How to Clean Your Refrigerator

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Have you taken a close look at your fridge lately? Chances are that you see a little grime here and there. It’s normal for build-up to occur over time—a fridge is one of our most-used household appliances!  

Avoiding build-up and keeping your refrigerator clean inside and out is an easy way to maintain your fridge and prevent it from needing DIY refrigerator repair or having to be replaced entirely. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best way to clean your fridgewhat to clean your refrigerator with, and how often you should be cleaning it. 

Where to Begin Before You Start Cleaning 

Fridge clean out begins with unplugging the refrigerator or turning off the circuit breaker that powers the appliance. This will allow you to safely clean fridge coils while also saving electricity (your utility bill will thank you). If you’re able to, pull the fridge away from the wall to access the back of the appliance. This is also a good time to clean the floor under the fridge. 

Next, you’ll want to clear out all of the fridge’s contents so that you can have easy access to the shelves and drawers that need to be cleaned. Remove everything from the shelves and crisper drawers and clear the fridge bins on the sides of the door. 

If you have another fridge, the best thing you can do is transfer any food to it temporarily, so it stays cold. Don’t have one? No problem. A portable cooler is a great alternative to keep your perishables cool while you clean. If neither option is available to you, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that refrigerated foods can remain at room temperature for up to two hours (or one hour if the outside air temperature is above 90° F). The less time spent out of the fridge the better, meaning you’ll want to use that elbow grease to clean your fridge as effectively as you can, as quickly as you can.  

Ideally, you should aim to clean out your fridge at least twice a year, though doing so more often is certainly recommended. Let’s take a more detailed look at how to clean a fridge by looking at the specific components of your refrigerator. 

Cleaning the Interior of Your Refrigerator 

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You have a couple different options when it comes to what to clean your refrigerator with as far as the interior of your fridge goes. If you can remove any of the bins or shelves from the fridge, that should be your first step. You can clean them in the sink using water and mild dish soap and then dry them off with a clean dish towel to prevent water spots. 

When it comes to cleaning the rest of the interior, various multi-purpose cleaners are perfectly fine to use. If you’d like to use a natural cleaner, use white vinegar or a mixture of water and baking soda (two tablespoons of baking soda for every quart of hot water). Both options are just as effective in eliminating odors that are commonly present in your fridge’s interior. 

After wiping down your fridge, leave the door open to allow it to air out for an hour or two before reinstalling the cleaned bins, drawers, and shelves. 

Cleaning the Exterior of Your Refrigerator 

The best way to clean your fridge’s exterior is to use a damp cloth with mild soapy water. Wipe down the entire outside, including the top of the fridge, then dry it off using a microfiber cloth. Paper towels will do the job well, too. 

To make sure everything is fresh and clean, pay close attention to high-touch areas, such as door handles and buttons for controlling the fridge’s temperature and dispensing ice and water. Fingerprints can go unnoticed easily, so it’s worth spending the extra time to make sure those are cleaned off. 

Finally, it’s time to clean the fridge coils that are typically located on the back of the refrigerator. You can use a coil cleaning brush or even your vacuum's crevice attachment to carefully clean out any dust that’s sitting on the coils. Cleaning these condenser coils is necessary to keep your fridge running smoothly while extending the life of the appliance.  

How to Clean a Stainless Steel Fridge 

The exteriors of stainless steel refrigerators need a bit more care when cleaning because the finish tends to leave streaks and fingerprints. Clean the outside of a stainless steel fridge by using a stainless steel-specific fridge cleaning spray and wiping with a microfiber cloth.  Watch out for any streaks left behind. Voila! Your fridge should be back to looking its best. 

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Cleaning Your Fridge’s Water Line 

One final, important consideration is to clean your refrigerator water line. Flushing out your water line every six to 12 months is a preventative measure that can keep your water dispenser and ice machine running properly, while preventing the build-up of bacteria within the line itself. Here are the steps to clean the refrigerator water line: 

  1. Shut off the valve to the water supply (usually in the wall behind your fridge). Disconnect the water line tube from the supply source, as well as the fridge.  

  1. Carefully pour a cup of distilled vinegar down the tube, making sure that it’s dispensing into another cup or bucket on the other end of the line.  

  1. Soak both ends of the tube in vinegar for a few minutes, as well as the water line attachment on the back of the fridge, if possible.  

  1. Clean out the ice machine as well as the area around the water dispenser.  

  1. Reconnect the water line tube to the water supply and to the fridge. Use the water dispenser to clear out any remaining vinegar that might still be in the line, discarding the water after doing so. Make sure to double-check the water line for any leaks during this time.  

  1. Finally, throw out the first couple of batches of ice that gets made to ensure that every last drop of vinegar has left the line.  

Final Thoughts  

Congratulations! You’re a refrigerator cleaning pro. Now all you need to do is plug it back into the electrical outlet or turn the circuit breaker back on. Before filling it back up with food, allow the refrigerator temperature to return to the ideal temp of at or below 40° F (4° C). Keeping it at this temperature will help prevent foodborne illnesses brought on by bacteria.  

Maintain the longevity of your fridge by cleaning up any major spills immediately and by doing a full fridge clean out at least twice a year. Your fridge is one of the most important appliances in your home and keeps your household running smoothly, so make sure that your refrigerator is covered by an American Home Shield® home warranty

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