Here's How to Really Clean Your Fridge

Don't let one of the most used appliances in your home go neglected

Mary-Elisabeth Combs Associate Writer
Mary-Elisabeth is an associate writer on CNET's How-To team. She's a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill's English Department, and resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. On the How-To team, she covers a little bit of everything. When she's not writing, she's catching up on Formula 1 or reading.
Mary-Elisabeth Combs
3 min read
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Your fridge can get super gross if you don't clean it regularly.


Most people use their kitchen appliances daily, and because of this daily use, you may clean up as you go, giving your appliances some cleaning attention everyday. I usually wipe down my stove and microwave after the day's use, but I don't extend this same courtesy to my fridge. 

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Your fridge  is in near constant use, however, and holds a lot of the keyfood you keep in your kitchen. If you let your fridge go neglected, you may open the door to bacteria, mold and other germs that can jeopardize your food's safety. 

Read on to learn all of the quick and easy fridge cleaning tips that will help you give your fridge all of the TLC that it needs. For more, here's how to really clean your Keurig machine and how to keep your enameled cast iron in mint condition

Wipe down your fridge daily 

Wiping down the handles and controls on your fridge daily can help kill everyday germs and bacteria and bust any unwanted dust. You'll want to tackle the ice or water dispenser on the outside of your fridge with a food-safe antibacterial wipe. 

Attack spills and food residue immediately 

For me, it's not uncommon to spill something in my fridge or find remnants or leftover pieces of food I forgot about.  The last thing I want to do, however, is leave that mess in my fridge. As soon as I -- or you -- notice a spill, the best practice is to wipe up the spill immediately, especially if the spill or residue is sticky. Clean up this mess with a food-safe antibacterial wipe. 

Do a weekly food-audit 

Each week, you should go through your fridge and get rid of foods and beverages that have gone out of date. Yes -- this means the takeout that you brought home several days ago but have forgotten to eat. By doing a weekly audit of your fridge, you can ensure that you're keeping fresh food in your fridge, and removing any food items that could be a hot-bed for mold and bacteria. 

If you're not quite sure that the food you have in your fridge is expired, or if something is a bit past its expiration date but appears to be safe to eat, it's better to be safe than sorry. Tossing expired and uneaten food might hurt, but it's not worth risking your health and safety for. If you'd rather not toss your food scraps, you can always invest in a countertop composter to help you repurpose your waste. 

Deep clean your fridge at least twice a year 

You don't need to deep clean your fridge often, but when you do, make sure you do it right. First, you'll want to remove all of the food from the fridge before getting started with your deep clean. This is another excellent time to go through some of the staples you keep in your fridge, like condiments (I've found troublingly old jams in my fridges before) and toss anything that is expired. 

Next, wipe down the shelves inside your fridge with a food-safe antibacterial wipe. You can use warm soapy water to do the trick just the same. Depending on the state of your fridge drawers, you can either wipe them out as well or remove them and wash them with warm soapy water. 

Be sure to check your fridge's instruction manual for any specific cleaning instructions. 

Deep clean your water dispenser 

Beyond wiping down the external elements of your water dispenser daily, deep clean some of the elements every once in a while to keep your water bacteria free. You can do this by removing the tray that sits at the bottom of your water dispenser and cleaning it as you would clean the drawers in your fridge. 

Better Homes and Gardens recommends cleaning your fridge's water dispenser with a toothbrush and a vinegar-based cleaner to do a more detailed clean of the dispenser. 

You'll also want to replace the water filter in your fridge at least once a year, but this can vary depending on the type of fridge you have and how often you use your fridge's water dispenser. 

For more, here's how to clean cat pee off of your sofa and how to clean your window AC unit