How to Get Your Refrigerator Ready for the Holidays

By Daisy Barringer

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season, a time for gathering with loved ones, remembering everything we’re grateful for, and non-stop cooking and eating. While all of those are fun to do, the non-stop cooking and eating part does come with the small requirement of a clean refrigerator with plenty of space for ingredients and leftovers.

This is so important that November 15 was National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. Of course, you didn’t have to “celebrate” right on November 15, but it is a good idea to take 30 or 45 minutes to really get your fridge into shape at least once a year. Why not do it when you’re about to house a huge turkey inside? Here’s the right way to accomplish this chore.

Take all of the food out

When we say everything, we mean everything. Including that box of baking soda that is probably going to go into the trash since it only effectively absorbs and eliminates odors if replaced every three months.

Place everything on a table or counter. Perishable items can be left out for a short amount of time, but nothing should stay out for more than an hour, which, luckily, is longer than it should take you to complete this task.

Remove all of the shelves, drawers, and door inserts

Are you going to wash everything in the kitchen sink or are some of the oversized items better off being cleaned in the bathtub? Whatever you decide, take everything there and, if it’s glass, let it get to room temperature so that it doesn’t shatter when you use hot water to wash it. While you’re letting it come up to room temperature:

Throw everything away that can’t be eaten

Seeing all of your food outside of its “natural habitat” will allow you to take better stock of what you have.

Toss all expired items, lingering leftovers, wilted produce, and almost-empty condiments. If it’s questionable, it’s time for it to go.

We don’t condone wasting food, but now is also the time to be brutally honest about what you actually use and what it’s time to get rid of. Like, perhaps that jar of spiced jam someone gave you as a hostess gift. The one you haven’t touched in the two years it’s been hanging out in your refrigerator door.

Be sure to take your trash out after so that your kitchen doesn’t start to smell.

Wash the shelves, drawers, and door inserts by hand

Put on a pair of rubber gloves, grab the dish soap, and start scrubbing with a sponge or brush. When you’re finished, leave everything out to air dry.

Clean the interior

While the drawers and shelves are drying, spray the inside of the refrigerator with an all-purpose cleaner and wipe everything down. Be sure to get all of the walls, the rubber seal along the door, and all of the nooks and crannies (an old toothbrush is a good tool for those). A Magic Eraser is also a great tool for removing stains, as is a rag and hot water.

Unplug the refrigerator

To save energy while you’re cleaning out the interior, unplug the refrigerator at the beginning of this process. The only downside is that you won’t have the interior light to help you see dirt and grime better. Regardless, at this point, it’s time to unplug your fridge because things are about to get a little intense.

Clean the coils

If your refrigerator has condenser coils, now is the time to clean them. Dirty coils will keep your refrigerator from getting as cold as it needs to and make the compressor, which is an expensive part to replace, work harder. Coils are located either under the fridge behind the base grill or on the top or back. Obviously, if the coils are on the back, you’ll need to pull the refrigerator away from the wall to clean them.

To clean the coils, wipe all of the dirt, dust, and pet hair off of them with a coil brush. Since you probably don’t have one of those, a vacuum with a brush attachment or even just a rag are other good options. Don’t use cleaning solution on the coils.

Vacuum and mop “beneath” the fridge

If your refrigerator’s coils are in the back of the fridge and you had to move it out anyway, then you definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity to vacuum or sweep up any dirt or debris and quickly mop the area.

If you didn’t have to move your fridge, it’s going to take a little extra motivation, but once you pull your fridge away from the wall and see what’s been collecting back there, you’ll be glad you did it.

Wipe down the exterior

Use soapy water and a damp cloth or an all-purpose cleaner to clean all sides of the refrigerator, including the top. If your refrigerator is stainless steel, you’ll need to use distilled white vinegar or a stainless steel cleaning spray. Be sure to dry in the direction of the grain.

Plug the refrigerator back in and put it back into place

You’re almost at the finish line!

Return the drawers and shelves back to the fridge

Although they’ve been air drying, they may need a quick wipe with a dish towel before they go back inside of the fridge.

Put the food back inside

Last step! Wipe down jars and bottles and tighten their lids before you put them back inside of the refrigerator. Now is also a good time to create a system to keep your fridge organized if you didn’t have one before. Keep in mind that the door is the warmest part of the fridge, so only condiments should go there, not milk or eggs.

Voila!  Your fridge is spick and span and ready to work hard for you over the holiday season. Best of all, you won’t have to do this annoying chore for another year.

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