How to Clean a Refrigerator

Is your fridge scary? Get it sparkling clean in 5 easy steps from the Domestic CEO.

Amanda Thomas
6-minute read
Episode #139

Easy DIY Stain Removal

The refrigerator is the hub of the kitchen. It’s where our friends know they can go to grab a bubbly beverage and it’s the place where we keep all our good intentions of healthy eating - literally.

So why is this appliance so easily forgotten when we do our weekly cleaning? I’ve been in many homes that are relatively clean, but the inside of the fridge is a nasty, sticky mess.

If you want to make sure that you and your guests don't recoil in horror when you open the door of your refrigerator, these tips are for you. I’m going to break down the process of cleaning a refrigerator into 5 easy steps so you can get it done in no time flat!

Step #1: Prepare

The first step to cleaning a refrigerator actually has nothing to do with the fridge itself.

You first want to prepare your kitchen. Depending on how full or messy your fridge is, cleaning it out can require a decent amount of counter space. Clear your counters so you have room to set food items and parts from your fridge as needed, and make sure your sink is empty so you are able to hand wash the shelves and other parts you're going to remove from the fridge..

I’d also recommend having an empty trash bag ready for all the expired food you're inevitably going to find and throw away. Even if you don’t think you have expired food, have the bag ready just in case. Expiration dates can quickly pass on items you don’t use often. Take this opportunity to toss any condiments that expired more than a few months ago, and any leftovers that don’t seem quite right anymore.

Along with the counters, sink, and trash bag, also have your cleaning supplies gathered and next to your refrigerator. For really messy fridges, I like to have a sponge, dish soap, and lots of clean towels ready to go. If the fridge isn’t that icky, you may be able to get by with a spray bottle of 1 part vinegar and 10 parts water, or glass cleaner, and a few clean towels.

Step #2:  Divide and Conquer

After you have your kitchen prepped and your supplies ready, it’s time to move on to Step #2: dividing and conquering the actual cleaning.

Cleaning a refrigerator can seem like a big project, especially if your fridge has collected any gunk and grime. It's easy to get overwhelmed, but don't worry, we're going to break the project down into 3 main areas and focus on one at a time. It’s much easier to divide and conquer than to tackle the whole thing at once. This technique will also ensure that your food items are kept at safe temperatures during the entire process. The thing to remember is that you're going to work from the top down, knocking crumbs and gunk down to the bottom of the fridge or to the floor. We’ll clean those last, so don’t waste time trying to keep things too neat and tidy right now.

The first area we are going to start with is the door. First, memove all the items from the door shelves. Take a quick peek at freshness dates and toss anything that's expired. Also take this opportunity to toss anything that you just can’t picture yourself eating anymore.

Remember when you wanted to start cooking Indian dishes, so you bought a big jar of mango chutney, only to realize that you don’t like Indian food? If the chances of you using the chutney again are somewhere between slim and none, just toss it. Do that with any ingredient you bought for a special recipe that gives you a little gag reflex when you look at it now. If an item makes the cut and you are going to keep it, make sure to wipe the bottom of the jar or bottle before placing it back onto a shelf in the fridge.

Step #3: Determine Level of Cleaning Required

The third step is to figure out what level of cleaning the area you are working on needs. If you’ve cleared everything from the door shelves, take a quick peek. Do they look pretty good? You may need to just do a quick spray of your vinegar mixture and wipe with a clean towel.

Do the shelves have dried, spilled gooeyness? Remove the shelves and move them to the sink to scrub the gunk off. Be sure to close the fridge door to conserve energy. When you start to wash the shelves, you’ll discover that sometimes warm water is enough to loosen sticky gunk, but other times you may need to use a scrubby sponge and some elbow grease to get it clean.

Once all the shelves are clean, use the scrubby sponge or your towel and spray to clean any gooeyness off the actual door before drying and replacing the shelves. Remember to get the seal around the door, as well as the frame of the refrigerator where goo and grime seem to mysteriously gather.