Would you let your kids eat off a dirty plate, or pick up food that fell on the street? Of course not! And yet, every day, we store food in our refrigerator—and how often do we clean that? Are their food stains on the shelves, ketchup crud in the corners, flecks of blood on the freezer ice? And when you open the door, are you greeted by an unappetizing smell?
A dirty refrigerator is a hotbed of germs and can cause food contamination and disease. You should clean your refrigerator once a month. Here’s a simple guide to make that chore as fast and painless as possible.
The first step is to turn off the refrigerator. This conserves energy (and your electricity bill) since any cold that it generates will escape anyway.
Then, take out everything—and we mean everything!—from the refrigerator. Check each item. Has your salad dressing expired? How old are those leftovers? Purge whatever you know is too old to eat. Then, take the perishable items you intend to keep and place in cooler.
Now the next step is to disinfect the shelves and drawers. Take out what you can, and wash with a soap and water solution. Rinse very well under a running faucet to remove all suds. As for the non-removable shelves and storage, and the main refrigerator compartment, wipe them down with a rag dipped into a bowl filled with lukewarm soapy water. Some people prefer to use vinegar and water solution, or baking soda and water solution.
Then use another sponge to wipe the outer surface of the refrigerator, starting at the top and working your way to the bottom, since the water will drip anyway.
The last (and often forgotten) step is to wipe the rubber molding, since any dirt or grime will prevent the refrigerator seal from working well.
So you’re done cleaning the refrigerator! That’s great, congratulations. Now comes the task of keeping it clean. Always store your food in leak-proof plastic containers. Designate a part of the refrigerator for leftovers, so you always know where to look (and you lower your risk of forgetting a dish and leaving it to rot there for one week or more!). Place an open box of baking soda in the back to absorb odors.
Make it a habit, too, to empty out the meat or freezer section before going to the supermarket, so you can wipe the shelves of any blood or meat particles. And it’s better to transfer meat from the store packaging to your own freezer bags. Store packaging can have trace amounts of bacteria. Besides, transferring it to your own bags gives you a chance to label each item according to your meal plan (ex: two pounds, ground pork = casserole).
Photo from symbianize.com