How to Clean a Refrigerator: Section by Section
Learn how to properly clean a refrigerator one section at a time
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The fridge is one of the appliances that we simply do not know how to live without. The average person opens theirs 15-20 times a day. Add the contact on the handle to all the food we store, spills and leaking containers, and things we sometimes forget for weeks (or months) in the very back, and it is no wonder our refrigerators need a thorough cleaning inside and out.
While many features haven’t changed much over time, others have advanced quickly as technology and materials have advanced. Below, we will walk through how to get your fridge squeaky clean section by section and provide some do’s and don’ts for methods and products that you should and shouldn’t be using.
Let’s start with the freezer. Depending on your model, this may be a top, bottom, or side-by-side freezer. Each will be similar but slightly different due to its design.
Cleaning a freezer
To thoroughly clean your freezer, you will want to plan ahead. This is because defrosting your freezer is the crucial first step to ensure you can wash and sanitize it properly. You will need to remove all frozen food and place it in a cooler. This is a great time to go through and toss anything that may have freezer burn or that you may decide you no longer want. If your freezer isn’t experiencing any thick ice buildup, this should probably take 2-3 hours to defrost.
Cleaning and sanitizing your freezer doesn’t require any special tools or products. You will need:
Run hot water into your kitchen sink (with the stopper) and add some dish soap. You can use a bucket if you prefer, depending on how far the sink is from your fridge. Follow the steps below:
- Wipe the inside of the freezer with hot soapy water.
- Rinse any remaining soap by wiping with hot water and a clean rag.
- Mix one tablespoon of bleach with 1 gallon of hot water and wipe the inside of the freezer to sanitize. Make sure you are wearing gloves for this step.
- Allow the freezer door to stay open to help dissipate the bleach smell and dry it thoroughly.
Once completely dry, turn your freezer back on and make sure it is close to 0 degrees Fahrenheit before refilling with food. This is a great process to follow once or twice a year. You will be surprised how much extra space you will find by going through your freezer a few times a year.
Cleaning the interior of the fridge
The inside of your fridge can get very dirty if left for too long without cleaning. Fortunately, it is also an easy one to get sparkling clean. The number one rule when cleaning the inside of your refrigerator is to try to avoid heavy commercial cleaners. This is an area where using all-natural products is best. You do not want any residual cleansers to be in or on anything you will be cooking with or consuming. Luckily, you can use non-toxic products to get the job done well!
Vinegar and baking soda will be your new best friends when cleaning the inside of your fridge. With just a few more items, you will have it looking brand new. Just like with your freezer, you will want to remove everything. You can place items that will spoil quickly into a cooler, but because you are not defrosting the fridge and it will take less time, most things should be fine on your counter for this part. It is also recommended to unplug your fridge to avoid wasting energy.
Remove all drawers and shelves that can easily be removed. This will make it easier to clean them and get to all the surfaces inside your fridge.
To clean the inside of your fridge, you will need:
The vinegar and hot water cleaning solution is an easy one, half and half. To prepare the baking soda mixture, you will want to mix it in a small bowl with enough hot water to create a paste that can stick to your fridge walls and shelves. Let’s get started with the cleaning!
- Wipe down the fridge’s interior with a wet cloth and hot water. You want to get rid of the crumbs and loose food and get all the surfaces damp.
- Take the baking soda mixture and apply it to all stained surfaces or any that have a heavy, sticky, or grimy film. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Dip the sponge in hot water and use the scrubbing pad side to remove all sticky and grimy spots and scrub any stains. Then use the residual baking soda to clean all the interior surfaces.
- Rinse all the baking soda off by wiping with a clean wet rag.
Now that these steps with baking soda are complete, we will move on to the vinegar and water cleaning solution you created.
- Spray down all surfaces until wet with the cleaning solution.
- Wipe dry with another cleaning rag (microfiber works great for this!). Do not rinse off the vinegar and water cleaning solution.
- Leave the door open to allow everything to dry and the vinegar smell to dissipate.
You can repeat the baking soda and vinegar steps for any drawers or shelves you removed. It would be best if you never put any fridge drawers or shelves in your dishwasher unless they specifically note on them or in your user manuals that it is safe to do so. If they are not dishwasher safe, you can have discolored or cracked drawers and shelves.
Cleaning the exterior of the fridge
The outside of your refrigerator is where things can get a bit tricky. Below, we will talk about how to clean traditional stainless or white fridge exteriors and also some of the new fridges with see-through panels and technology that can be damaged with your average cleaners.
Appliances, including fridges, are not a cheap investment, so the last thing you want is to ruin one using the wrong cleaning method. First, we will start with the easy ones, your basic stainless and white fridge.
