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 appliances can carry so much bacteria from food preparation which is why it's vital to learn how to clean a fridge. They 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 or a side-by-side one in your home, then you'll have plenty of surfaces that likely need a scrub. We spoke to Cleaning Expert and Influencer, Laura Mountford who advised us on how to clean a fridge properly as well as a few clever organization tips. 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.

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 

1. Have a clear out 

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.

2. Remove the shelves

Take all of the shelves out of the fridge, as well as any compartments that might be attached to the side. Also remove the drawers used to store meat, fruits, and vegetables. 

If you already use storage containers in your fridge then you should also take these out to clean. If you don't, then Laura Mountford recommends using small clear containers to store fresh fruit and veg in inside your fridge. Not only does this keep food organized, but it also makes it easier to clean out if some things go moldy.

3. Wash everything 

Now that you've removed each section, wash them all in hot soapy water. Dry them with a clean cloth and leave to air dry. 

4. Clean the interior

While the drawers and shelves are drying, begin to clean the interior of the fridge with clean, hot soapy water. Then use disinfectant to eradicate germs from the fridge's surface. 

We spoke to Laura Mountford, Cleaning Expert and Influencer, who advised to, "pop folded up kitchen roll on the shelf where you store your milk to
soak up any spills and reduce the need for cleaning, simply replace the kitchen roll."  This will prevent you from having to completely clean a fridge if one small spill occurs. 

5. Replace all components

When everything is dry, place all of the clean compartments back inside 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. 

1. Create a cleaning solution 

Fill up a bowl of hot, soapy water by using a mild washing-up liquid detergent.

2. Lather up the surface 

Use a non-abrasive clean sponge and work it in up and down motions to ensure you lather up the surface and clean it effectively. Pay particular attention to any crevices. 

3. Spot check for stains 

Once any dirt and grease is removed, double check for stains. If there are some stubborn spots, go back in with the sponge. You can also use a stain remover formulated detergent on these areas, but make sure you wash with water afterwards to prevent chemicals lingering on the surface. 

4. Rinse and polish for extra shine

Once the fridge has been washed, use a clean cloth with water to ensure there's no soap left on the surface. Most fridges will return to their usual shine after being cleaned, but you might like to use a dedicated stainless steel spray to brighten the surface up. 

What the expert says...

Cleaning Expert and Influencer, Laura Mountford, recommends, "Add a small dish filled with bicarbonate of soda to your fridge as a natural way to neutralise odours." This will prevent any bad odors when you open up the fridge door, without posing a health hazard in a food-safe spot. 

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, they're 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. 

1. Start with the handles

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.

2. Clean off the solution

Wipe away any cleaning products with a disposable cloth or kitchen roll

3. Use a sponge

Use hot soapy water and a sponge to clean the handles, then dry off these areas with a clean cloth.

4. Wipe the area down

Clean the area once again with an anti-bacterial spray and leave to dry.

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.”

Discover more guides for the kitchen...
Best freezers
Best compact microwaves
Best dishwashers

Mollie Davies

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.

With contributions from