We all know how important it is to keep our kitchens clean — it’s where you prepare food after all! But while your kitchen worktops may be sparkling, your hob pristine and your floors mopped, when was the last time you gave your fridge some TLC?
Cleaning your fridge may feel like a big undertaking as it involves having to remove all your food, just to arrange it again. However, a clean fridge is essential for safe food storage. Here’s our step-by-step guide.
Start by emptying all food from the fridge. Bacteria can multiply quickly at room temperature, so put dairy products, meat and other food that needs to be kept refrigerated in a cool bag packed with pre-chilled cool bag blocks. It’s a good idea to do the deep clean the fridge before the weekly shop, when there will be less food in the fridge anyway.
Bin any food that is clearly past its prime, anything that is past its use-by date and any suspicious looking jars that have been lurking around a while.
Wash shelves and salad crisper drawers
Take out the salad crisper drawers from the bottom of the fridge and all the removable shelves. If it’s not obvious how to get them out, check the user manual before you start so you know exactly how to do it without damaging anything – it will also help you to get them back in! If you can’t find the user guide, check the manufacturer’s website.
Next, wash the shelves and the salad crispers thoroughly with washing-up liquid and hot water. If the shelves (or any other removable parts) are made of glass, it’s best to let them reach room temperature first to reduce the risk of them shattering in very hot water – remember you can always stick them in the dishwasher!
Use a toothpick to remove food residue that has collected in the join between the surface of the shelf and the shelf surround. Rinse the shelves and salad crispers with clean water, then allow them to dry naturally on the drainer or dry with a clean tea towel and put them to one side if your drainer isn’t big enough.
Blitz the interior
Now turn your attention to the inside of the fridge itself. Avoid using hot water at this point as it can raise the temperature of the fridge and this will delay how quickly you can get your perishable food back in. Instead, make up a solution of sterilizing fluid with cold water, and use this to wipe down the interior.
Pay particular attention to the grooves on the sides of the fridge interior where the shelves rest, as they can be hotspots for dirt. A cotton bud is a handy tool for getting old food out of these. Cotton buds are also useful for fiddly places, such as the drip hole at the back which can easily become clogged and grimy. Dry the inside of the fridge thoroughly using paper towels or a clean tea towel.
Clean outer surfaces
Don’t overlook areas outside the fridge such as the handle and door surround, where germs can build up through frequent contact with hands. If you have a fridge freezer with the freezer at the bottom, use the crevice nozzle of your vacuum cleaner to remove crumbs that have collected in the folds of the door seal. Alternatively, use a stiff washing up brush to dislodge them.
Run the corner of a linen or cotton tea towel dipped in cleaning solution along the folds for a hygienic clean and use a fresh corner of the towel to dry the door seal afterwards.
Remember the condenser coils
You’ve likely wiped down the inside of your fridge more recently than its exterior. But when was the last time you spruced up the condenser coils?
Located at the back of the fridge, condenser coils are easily cleaned. Simply turn off the fridge and vacuum the coils to remove the dust. These should be cleaned at least once a year or more to prevent them from becoming clogged, especially if your kitchen is a pet hair and dust trap.
Why bother? Clogged condenser coils mean that your fridge has to work harder which runs up your energy bill. They can also shorten the life of your fridge, which can be costly to repair.
Allow to cool
Replace the shelves and salad crisper drawers. If you have a fridge thermometer, wait until the temperature inside the fridge falls to 5°C or below before replacing the food. If your fridge has a fast-cool function, use it to speed up the cooling process.
Dress the drawers
Use kitchen towel or old newspaper to line the bottom of your fridge drawers. That way, you can simply lift out the lining and tip old onion skin and other stray pieces of veg straight into the food bin.
Stop your fridge smelling funky by leaving a ramekin with bicarbonate of soda inside. It should last up to three months before you have to replace it – try dating the container so you remember when to change it. You could also sprinkle bicarb in the draws and side shelves.
If you’d rather save your bicarbonate of soda for baking, you can also buy fridge deodorisers.