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How to Clean a Refrigerator

Create safe, odor-free storage for food. Learn how to clean your refrigerator properly with our expert tips.

Getting Started

Person Cleaning Inside of a Refrigerator
Refrigerators are one of the most used kitchen appliances, which can make it hard to keep them clean and organized. But a clean fridge can make the entire kitchen look organized and polished. Plus, an organized interior space helps you safely preserve and store your produce and meats.
How do you keep a refrigerator clean and free of odors? We've compiled a list on how to clean all parts of a fridge, and where to start.

Start by Unplugging the Refrigerator

First, turn off your refrigerator to avoid energy waste. If your fridge has removable shelves and you're conscious about keeping the door shut, you might be able to skip this step. However, we recommend unplugging and turning off the fridge when dusting coils and cleaning the drip pan because it's safer. If your refrigerator is heavy, deep, or hard to move, you can turn off the circuit breaker instead.

Empty the Refrigerator

Once you've turned off the fridge, remove all of the items inside it—everything from the condiments on the door to the produce in the crisper drawer. Pro tip: While removing food, throw out any expired items or old leftovers to free up more space once you're finished cleaning. Keep perishables such as milk, eggs, and meats in a cooler and place anything else on the counter or kitchen table. Also, plan to clean your fridge within an hour so you can return items inside as quickly as possible.

Clean Removable Shelves and Drawers

Person Cleaning a Refrigerator Shelf By Hand
Once the food is removed or placed in coolers, you can officially begin cleaning your fridge. Start with the removable shelves and drawers—we recommend sliding them out and washing them in the kitchen sink. Removing the drawers will also allow you to reach deeper areas of your fridge. To properly clean the shelves and drawers, fill the sink with fragrance-free dish soap and warm water. Clean with a soft, non-abrasive sponge to prevent scratches on plastic surfaces. Rinse the shelves thoroughly and set them aside to dry as you continue your cleaning.

Clean the Refrigerator Interior

While many multi-purpose household cleaners are available, you can also clean refrigerators with natural products if you prefer, or when cleaning supplies are unavailable. If you're looking for a natural cleanser, you can use vinegar or baking soda. Here are two natural solutions to try:
Fill a spray bottle with one of these solutions. Then, spray the entire interior of your fridge. Use a gentle sponge or microfiber cloth to wipe down your fridge. Pro tip: use a toothbrush to remove stubborn stains and gunk. If any grime is really stubborn, apply a paste comprised of baking soda and water and allow it to sit for ten minutes before wiping it clean.
Important note: Keep in mind that you should only use bleach to clean if there are strong odors or stains. You must allow the fridge to air out for several hours if you choose to do so.

Clean the Refrigerator Exterior

Person Cleaning Refrigerator Door
Now that the interior of your fridge is cleaned, it's time to address the refrigerator's exterior and handles. Start by wiping down the outside with a moist cloth. You can use the same cleaning solution that you used for the interior, or just warm water. Once you've finished that step, dry the exterior with a microfiber cloth. Also, to take additional care of stainless steel surfaces, apply a stainless steel cleaner using a microfiber cloth.
Don't forget hard-to-reach areas. Clean the top of your fridge, and remember to address the areas that keep your fridge in proper working order. You should carefully remove dust from condenser coils using a coil cleaning brush. Additionally, remember to empty and clean the drip pan. If possible, use a hose attachment and vacuum around and under the fridge.

How to Clean a Smelly Refrigerator

Sometimes, even the most thorough, deep-clean job still can't get rid of certain smells. The most time-tested solution for this issue is to leave an open box or jar of baking soda inside the fridge to deodorize and absorb odors. Alternatively, items such as fresh coffee grounds, activated charcoal, and unscented cat litter also work well. To beat unpleasant smells, you can even soak cotton balls in vanilla extract and leave them in the fridge.

More Fridge Cleaning Hacks

With these additional hacks and tips, you can be sure to keep your fridge clean and odor-free.
  • Wipe up spills ASAP to avoid stains. The longer they sit, the harder they are to remove.
  • Make sure produce and containers are clean before placing them back inside.
  • Keep meats in their own clear container and thaw frozen meats on a rimmed plate or baking sheet to avoid spills.
  • Clean the door seal with a toothbrush and a solution of bleach and warm water.