Kitchen Cleaning Tips: How to Quickly Clean Fridge Shelves in Less Than 1 Hour

Germs in Your Fridge

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Refrigerators Habor Food & Bacteria

Did you know that the kitchen harbors more bacteria than any other room in your home?*

One bacteria cell can multiply to more than 8 million cells in less than 24 hours. It only takes 10 cells to get a person sick, but it has more than likely multiplied to 1 million by the time your hands are contaminated.1

Now that you know this, one of the most important things you need to clean regularly is your refrigerator. However, most people rarely clean it once a year, if ever.

Some people would rather buy a brand new refrigerator than try to clean out their existing one.

I try to clean mine at least once a year.

1WebMD

Public Enemy No. 1

Did you know that sponges are the number one source of germs in your house?

The porous holes in a sponge are a perfect breeding ground for germs. One swipe on a counter can leave a path of bacteria behind that infects a counter, rather than disinfects.

The only real way to ensure you have a germ-free sponge is to use a brand new one every time you use one, or to soak it in bleach or a soap after every use, and then let it dry out.

Sounds like a hassle -- it is.

A Roll of Easy Liner

shelf liners
shelf liners | Source

The General Strategy

The key to cleaning fridge shelves quickly and easily is to know in advance that you want to take on this task. Yes, this is called planning. While planning and a household with children often do not go hand-in-hand, you probably know when you are going to the grocery store next.

That way you can let the food in the fridge get to its lowest before trying to clean fridge shelves, which means take on this task a day before it is time to go to the grocery store. Mark it on your calendar, and set you iPhone to remind you so you do not forget.

Extra credit: After cleaning your fridge shelves, then put an absorbent shelf liner on top of each shelf so food containers grip the shelf plus the moisture is absorbed by the shelf liner. Shelf liners are machine washable, so you don't have to worry about spills in the fridge.

I purchased 12 in. x 10 ft. of shelf liner from Wal-Mart for $4.95.

The Process of Refrigerator Cleaning

Cleaning a refrigerator is not complicated, but can be a chore.

Since my refrigerator is 33 inches wide, and the slot it is in is 40 inches wide, I cannot fully open the fridge door in its hole in the counter. I have to pull the fridge out and turn it slightly at an angle so I can fully open the right hand door.

After this re-positioning, I can then begin to shift items from the desired shelf that I am about to clean.

If you are washing the walls of the fridge too, then you may want to consider cleaning from the top shelf down. That is because gravity works against you with cleaning. Any dirt that falls will fall downward, onto lower shelves.

If you can manage to pull the shelves out without a lot of debris and dirt falling, then this should not be an issue.

The point is, you don't want dirt and debris falling from dirty shelves onto clean shelves as you work.

Here's how I worked:

First, I removed old leftovers from the fridge. I then transferred the food items from the bottom shelf to the next shelf up.

I then pulled out the topmost crisper drawer (which happens to also be the bottom-most shelf). My refrigerator requires you to pull out the whole drawer to take out the shelf.

This drawer contains lunch meat and cheeses. I quickly washed the top of the drawer, which doubles as the bottom shelf. I washed the shelf with liquid dish soap, then sprayed it with glass cleaner containing ammonia. I then measured and cut out the shelf liner, and returned the crisper drawer to its spot in the fridge. I did this in less than 10 min.

Next, I moved items from the next shelf up down to the freshly cleaned bottom shelf.

Repeat the process for washing the shelf, and apply the shelf liner.

Continue until all of the shelves have been thoroughly washed and lined with a shelf liner.

This whole process can be done in under an hour. I was able to do it in under the length of a child's nap. When the little one gets up, this task would have been much harder to do.

(Please see the Progress Photos below)

Progress Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cleaning supplies needed: liquid dish soap, glass cleaner (optional), paper towel, dish scrubberOur refrigeratorWashing the top shelf with dishwashing liquid soap, then with glass cleaner.After washing a shelf, place shelf liner on dry shelf before returning it to the fridgeOnly the top shelf remained to be cleaned so I shifted all the drinks to the second shelf. Close-up of inside of cleaned fridge with shelf liners
Cleaning supplies needed: liquid dish soap, glass cleaner (optional), paper towel, dish scrubber
Cleaning supplies needed: liquid dish soap, glass cleaner (optional), paper towel, dish scrubber | Source
Our refrigerator
Our refrigerator | Source
Washing the top shelf with dishwashing liquid soap, then with glass cleaner.
Washing the top shelf with dishwashing liquid soap, then with glass cleaner. | Source
After washing a shelf, place shelf liner on dry shelf before returning it to the fridge
After washing a shelf, place shelf liner on dry shelf before returning it to the fridge | Source
Only the top shelf remained to be cleaned so I shifted all the drinks to the second shelf.
Only the top shelf remained to be cleaned so I shifted all the drinks to the second shelf. | Source
Close-up of inside of cleaned fridge with shelf liners
Close-up of inside of cleaned fridge with shelf liners | Source

Cleaning Out the Refrigerator

Refrigerator Poll

When is the last time you cleaned the inside of your fridge?

  • Within the past 6 months.
  • Within the past year.
  • Its been over one year, and I'm feeling guilty now.
  • I've honestly never cleaned out my fridge and never plan to.
See results without voting

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