The appliance that’s keeping your food fresher for longer could actually be making you sick

By Nadine Halili | Photo by Ernest Brillo/Unsplash

Cleaning the refrigerator should be a no-brainer since we all want our food to be clean and fresh every day. Ideally, you should clean every sauce spill or food stain the moment it hits the interiors of the refrigerator but some overlook this and the stains end up hardening and becoming more icky. 

A study shows that bacteria can grow rapidly on food if the fridge isn’t cleaned properly or if the temperature isn’t set correctly. Depending on how quick you are to spot spills and wipe out stains, you should be cleaning your fridge either once a month or once every three months. Here’s how to properly scrub your fridge for optimal food safety. 


Get everything out of the fridge

In order to reach the inner shelves, you need to bring out all the items including the removable platforms and drawers. While you’re at it, this is the best time to do an inventory of your food and take out those that are past their expiration dates and those with fuzzy molds. In the meantime, transfer perishable goods like milk, butter and frozen meats into a cooler with ice and make sure to not get distracted from cleaning just to prevent its spoilage.


Start scrubbing

Now that everything is out, start with the drawers and other removable parts of the fridge and use a sponge or a rag to clean them with soap and water just like how you wash dishes. Make sure to check the crisper or salad drawer since it’s considered the dirtiest part of the fridge with an average of 7,850 bacteria units per square centimeter. You can clean the removable parts on a large sink, your bathtub or even outside with a hose. While these parts dry, you can start cleaning the interior. When it comes to cleaning solutions, not everybody is convinced with using just dish soap. Some people want a strong disinfectant like bleach, while others dilute this or use white vinegar instead. These are all good choices and they all really depend on your preferences. 

When it comes to hardened stains, there are different ways to get rid of them. The New York Times advises to use a cloth dampened with hot water to press on the stain until it becomes easier to wipe off. Well and Good, on the other hand, suggests sprinkling baking soda and letting it sit so it will be easier to scrub off after a while. After you’ve scrubbed and rinsed the shelves, wipe them dry and reassemble the shelves and drawers back in. Before you place any food inside, open a fresh box of baking soda and leave it somewhere inside. This will absorb any odors so the tastes of your food won’t get mixed up. 

Make sure to check the crisper or salad drawer since it’s considered the dirtiest part of the fridge with an average of 7,850 bacteria units per square centimeter


Do an inventory check

Before you start putting your food back in the fridge, wipe down your condiments for any stains and spills. This is your chance to get to them one by one to avoid having to do heavy scrubs in the near future. This is also an opportunity to arrange the contents of your fridge smartly by placing perishable goods with nearing expiration dates in front. 


Check the temperature 

Once everything is placed back inside, do a temperature check for both the refrigerator and the freezer. The optimum temperature of food safety standards for the refrigerator is below five degrees Celsius while below 15 degrees Celsius for the freezer. This temperature slows down the growth of bacteria and minimizes food spoilage. Also, make sure to close the doors of your fridge properly and regularly check the door seals. Leaving it open by accident puts food in the danger zone (between five C and 60 C), which invites moisture for harmful bacteria to grow rapidly. 


Clean your condenser coil

While your fridge should be cleaned once a month or every three months, you also need to pay attention to your fridge’s condenser coil. These are located at the back or the bottom of your refrigerator unit and are huge collectors of dirt, dust, grease and even pet hair. However, this can be cleaned with a soft brush only once every year to help your refrigerator run smoothly.

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