Cleaning Refrigerator: Tips, Tricks & How To's

The idea of cleaning refrigerator shelves, drawers and all of the inside isn't fun, but its got to get done from time to time. Here are instructions to make it easier, and get the job done right.

How to clean your refrigerator inside and out, plus dealing with odors {on Stain Removal 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest


I recently had to do a big refrigerator clean out because I had some type of leak in the freezer water line, which dripped all over everything inside my refrigerator.

Since everything had to get taken out anyway for the repair person to work, I took the opportunity to both clean it up, and also to organize my refrigerator and freezer when I put everything back inside.

How to clean your refrigerator inside and out, plus dealing with odors {on Stain Removal 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Being the Type A personality I can be sometimes, I did some research in how to clean the refrigerator, to make sure I was doing it right. From my research and my own experiences with cleaning out this appliance all of my adult life, here are my tips for cleaning refrigerator messes and odors.

How Often Should You Tackle Cleaning Refrigerator Tasks?

Since cleaning the fridge is most likely not at the top of your to do list, it can easily slip through the cracks. However, you put your family's food in there, so really it should be relatively clean all the time.

As long as you put all food away in sealed containers, and clean up drips and spills when they happen fortunately you don't have to write "cleaning refrigerator" on your to do list too often. About every three months or so will do.

The only exception to this is if you've got odors creeping in. Then, you need to clean the refrigerator thoroughly, throw out old food, and get it back to fresh smelling pronto, because smells typically suggest yucky bacteria or mold, and can cause your food to taste bad. The odor seems to absorb into everything. Yuck!

Safety First: Electrical And Food Safety Issues To Consider

Before beginning this cleaning refrigerator project you should unplug your fridge. The reason is that it's an electrical appliance, no matter that it is quite large. You'll be washing the inside walls and floor down with water, so you should be careful. Electricity and water don't mix!

In addition, when cleaning refrigerator shelves, drawers, etc. you've got to have room to work. Therefore, you've got to move everything out of there to do the job. Your goal will be to work as quickly as possible, but you've got to make sure any food in there doesn't spoil while you're working and the fridge cools back down afterward.

Therefore, it's easiest to do the job on the day before you go to the grocery, for example, so it's naturally cleared out a lot already. In addition, put anything that could quickly spoil in a cooler with ice while you're cleaning. Food safety is important too!

The Nitty Gritty: Cleaning Supplies Necessary For Cleaning Refrigerator Parts

Fortunately, you don't need special cleaning equipment and supplies for cleaning the fridge. Instead, here are the items you'll need:

  • Sink of warm soapy water, and a kitchen sponge
  • A cleaning solution of 4 quarts warm water, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and a very small squirt of scent free dishwashing liquid
  • A paste of baking soda and water for dried on splatters and spills, plus a nylon scrubby (such as the one pictured to the right)
  • Some homemade disinfectant (click the link for the recipe and instructions) in case there are odors or mold present

First, take out all the removable parts from your fridge, including shelves and drawers, and wash them in the sink. Be careful if you've got glass shelves or drawers, to let the glass warm up first before you wash them to avoid drastic temperature changes that could cause the glass to shatter. (Most drawers and shelves are plastic -- but just wanted to mention it!) Wash, rinse and dry all items thoroughly.

Next, before replacing the shelves and drawers go ahead and wipe down all the interior walls of your refrigerator, and the floor too with the cleaning solution recipe I listed above.

I suggest using the baking soda because it helps reduce odors, and also is slightly gritty, which helps to clean any splatters, drips and spills from the interior of the refrigerator.

I'll caution you that you should add only a very small amount of dishwashing liquid to the cleaning solution because a little goes a long way. Although the addition of the soap can be helpful for cutting grease and dirt within the refrigerator, since you can't rinse as well in the interior of this appliance you don't want to add too much.

How to clean your refrigerator inside and out, plus dealing with odors {on Stain Removal 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Otherwise, it will be very difficult to remove all the soap residue from the interior surfaces. (That's why I also recommend non-scented dish soap, since if it doesn't all get rinsed away it won't add an odor to your refrigerator, which could get absorbed by your food.)

If you've had a spill you didn't notice and it's gotten dry and hard it can be difficult to clean up it up. I suggest first trying a paste of baking soda and water to use the abrasive properties of baking soda to loosen up the spill. You may also want to use a nylon non-scratching scrubby to help with this task since it can help scrub off sticky messes more easily.

Finally, if you've had a spill of meat juices, or see evidence of mold or mildew you should use a disinfectant cleaner to kill the mold and mildew spores, and any odor or disease causing bacteria. Be sure to allow enough "contact time" to kill any germs or spores (see this article about sanitizing with bleach for more information about this), and then rinse thoroughly before putting any food back into the refrigerator.

Special Tips For Cleaning Refrigerator Odors

If your refrigerator has gotten some odors, which has caused you to go on your cleaning refrigerator jag, you should definitely use some disinfectant and the baking soda mentioned above.

Many times a good cleaning, all by itself, will remove odors, since it is often the food particles and other dirt in the fridge, or old moldy food that is causing the problem to begin with.

However, if you've got a general musty odor in your fridge try adding some baking soda or coffe grounds in an open bowl to the refrigerator, such as on a back shelf. Leave it there for a couple of days, and often this will help absorb such odors.

Further, really look carefully at the corners of your refrigerator, and the seal where the door closes, since these are hard to reach areas which can easily develop mold and mildew, which causes odor. You may need to take care to clean these particular areas thoroughly if they look like they could be the cause of your problem.

Don't Forget About Cleaning Refrigerator Coils Too!

Lastly, while you already have your refrigerator unplugged I suggest cleaning refrigerator coils too, if you need to.

All refrigerators are different, and you should follow your manufacturer's instructions, but most refrigerator coils don't need to be cleaned quite as often as the interior of the refrigerator itself. Instead, they should typically be cleaned about every six months, perhaps during your spring and fall cleanings, for example.

Check your refrigerator's owner's manual for exact instructions and location of your coils, but typically they are found at the bottom of the unit. Because of their location lots of dust can accumulate, and this lowers the efficiency of your refrigerator, and also may eventually cause it to stop working if not enough air flow occurs.

To clean the coils use the wand of your vacuum cleaner to clean and remove all the accumulated dust. I didn't do this once on my fridge for quite a while, and I was amazed (and disgusted) by how much dust I removed!

How Do You Clean Your Fridge?

Although these are my tips for cleaning the fridge, I know other people have other methods that can also work just as well. In fact, I'd love to hear some from you.

how to clean anything

You can share your tips for how to clean the refrigerator here, or read other tips from around my website that other readers have already submitted. I'd also love for you to share your ideas in the comment section below.

Further, this is my first post in a new series called "How to Clean Anything, Even if You're Not June Cleaver." I hope this series will become a good resource for you, with instructions on many different cleaning projects around your home.

Want More Inspiration For Your Kitchen?

Room by Room Inspiration For Every Room in Your Home

I'm honored to have been asked to join a great group of blogging ladies who all discuss topics from around our homes. Each month we choose a different room as our theme, so we can all get some inspiration in this area of our homes. We call it the Room by Room Inspiration for Every Room in Your Home.

This month each of us is discussing some aspect of the kitchen. Please check out these other great blog posts from the group:

Second photo by youngthousands



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Taylor

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CAUTION: This website is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided as is, without warranties or guarantees. Some stains and messes just won't come out, and are permanent. Further, some cleaning methods can harm your item, so if what you want to clean or launder is sentimental or expensive call a professional. See disclaimer of liability for more information.