National Clean Your Refrigerator Day

A clean refrigerator!

Let’s face it; cleaning out the refrigerator can be a daunting task. The accumulation of spills, crumbs, and dirt along with foods well past their expiration date, can lead to unusual smells and sights. If left unclean, however, the refrigerator can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Keeping the refrigerator clean and neat helps prevent food borne illness; it also helps it run more efficiently. While it may feel time consuming and overwhelming to clean, it is certainly well worth the effort.  Here are a few tips to help you keep up with the task.

If you haven’t cleaned your refrigerator in a while, start with a thorough cleaning. Grab a cooler and add ice to keep foods cool while cleaning. As you transfer foods into the cooler, throw out anything that is expired. Check expiration dates carefully and wipe down the items you are going to keep. If in doubt, throw it out! You do not want to risk an unpleasant bout of food borne illness.

Once all of the food items have been removed from the refrigerator, take out all of the drawers and shelves. Clean each piece with plain soapy water or water with vinegar or baking soda. Add a few drops of essential oil, like lemon or lavender, to help eliminate any odors that have accumulated over time.

Use the same water-based solution to clean the inside of the refrigerator. Be sure to thoroughly wipe down the sides, and don’t forget to clean and dry the seals; this will help maintain a tight seal for proper temperature. Wipe down the outside of the refrigerator along with the handles as both can become dirty from opening and closing the refrigerator. If you have a stainless steel refrigerator, use a designated stainless steel cleaner to give it a nice shine.

After you have completely cleaned and dried the shelves, drawers, seals, containers, handles and outside of the refrigerator, you may place the food items back in; be sure to organize the items as you do so. Place sealed, raw meats on the bottom of the refrigerator to prevent cross contamination, and take advantage of any special features that your refrigerator may have, such as crisper draws or special shelves for storage. Once you have finished, make sure the refrigerator returns to its proper temperature of 40° F or below. Consider placing a thermometer inside to ensure it stays at the right temperature. A well-functioning refrigerator should hold proper temperature throughout; however, perishable foods, like eggs, should not be stored in the doors since temperatures can vary as the door opens and shuts. Keep the door closed as much as possible.

Lastly, the front grill should be kept free of dust and lint to permit free air flow to the condenser. Clean the condenser coil with a brush or vacuum cleaner several times throughout the year to remove accumulations.

Once your refrigerator is clean, remember to wipe up spills as they occur, and throw out spoiled and expired foods daily or weekly. To keep the refrigerator smelling fresh, place a box of baking soda, rolled newspapers, or coffee grounds inside. Remove the coffee grounds or newspaper after a few days and replace the baking soda every few months.

At Medifast, we clean out our break room refrigerators monthly to ensure food safety and cleanliness. Our wellness team at Medifast began this initiative to encourage healthy practices in the work environment.

For a natural cleaning solution try:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dish soap
  • Drops of lemon essential oil

Using a spray bottle, pour vinegar in the bottle, and then add the dish soap and essential oil. Fill almost to the top with warm water. Shake well before each use.

Visit the USDA Food Safety education topics for more information.