The exterior of a stainless fridge can be stunning when it is polished and shiny, but when covered with fingerprints and food, it can detract from the rest of your kitchen. With a few simple products, you can keep it looking perfect by giving it a cleaning regularly. You will need:
The key to a beautiful shining stainless fridge exterior is to clean and then polish. These are the steps you want to follow:
- Fill the bucket with the correction dilution of all-purpose cleaner and hot water.
- Use a microfiber cloth soaked in the solution to clean off any food on your fridge’s exterior. Moving in circular directions works best.
- Dry with a clean cloth.
- Spray the fridge with stainless steel cleaner and wipe in the direction of the grain on the metal (this usually is vertically on a refrigerator).
- Using a new cloth, polish the steel in small circular movements.
That’s it! This easy-to-follow process can be part of your weekly kitchen clean-up. Now on to a standard white fridge.
Standard White Fridge
Your average fridge is usually slightly textured. This can be a practical design that resists dents and dings, but can easily trap dirt and food smudges that need to be scrubbed to remove. The longer the food sits on this textured surface, the harder it can be to remove. Luckily, this can be an easy clean-up weekly. For this, you will need:
The process is straightforward for cleaning this fridge exterior.
- Fill a bucket with dishwashing soap and hot water.
- Soak your sponge and clean in circular directions with the scrub pad side of the sponge.
- After the fridge has been scrubbed, go back in with the sponge side and remove all the loosened dirt.
- Take a cleaning rag or towel and wipe off all soap residue with clean, warm water.
That’s it! The above methods for stainless and standard white fridges require very few products and are straightforward. Many of the products used will have multiple uses around your home, making them budget-friendly. Let’s move on to some newer fridge models that require special care.
Fridges that require special care
There are a variety of hi-tech refrigerators on the market today. They feature touch screens, see-through view panels, and cameras that allow you to see what is inside without even opening the door. Because of this, they need to be treated a bit differently than the traditional fridges we were so used to. We will break down a few features that may have some unique cleaning procedures.
If your fridge has a touch screen, there are two things you never want to do: (1) spray cleanser or water directly on it and (2) use an abrasive sponge or cloth. When cleaning is needed, you can use:
To clean your screen, you will want to spray the cleaner onto the rag and then gently wipe the screen. If there is any residual cleaner that may cause streaking, you can go back over the screen with a clean microfiber cloth.
Just as the camera on your phone can get dirty, so can the camera on your fridge. The easiest way to clean the camera is to use a cotton swab. If a dry cotton swab is not enough, you can spray it with the same electronics-safe spray as the touch screen.
Most fridges with technology embedded in them also have a specialized coating that can be ruined if you use the wrong cleaning product. You should always check your user’s manual, but to be safe, you should avoid using any bleach cleaner or those with abrasive qualities as they can scratch and eat away at the finish. Many companies, including Samsung and LG, recommend using a natural product like ready-mixed cleaning vinegar. This has been diluted to the correct ratio to be safe for your doors. As always, do not spray directly on the door.
Ice makers & water filters
If your fridge has an ice maker or water filter, then part of your monthly cleaning routine should be to check these filters. They can either be replaced or simply rinsed with cool water, depending on the manual’s manufacturer’s instructions. For external ice makers on the fridge door, you can wipe them down with the same natural cleaner you use for the doors.
Internal ice makers can be cleaned by removing the bucket or drawer and then washing with mild dish soap before rinsing and drying. Never use bleach for these, as the ice makes contact with the surface before placing it in your drink.
Cleaning the Condenser Coils
Last but not least are the condenser coils of your refrigerator. These may not be something you think about often, but they are critical. The cover of these coils needs to be kept clear of dust and debris to allow the coils to have an adequate air supply. When clogged, your fridge can have difficulty running efficiently or even overheating. To clean this cover, you will need:
- Condenser cleaning whisk brush
- Hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner
The process is straightforward, but first, you want to carefully move your fridge away from our wall so you can access this cover.
- Use the brush to remove as much debris and dust as possible.
- With the hose attachment, vacuum any dirt on the floor that was removed by the brush and any still left on the cover.
It is important to note that you should never remove the coil cover. Only professionals making repairs should be doing so. When moving your fridge back to its place, make sure there is enough room for air to circulate behind it.
Our refrigerators are an appliance we depend on to run every day efficiently. Sometimes, we forget that they need a thorough cleaning to look and function their best. By taking care of each section of your fridge, you can extend its life, make for a more beautiful kitchen and lead a more organized and tidy life!