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Kitchen Secrets - Keeping your refrigerator clean and odor free

Updated on September 27, 2012

Ah, the Refrigerator

One of the worst parts about using your kitchen often is you have to keep it clean. For me, keeping the refrigerator clean is the hardest part. From food stuck on the glass, to spills of milk or juice, it seems to be a never ending cycle.

Here are just a few ideas to keep your refrigerator clean and running efficiently.

To help keep it clean, inside and out

  • To get your refrigerator clean and shiny inside and out, use baking soda (of course) on a damp sponge or cloth.
  • You can also wipe down the exterior surfaces of the fridge with a solution made from 1 part distilled white vinegar to 5 parts water. This will make everything extra-shiny.
  • If you want to clean behind your refrigerator (or any other heavy appliance) you can put a little bit of butter on the floor in front of the appliance. Then, with someone helping you, you should be able to slide the heavy appliance forward. Be sure to clean the floor when you are done! ***Be aware that butter should NOT be used on marble floors---it can stain.***
  • If food spills are common in your refrigerator, spread a dish towel on the bottom shelf to catch any drips. Instead of having to clean the bottom shelf every time there's a mess, you can just toss the towel in the wash.
  • For takeout items or items that can cause leaks, put them on a paper plate to help keep the mess clean. Then just throw away the plate once that item is used.
  • For easy cleanup on drawers, line the fruit/vegetable and meat drawers with old plastic place mats. You may have to cut them to fit but considering how easy they are to wipe clean it will be worth the effort.
  • If you do not want to bother with cleaing the place mats, line the drawers with some plastic wrap. Or use a few paper towels in the fruit drawer. They will help absorb moisture, which means the fruit will last longer.
  • If the slide-out racks or trays in your refrigerator are not gliding as smoothly as they should, simply apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the edges, they will whiz in and out.

How to keep your refrigerator clean

Refrigerator Deodorizers

  • Baking soda (of course) is what is known by most people. But did you know that you should keep the open box on the middle shelf in the back of the fridge for it to be the most effective?
  • Dab a few drops of vanilla or lemon extract on a cotton ball and put it in a shot glass inside the fridge. Any unpleasant odor will be replaced with an appetizing scent.
  • Cut a peeled, raw potato in half and place each half - cut side up - on a refrigerator shelf. When the surface of the potato turns black, cut off the top layer and use the clean sections to keep absorbing odors.
  • A few plain charcoal briquettes will keep the refrigerator smell-free.
  • When there is a particularly foul odor throughout the refrigerator, stuff a crumpled brown paper grocery bag on each shelf. The paper will absorb any and all nasty odors. When each bag starts to smell bad, replace it with another until the awful smell is completely gone. Of course, make sure that whatever caused the nasty smell is gone too.
  • Put fresh coffee grounds in little bowls or in foil-laminated baking cups on each refrigerator shelf. The coffee will deodorize even the worst of smells within 1 or 2 days. Once the bad smell goes, so should the coffee grounds.

Optimizing Refrigerator Efficency

  • The rubber piping inside the door that seals the door should be clean, in good shape and attached properly. If it's dirt or not attached right, it will allow cold air to escape, which wastes electricity and could make your food spoil. Was it regularly wth soapy water and dry thoroughly.
  • If a refrigerator is level it will use less electricity and run more efficently then if it's a little off kilter. Test out your refrigerator by placing an almost-full-to-the-rim glass of water on the shelf. Look at it while it's in the fridge. If the water is level with the rim then your fridge is fine. If the water is uneven you should adjust your refrigerator. It may only need a small piece of cardboard or a wooden ship to put the fridge on an even footing, but it could make a differance in you next electricity bill.
  • For a refrigerator to operate at its best, don't overload the shelves, espically the top shelf. It is ideal for air to be able to circulate around each item in the fridge. (Ideal but not always very practical)
  • Keep leftovers in glass or plastic see-through containers so that you are able to see what it is. Better yet, set aside a section of a shelf just for leftovers.
  • Putting uncovered food in the refrigerator uses extra energy. The refrigerator has to keep up with the moisture the uncovered food emits. So, when you put food in the fridge, put a lid on it.

Power Outage Guidelines

During a power outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors shut. If you can determine when the power outage began (check a clock tht runs on electricity), you can figure out how long the food will be good. As a general rule -

  • Food kept cold in an unopened refrigerator will last about 4 hours.
  • Food in a full, unopened freezer will stay frozen for about 48 hours.
  • Food in a semi-full, unopened freezer will stay frozen for up to 24 hours.

Hopefully some of these tips will help you keep your refrigerator running good, smelling fresh and looking clean. I've used most of these tips and am really enjoying having a nice clean fridge.


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    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Jamie Brock - I'm glad you enjoyed my Kitchen Secrets Part 2!!! I still have issues with the refrigerator every day because of my three kids LOL These tips definately help though! Thanks for the votes, sharing and the comment :)

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 5 years ago from Texas

      Wow! I love learning about stuff like this. These are all wonderful tips and will come in VERY useful.. Thank you SO much for sharing all of these! Voting UP and sharing!!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      teaches12345 - I'm glad you use some of these ideas :) It's amazing how just these easy little steps make cleanup so much easier. Thanks for the votes and comment :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Good follow up on this series. Keeping food on a plate is a great idea, have dealt with the mess before -- ugh! Also recommend, as you wrote, keep things covered. The mingling of odors does not make for appetizing meals. Voted up!