How To Properly Clean Your Fridge

When's the last time you cleaned your refrigerator? Sure, everyone has time for a cursory once over to wipe up some spilled mustard or throw out a bag of soggy kale. Maybe you're a pro at remembering when your latest meal prep expires or are firm on keeping only one Styrofoam container of leftovers at a time. Any tidying attempt is a victory: When you're so busy that you have to schedule self-care, even mini cleaning sessions are a huge accomplishment. But when should you carve out some time to deep-clean the biggest, messiest appliance in your home?

To stop the spread of foodborne illnesses, consider rolling up your sleeves for a deep-clean every three months (via CNET). This process can feel overwhelming, especially if you have a big family and a lot of potentially forgotten food items in the fridge. Luckily, we're here to guide you through how to tackle a proper clean — and how to keep things tidy during that time in between deep cleans.

Start with smaller, quicker cleaning sprees

This large of an undertaking will be easier if you've been taking smaller steps to keep things organized. If you haven't, now's the time to start and to schedule the deep clean a week or two later. A great first rule of thumb: Clean up any spills right away. That dribble of red wine may seem minor, but the inside of your refrigerator door may be stained and sticky after a few days. Tackle those messes immediately. To prevent further spills, invest in some proper storage containers, rather than trusting a product's flimsy packaging (via CNET).

Another good habit to form is a weekly purge of old food. Commit to a day — every Monday or Friday evening, for example. When that day comes, scan the fridge. If an item is rotting, smelly, wrinkly, soggy, discolored, or otherwise unappetizing, throw it away (via Molly Maid). This will save you a lot of time when it's time for the deep clean, and it will create more room in your fridge for new, delicious treats.

Get ready for the big clean

When the time comes for a deep clean, make sure you're prepared with the proper supplies. Vinegar makes a great all-natural, non-toxic cleaning spray — it's so acidic that it cuts through grime with ease (via Epicurious). Keep some baking soda on hand, too; it can be combined with vinegar to make a scrub for tougher stains (via Angi). Then, grab some sponges, towels, paper towels, and any of your other favorite scrubby materials.

First, throw out any expired food — if you've been keeping up with your weekly schedule, there shouldn't be too much! Then, take out everything else in the fridge, shelving included; work one shelf at a time if you don't have a lot of counter space for removed food. Spray all shelves down with vinegar and wipe them clean with a towel or sponge, scrubbing with the vinegar and baking soda solution as necessary. Then, use a sponge dunked in hot, soapy water to clean the inside of the fridge. If drawers can be removed, soak them in soapy water, or at least spray them down with vinegar if they're too large for your sink. Don't forget to wipe down the outside of your fridge, too! When you're done, dry everything with a towel. Then, wipe down any containers or packaged foods before you put them back in the fridge (via CDC).

Be sure to wash your hands and wipe down any tables or counters that touched food from the fridge. Finally, bask in the glow of a job well done–one that you don't have to do again for three months.