Updated 24 April 2020

How to keep the refrigerator clean

Refrigerators are germ traps for the same reason as kitchen cupboards are – that's where the food is kept. Here's how to keep the refrigerator clean.

Refrigerator - why it is a problem

You can tell just about as much about someone's lifestyle by looking at the contents of their fridge, as you can by looking at the contents of their shopping baskets. Are they single, do they entertain a lot, are they vegetarian, a teetotaller, do they have pets or children, or both? 

But, useful as they are, refrigerators have to be treated in the proper manner in order for you to enjoy their full benefit. Refrigerators can be germ traps for the same reason as kitchen cupboards are – that's where the food is kept. Most refrigerators are kept at a constant temperature of about 4 degrees Celsius – a temperature at which food is not likely to spoil within a day or two, as it is when left at room temperature, especially in hot climates.

But refrigerators cannot keep food fresh forever – most foodstuffs should be thrown out after two or three days. Food spillages inside fridges, especially of meat and dairy products, can provide a haven for bacterial colonies. Different types of bacteria multiply at different temperatures – the fridge is ideal for some of them. Although the fridge slows down bacterial growth, bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria can still thrive in the refrigerator.

How to clean the refrigerator

This is not the nicest job on earth, but there are many things you can do to stop the job of fridge cleaning from becoming a huge one. 

All food must be kept in proper airtight containers. Food spillages must be cleaned up immediately. Every two days the fridge should be checked for food that may have gone off, which needs to be discarded. Every two weeks the inside of the fridge needs to be washed with water and an anti-bacterial household detergent.

If there are odours in the fridge, these can be removed by placing an open box of bicarbonate of soda on one of the shelves inside the fridge. A cotton wool ball soaked in vanilla essence and placed on a saucer will have the same effect. This needs to be replaced every few days.

New fridges do not need to be defrosted as regularly as the old ones, which often built up frost and ice, often owing to doors that don't close properly.

Handy hint:
Are there stains in your plastic storage containers? Use a baking soda paste (baking soda and water) and rub it into the stain. You can rinse it with vinegar and wash it normally. To avoid stains, spray the container with cooking spray before putting in food that will stain it, such as bolognaise sauce.


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