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As the only home appliance to host a rotating population of mess-making foods, it’s no wonder the refrigerator ranks as the quickest of all to get seriously grimy. Within only a week, splatters and drips, leakage and smells take hold and compromise, not only the appearance of your fridge (and your mood upon opening it), but also its energy efficiency. That means a fridge you haven’t cleaned is a fridge that’s costing you more than it should on your month-to-month energy bills. So if you were looking for a reason to clean the refrigerator, you’ve finally got one—money! To do a thorough job it, follow the simple series of steps detailed below.
TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Coil brush
- Vacuum with attachments
- Soft cloths
- Rubbing alcohol
- Dishwashing detergent
- Warm water
- Baking soda
Start by unplugging the fridge. Next, locate the condenser coils; these may be on the back of the unit or on its bottom side. If the coils are on the back, pull the unit away from the wall and then use a coil brush (a tool well worth its low cost) to free whatever dust and dirt has accumulated there. If the coils are on the bottom of the fridge, you need not go through the trouble of moving the appliance, but you do have to hunker down so as to manipulate the coil brush toward the target area. In either case, sweep up or vacuum all the stuff your brushing has brought to light—there may be quite a bit, if you haven’t cleaned the coils before.
Empty the refrigerator of all contents and put them aside. In the process of doing so, take the opportunity to purge any items that are past their expiration date. When it comes to choosing a cleaning solution, you may prefer something store-bought, but the following homemade version works well, too. Mix 1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon vinegar, and warm water into a spray bottle. Add in a few drops of dish detergent, then shake it up. While the alcohol and vinegar cut through tough stains, the detergent works to eliminate grease and disinfect. It’s a potent cleaning cocktail, to be sure, but using it won’t make you want to retch.
Take out any shelves or drawers that are removable, place them on the counter, and clean them one by one in the sink. Spray each with your cleaning cocktail, then scrub with a sponge. Once you’ve cleaned one, rinse it off and move to the next. As they all air-dry, proceed to cleaning the inside of the fridge.
Start at the top and work your way down, spraying the back and side walls along with any fixed-in-place shelving. Use the sponge to scrub any areas with stubborn food residue, and follow up with a paper towel to clean up the excess spray. Where crevices have collected crumbs, use an old toothbrush or a similar tool. Pay special attention to where the drawers sit, and don’t forget to address the pocket panels on the door. Finish by tackling the door edges as well as the door seal (go gentle on the latter).
Now it’s time to clean the refrigerator exterior. Spray and wipe it down on all sides; go over the door handles more than once, as they are likely to harbor both finger smudges and germs. Note that if yours is a stainless steel appliance, special cleaning techniques apply. Do not use any product that contains bleach, and shy away from any abrasive scrubbing pads that might leave scratches behind. Opt instead for a damp, soapy washcloth. For extra firepower, mix together baking soda and liquid dish soap, then apply the paste with a nylon scrubbie. As a last step, wipe away all remaining suds with a damp towel.
Plug the refrigerator back in and refill it. Your appliance is now in tip-top shape!
It’s best to clean the refrigerator coils every few months, even if the visible parts of the refrigerator look more or less clean. If you find the refrigerator isn’t getting cold enough, dirty coils are likely to blame.