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How to Clean Your Whole Refrigerator in Four Steps

These quick tips for how to clean a refrigerator make cumbersome cleanouts a whole lot easier. The secret? Try a new spin on organization, and stock your shelves with the right stuff.

3 min read

A clean refrigerator is the peak of kitchen organization. It speeds up meal prep, saves money by reducing food waste, and provides a well-earned sense of control amidst the chaos of hurried breakfasts and weeknight dinners. If it was easier, more of us would have sparkling refrigerators, right? It turns out, all we need is a few manageable steps, simplified.

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Step 1: Empty everything.

Bring the garbage bin near the refrigerator and pull all your food out, all at once. Sort as you go. Learn what items you can compost in your area and reserve them for a dropoff. For anything that is not compostable and is expired, discolored, stale, or soggy, throw it out. Everything else goes on the table. (Then work quickly through the rest of these steps.)

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Step 2: Spray, then scrub.

Use a 1:1 solution of water and white vinegar to spray down the interior, then let the solution sit while you remove the shelves and drawers. To make this part of the process go faster, use a big scrub brush that can quickly tackle dirty surfaces. For sticky spots and hard-to-reach corners, a kitchen appliance cleaning set makes everything easier. Finish by wiping down the interior, then returning racks and bins.

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Step 3: Organize it all.

Here comes the hard truth: If your refrigerator isn’t organized, it’s hard to clean in under an hour. Get it together today, then keep it that way for quicker cleans in the future. Labeling and dating items makes it simple to know when it’s time to toss something. Place prepared foods and leftovers at the top and meats at the bottom to avoid messy drips. Group like with like: Organize condiments on one turntable and dairy products (like milk and yogurt) on another. Store produce in your crisper; for anything that won’t fit, GreenSaver baskets will help keep food fresh longer.

Step 4: Close and clean the door.

Spray the door and handle with your vinegar solution to disinfect — it’s a perfectly effective and safe cleaner for stainless steel refrigerators. Save vacuuming your refrigerator coils for a day when you’ve got more time and, instead, use a flat microfiber duster to quickly clean the under-appliance crumbs. Free of dust or dirt, your beautifully organized refrigerator makes mornings a little less stressful. So worth it!

Good Tip: If your shelves are dishwasher-safe, you can run them through the wash along with any drawers that fit. Most refrigerator shelves are also adjustable. While you’re organizing, reposition them into the arrangement that works best for you. 

Ready to get the rest of your kitchen in order? We’ve got a step-by-step checklist for that, too.


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