How to clean a fridge

How to clean a fridge: Image shows a woman cleaning her fridge.
(Image credit: Getty Images.)

Kitchens are the heart of the home, but they also carry so much bacteria from food preparation. Appliances such as fridges, have many crevices, drawers and handles, all of which keep plenty of bacteria growing. For example, if you touch raw food, then the handle of your fridge, you may clean your hands, but forget all about the handles.

Most of us don’t think about cleaning our fridges nearly enough, and are often only reminded to do so when there’s a serious spillage, or muddy paw prints from a hopeful pet, are shown on the exterior.

Whether you have a french door refrigerator (opens in new tab) or a side-by-side (opens in new tab) one in your home, then you'll have plenty of surfaces that likely need a scrub. Here’s everything you need to know to not only kill the germs in and on your fridge, but leave it sparkling clean too.  

How to clean a fridge

It's so important to make sure that your fridge is cleaned efficiently because it comes into contact with raw food, spillages and leaks. Fridges should be cleaned weekly while wearing gloves to ensure minimal contact with raw food, according to the Food Standards Agency (opens in new tab).

When cleaning a fridge, similar to any other surface, you need to wash the surface with a detergent, such as soapy water made up from washing-up liquid, to eradicate grease, stains and dirt. Only after getting rid of grease and dirt from the surface, can you use a disinfectant chemical to kill bacteria.

It is important to ensure that you follow the guidelines of any product you’re using to clean, as the contact time and dilution ratio to ensure effectiveness, can vary.

Cleaning the interior of your fridge

Start by removing all of the food from the fridge, and either store it in a cool place, or another fridge if you have one
Take all of the shelves out of the fridge, including any compartments that may be attached to the side, and the drawers used to store meat, fruits and vegetables
Wash all of these compartments in hot soapy water, and dry them with a clean or disposable cloth, or leave to air dry
While the compartments are drying, begin to wash the interior of the fridge with clean, hot and soapy water, before using disinfectant to eradicate germs from the fridge’s surface
Place all of the freshly cleaned compartments back inside of the fridge 

Cleaning the exterior of your fridge

Although the outside of a fridge will have less of an impact on your food safety than the inside, there are still risks involved. Each time you open and close your fridge, you're touching the door, and all of its handles. Crevices such as the handles can trap bacteria, and will frequently be touched after touching foods such as raw meats.

Above that, a dirty looking fridge is unappealing and can make your kitchen look and feel unclean. The outside of your fridge could be made up from different materials, so it's important to use products that won't damage its surfaces.

Fill up a bowl of hot, soapy water, made up from a mild washing-up liquid detergent to avoid damaging any surfaces
Use a new sponge that isn't too abrasive and work it in up and down motions to ensure you lather up the surface and clean it effectively, paying particular attention to any crevices
Once any dirt and grease is removed, ensure that there are no stains left on the fridge
If there are stains on the fridge, you can use a stain remover formulated detergent on that particular area. Ensure to wash this area with water afterwards, to prevent any chemicals lingering on the surface and damaging the exterior
Once the fridge has been washed, use a clean cloth with water to ensure there is no soap left on the surface
Most fridges will return their usual shine after being cleaned, but you may like to use a spray to brighten the surface up. Some sprays will offer an efficient extra cleanse and polish in one. Be sure to choose a spray that works well for your fridge’s materials, such as a metal detergent

Cleaning your fridge door

Fridge door handles can not only trap lots of dirt and bacteria, but they can be known to yellow. You can try several things to revive the look of yellowed handles, such as using a diluted bleach solution on them, re-spraying them with paint dedicated for plastic (if you have a plastic fridge exterior), or using a limescale removing and slightly rougher sponge when cleaning. 

When it comes to ensuring the handles are clean from dirt and bacteria, you need to ensure that every crevice is paid attention to. As handles are a surface we often touch after touching areas with high amounts of bacteria, such as raw meat in the case of a fridge, it is important to give them a thorough cleanse. 

Spray each fridge door handle with a strong bacteria killing cleanser that also tackles grease and dirt, before leaving it to sit for a few minutes
Wipe away any cleanser with a disposable cloth or kitchen roll
Use a clean, hot, soapy water to clean the handles with a clean sponge, before drying these areas with a clean cloth
Clean the area with a spray and wipe bacteria killing cleanser

What to be aware of when cleaning a fridge

If your fridge has a freezer element to it, then you will need to defrost that before cleaning, as bacteria and spillages may be trapped in the ice. When it comes to defrosting the freezer, this needs to be done less frequently than cleaning your fridge.

You can’t go wrong with hot soapy water, and with cleaning detergents approved by the EPA or Food Standards Agency. However, many savvy cleaners like to use home remedies to clean their fridges, amongst other appliances. Some will use mixtures made up with bicarbonate of soda, Alka-Seltzer, vinegar, and even denture cleaners to remove stains and buff up their fridges like new.

Lesley Roberts, food industry technical professional, says people don’t clean their fridges nearly enough, and need to be cautious of things you wouldn't necessarily expect. "Unless you're cleaning all your fruit and veg before it goes in the fridge, make sure you clean that salad drawer," says Roberts, as vegetables such as lettuce can carry E Coli and listeria. “Bicarbonate of soda is also great as it can also help to absorb odours.”

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Mollie is a UK based, Welsh, lifestyle journalist. She writes frequently on all things involving women, health, and lifestyle. Her work can be found in Cosmopolitan, Insider, the Independent, HuffPost and more. In her spare time, you’ll find her at the pottery wheel or walking her basset hound.