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The Home Depot

Refrigerator Cleaning Guide

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Cleaning > Refrigerator Cleaning Guide
Refrigerator Cleaning Guide

In restaurants, hotels, and other commercial settings, the refrigerator is carefully monitored and inspected for cleanliness, temperature control, and product handling. Certain types of food must be stored in specific containers and kept in specific locations; temperatures must be just right. This rigorous scrutiny is, of course, to make sure that the food prepared and stored in commercial kitchens is safe to eat.


Most of us have heard one horror story or another about a restaurant kitchen, but the fact is, residential kitchens are cleaned multiple times a day and regularly inspected to ensure that proper food-handling occurs. Our home's refrigerator, however, is not professionally monitored, so it's up to us to make sure that the food we store doesn't become contaminated. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 48 million Americans experience food poisoning each year; proper cleaning is one way to help keep ourselves and our family members out of that statistic.

  1. 1.Clean Vs. Sanitary

    All the cleaning, rotating, and labeling in the world won't do a thing if your fridge is too cluttered to see its contents at a glance.

    A surface that looks clean is not necessarily sanitary. Microbes don't always get wiped up with a paper towel, so it is important that the surfaces in our refrigerator are cleaned with a solution that destroys them. While there are a number of anti-bacterial cleaning products on the market, the old standby of bleach and water does the trick effectively and cheaply. One part chlorine bleach to ten parts water is the standard, but remember: Bleach solutions are only effective for about 24 hours, so make a fresh one each time you sanitize.

  2. 2.Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

    One of the things that restaurants do well is rotate their food stock to align with expiration dates. Many homeowners, however, have found themselves in a situation where multiple containers of the same product have their seals broken simultaneously. This, of course, can hasten food deterioration and spoilage. If you consistently purchase a product, make sure that the oldest is kept in an area where it will be used first.

  3. 3.Labeling Food Containers

    Just about everyone has found a container of food in their fridge that is unidentifiable. In many cases, even opening the container that the food is in can be a daunting scenario! Labeling food containers can eliminate the chances of this situation from ever rearing its head again, and if you add a date to the label, you'll know not only what's in the container, but what date it should be eaten by.

  4. 4.Reduce Clutter

    All the cleaning, rotating, and labeling in the world won't do a thing if your fridge is too cluttered to see its contents at a glance. A too-full fridge makes it extremely difficult to store items properly (raw meats on the bottom shelf, ready-to-eat foods on the top, and the rest somewhere in the middle), and it's one of the primary reasons why good food goes bad without being eaten. For many folks, this is the most difficult part of keeping a clean fridge, but it is essential. Buying smaller portions (or, if you buy in bulk, freezing portions that will not be eaten immediately) more frequently will reduce clutter and also give you the opportunity to eat fresher food.

  5. 5.Don't Be Afraid to Discard

    Once a week, go through the stores of your refrigerator and chuck anything that has expired. Many of us have an ingrained, instinctual aversion to throwing food away, but food that is on the verge of spoiling isn't doing anyone any favors by sitting around in the fridge for another week. Chuck anything that has gone bad, and move items that must be consumed immediately to the front of the line. Doing this once a week will not only keep your fridge free from spoiled food, it will actually reduce the amount of food that gets thrown out.

  6. 6.Don't Neglect Your Drawers

    Some refrigerators have two or three, others only one. No matter how many drawers your refrigerator contains, though, they are prime areas for occurrences of food spoilage because we often forget about their contents. Following the above tips will go a long way in reducing the amount of food forgotten in drawers, but assigning each one a specific role (this one's for meat, this one's for dairy, etc.) will help keep their contents moving and allow you to keep better tabs on what's in each drawer on any given day.

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