, dish soap and warm water is the best choice. If you discover mold in the gasket, you’ll want to use a bleach-based cleaner. Once you’ve selected your cleaner, here’s how to proceed:

  1. Dust or vacuum any loose debris within the gasket.
  2. Using a cloth and cleaning solution, wipe around the gasket and the refrigerator surfaces with which it comes into contact.
  3. Thoroughly dry the gasket and surfaces.
  4. Coat the gasket with a thin layer of petroleum jelly to keep it from drying out and cracking.

How To Remove Odors

Your refrigerator can, unfortunately, be home to some bad odors. Luckily, deodorizing your fridge is simple and inexpensive. Once you’ve cleaned the inside of your refrigerator, place a container of dry baking soda on the bottom shelf. 

Baking soda naturally absorbs any odors and keeps your food tasting fresh. However, it needs to be changed every so often to maximize its power. We recommend refreshing the baking soda in your fridge every three months for the best results.

How To Clean Mold

Refrigerators sometimes develop mold. However, you should avoid tackling mold issues with chemical cleansers. To eliminate mold on surfaces, you’ll want to clean it with a mixture of baking soda and water — about a tablespoon to a quart of water. Use this mixture to wipe down the moldy surface, then dry all of the surfaces thoroughly. If surfaces aren’t dry, you risk developing mold again.

Cleaning the Exterior of a Fridge

woman and man working on fixing and cleaning refrigerator coils
Image Source: Canva

Keeping the exterior of your fridge clean is fairly simple, especially if it’s a standard finish — wipe it down regularly using a spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner and a damp cloth. You’ll want to give special attention to the handles, as they can be a magnet for grime. It’s also important to clean the top of your fridge every once in a while. It’s a prime location for dust to collect. 

Fridges with high-end finishes need a different treatment. For stainless steel refrigerators, you can use rubbing alcohol on a damp microfiber cloth to eliminate fingerprints and grime. Just make sure to wipe in the same direction as the steel grain. For fridges with a matte finish, wipe them down with warm, soapy water and leave them to dry. No buffing or polishing is required. 

How To Clean the Water Dispenser

While some parts of your refrigerator’s water dispenser can be easily cleaned, you’ll want to refer to the manufacturer’s manual for deep cleaning. Specific instructions for your model fridge should be listed. The manual will also outline a schedule for changing your water dispenser and ice maker filters.

The drip tray is one part of your refrigerator’s water dispenser that doesn’t need special instruction. You can clean it with a simple mixture of water and white vinegar. If it’s removable, you should take out the tray and clean it underneath.

How To Clean the Coils

Though cleaning your refrigerator’s coils doesn’t need to be done often, you should do it every once in a while to help your fridge last longer and perform optimally. Before you clean the condenser coils, however, you should consult your refrigerator’s manual, taking note of any special instructions. 

The first thing to do when cleaning the coils is to unplug the refrigerator. Next, you’ll need to locate the coils on either the back of the fridge or the underside. If the refrigerator coils are on the back of the fridge, you’ll need to pull the fridge out and away from the wall. You’ll also need to remove the vent grill cover if the coils are on the bottom. 

Pass a coil brush around the coils, clearing any debris from the coils. Use a vacuum cleaner or broom to clean any loose dust, and carefully move the fridge back into place or replace the grill cover before plugging the appliance back in.

Preventative Maintenance

The best way to prevent any major messes in your fridge is to give it a light cleaning regularly and a deep cleaning a few times a year. When you do a regular cleanup, make sure you tend to the following:

  • Check expiration dates, and throw out anything that’s expired
  • Make sure any containers are well sealed
  • Wipe off condiment jars after use
  • Throw out any old fruits or vegetables
  • Refresh baking soda, if needed

Doing a weekly light cleaning can prevent a buildup of sticky spills and odors.

Final Thoughts

Keeping a clean fridge is a good practice if you want to get the most out of this staple household appliance. Make sure to use natural cleaning products and perform a weekly light cleaning to avoid major cleaning projects.

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