You Only Need To Clean Your Fridge Four Times A Year. Here's Why

Chances are your fridge is running (remember that old joke?), and it might be time to round it up for a good cleaning. The Australian Institute of Food Safety warns that a dirty refrigerator can breed bacteria. It cites a study on home fridges that found an average of 7,850 bacteria units per square centimeter in salad drawers alone. Just so you know, that number should be closer to 0 to 10. Imagine eating a bowlful of raw produce from a bacteria-laden salad drawer. Yikes.

Rotten food can also be a source of bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and listeria, per That stack of to-go boxes you swore you would eat may be the reason your fridge smells bad. In fact, spoiled dairy products and meats are the most common causes of food poisoning, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.

Now that you know all this, you might think you need to clean your fridge every day to keep from getting you and your loved ones sick. However, you don't have to clean it that often, according to experts.

Clean your fridge every season

Make a mental note that, with the start of every season, it's time to clean your refrigerator, per The Washington Post. That's right: Despite its capability to become a breeding ground for bacteria, experts recommend cleaning it four times a year.

The outside, inside, and around your refrigerator all need to be cleaned thoroughly. This is the best time to throw away expired food, too. With items nearing their best-by date, get creative with some recipes before they go bad. And those unopened foods that no longer fit your new diet can go to a neighbor.

Whether you schedule your deep cleans for the start or end of every season, it is important to note quick cleans should happen more frequently. Any spillage can be wiped up with a dish rag or sponge. But keep in mind that sponges are a huge harbor of bacteria, and a study published in Scientific Reports recommends replacing them weekly.

The best way to clean your fridge

The first step in tackling your fridge is removing all the food inside, per The Washington Post. Store fridge items in the freezer to avoid any spoilage while cleaning. Sort through all your food, and toss away anything past its expiration date. With products nearing the end of their shelf-life, give them a quick smell to see if it's even worth putting back in your freshly cleaned fridge. 

For a natural cleaning solution safe for your kitchen, The Washington Post suggests mixing a large spoonful of baking soda with warm water. Use this and a clean cloth to wash down shelves and drawers.

When restocking, keep in mind that where you place your food items matters. There are even ways to organize your fridge to stay healthy. According to Appliance Analysts, the first shelf and door are often the least cold places in the refrigerator, so it's best to store nonperishable items like condiments there. Save space on the middle and bottom shelves to house dairy products, meats, and your favorite drinks.