How to Clean a Refrigerator Both Inside and Out

Keep your refrigerator sparkling clean with these easy cleaning tips for routine care and deep cleaning.

The fridge is the workhorse of the kitchen, but you probably aren't cleaning it as often as other household surfaces. Without regular upkeep, stains and food residue can build up on the outside surfaces and inside on shelves and drawers, while forgotten perishables in the back can give off funky smells every time you open the door. To keep your fridge in good condition and ward off unpleasant odors, use these tips for the best way to clean a refrigerator inside and out. Gather a few natural cleaning ingredients and common household items, such as baking soda, water, dish soap, and dry cloths. Then move your food to a cooler and you're all set to tackle the task of cleaning a refrigerator.

Refrigerator with variety of vegetables
Cameron Sadeghpour

How to Clean Refrigerator Shelves and Drawers

First, remove and hand-wash removable refrigerator shelves, wire racks, and drawers in hot water and mild dish soap. Let any glass components warm up to room temperature before bringing them in contact with hot water; otherwise, they might crack. Cover stubborn food spills with a warm, wet cloth for a few minutes to soften the spills before removal with a nonabrasive scrubber ($5, Home Depot). Pay special attention to the bottom of wire racks, which is a spot that attracts debris.

inside fridge view food organization shelving
Cameron Sadeghpour

How to Clean the Fridge Interior

For drawers and shelves you can't remove, along with the sides of the internal compartment, grab baking soda and some water. Clean inside your fridge with a mixture of 1 part baking soda and 7 parts water. Beware of commercial refrigerator cleaners as their scent might transfer to food. Work from top to bottom to prevent drips from landing on already-clean surfaces. Use a toothbrush designated for cleaning or toothpicks to reach cracks and crevices you can't get to with a cloth, such as hinges and other hardware. Wipe everything dry with a clean towel.

Baking Soda

How to Remove Fridge Odors

Your refrigerator can foster an ideal environment for bad odors unless you take necessary action. Fortunately, you can tackle foul refrigerator smells without using any harsh chemical cleaners. Once you've rinsed and dried all surfaces, deodorize your refrigerator by filling an open container with dry baking soda and leaving it on the bottom shelf. This will absorb any future odors from lingering near your food, so keep it there when you refill your fridge.

Once your refrigerator is clean and deodorized, put everything back. Now is also a good time to declutter and organize your fridge. Toss any expired or spoiled food, group like items together, and consider using bins and containers to corral items.

How to Clean the Refrigerator Gasket

Pay special attention to the rubber gasket around the fridge door. It needs to be cleaned regularly to maintain a tight seal. Use warm water and liquid dish soap for normal grime and a bleach-based cleaner if you find mold. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. Then coat the seal with a thin layer of petroleum jelly to keep it from drying out.

floor-to-ceiling white kitchen cabinets with fridge

How to Clean a Refrigerator Exterior

Keep your refrigerator sparkling with a good exterior cleaning. Simply wipe with a cloth sprayed with all-purpose cleaner, giving a little extra elbow grease to the handles where grime tends to build up. Remember to occasionally wipe down the top of the refrigerator, too. Although this area might not see the day-to-day traffic of the handles and doors, dust can accumulate there over time.

The method for how to clean a stainless-steel refrigerator is a bit different, so use these tips to help eliminate smudges and fingerprints. For a quick clean, wipe the surface first with a damp microfiber cloth, then with a dry one. When the grime is a bit more stubborn, try rubbing alcohol. Place a few drops of rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth and rub over the stains. When cleaning stainless-steel appliances, always wipe with the grain.

How to Clean Refrigerator Coils

Even the parts of the refrigerator you can't see, such as the coils, need cleaning once in a while. Although cleaning refrigerator coils is a bit more intense, completing the chore can help your refrigerator run better and last longer. Follow these steps for how to clean refrigerator coils and you can check this home maintenance task off your to-do list with confidence.

Before you begin, check your owner's manual for specific instructions. If you can't find it, look online. Most appliance manufacturers have their manuals online and you can find yours by searching for the model number.

No matter what make or model you have, the first step in cleaning coils is always unplugging the refrigerator. Then locate the coils (some are on the back of the refrigerator and some are on the underside). If yours are on the back of the refrigerator, carefully pull the appliance away from the wall. Use a coil brush (a long, skinny brush similar to a bottle cleaning brush) to clean around the coils. Sweep or vacuum any debris on the floor, move the refrigerator back in place, and plug it back in.

For models with coils on the bottom of the appliance, remove the grill piece on the front of the refrigerator. Use a coil brush to carefully clean around the coils. Vacuum or sweep up any debris and replace the grill before plugging the appliance back in.

kitchen with stainless steel fridge and white cabinets

How to Clean a Refrigerator Water Dispenser

To continue enjoying fresh, filtered water from your refrigerator, give the water dispenser a good cleaning from time to time. Like with refrigerator coils, you should consult the owner's manual before cleaning. Systems vary from model to model, and a manual is often a good source for specific instructions, as well as information for troubleshooting major water dispenser problems. Check the manual for your water dispenser and ice maker filter replacement schedule, too. Replacing the filter as recommended will help keep the dispenser and ice maker in good working condition.

The water dispenser tray is prone to water spots and stains. To clean it, wipe the tray down with a vinegar-based cleaner and dry. If the tray is removable, take it out and clean it in your sink. Be sure to clean underneath the tray, too. A soft toothbrush can help get in any nooks, crannies, and vents.

above view fridge shelving meat cheese drawers
Cameron Sadeghpour

How to Clean Mold from a Refrigerator

With their chilled and sometimes damp environment, refrigerators can be susceptible to mold. To eliminate mold inside your fridge, avoid abrasive or bleach-based cleaners. Instead, grab baking soda and mix 1 tablespoon into a quart of warm water. Wipe down the moldy surface, then thoroughly wipe dry to remove excess moisture.

Cleaning a bit of mold from a spill or from a refrigerator sitting empty is pretty straightforward. However, bigger catastrophes, such as a flood or an instance when a fridge full of food stops running for an extended period, may warrant more extensive cleaning. In these instances, consult with an appliance repair professional who can give your refrigerator a good once-over and make recommendations. If mold is growing in the inner workings of the refrigerator, a simple cleaning won't restore the refrigerator to its original state, and you may have to consider more extensive measures, such as recycling a refrigerator and replacing it with a new model.

Preventive Measures to Keep Your Fridge Clean

A few simple steps can keep your refrigerator looking (and smelling) fresh for longer. To prevent sticky spills, avoid reloading the fridge with sloppy food containers or spoiled fruits and vegetables. Immediately toss anything that's expired or of questionable freshness. Use baking soda and water to wipe off any jars, bottles, or cans with drips or crusty lids. Make sure you use clean cloths and dry everything thoroughly before putting it back. To make this task easier, clean refrigerator items as you use them in cooking and meal prep.

Take time once a week to throw out spoiled produce or leftovers that are lingering in the back of the fridge. Check expiration dates on dairy products and condiments and toss out anything that's passed its prime. Regularly removing these items prevents odors and sticky spills from returning to your clean refrigerator.

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