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Purge these old foods from your fridge now

These six signs prove it's finally time to toss out that old, gross fridge food, from slime to the float test.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Let's face it -- you're in full cleaning mode now that it's a new year . It's time to clean your showerhead, give the house a wipe-down and clear out some space in your fridge to make room for healthier food

That means throwing out that leftover cheesecake you've been hanging on to since New Year's Eve, checking to see if the milk still smells like milk and tossing that suspicious container of whatever-it-was. Fortunately, we've got tips on how to know it's time to kick certain foods to the curb.

For example, you're probably cautious about the eggs that have been sitting in your fridge with a sell-by date of October. But did you know there's an egg test you can conduct to see if they're still OK to eat? Read on for more tips on how to tell if your food is edible or if it's time to say goodbye.

Read more: The coolest lunch boxes of 2020  

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You should be throwing out leftovers on a regular basis.

Alina Bradford/CNET

It's leftovers -- and they've overstayed their welcome

If you've had leftovers in your fridge for more than four days, it's time to toss them out just to be safe. The Mayo Clinic says that after four days, the risk of harmful bacteria increases. Nobody needs food poisoning when they've got New Year goals to meet. 

However, if your leftovers haven't been in there that long and theyre tightly packed in a sizable quantity, like a quart of soup, you can safely freeze them for later -- just make sure it's not too late.

If it's moldy, it's gotta go

This is an obvious one. If anything in your fridge is growing mold, you need to get rid of it -- yes, that includes cheese and fruit. There are exceptions: If you have, say, raspberries where only a few of them are moldy, you can still eat the ones that aren't as long as you thoroughly rinse and inspect them.

Also, you could cut off the moldy portions of hard cheese if there's enough to salvage, but make sure you're cutting out a deep enough margin that the mold is gone. Clean the knife between cuts so it doesn't spread spores.

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If your food is growing mold, smells rotten or feels slimy, toss it.

Alina Bradford/CNET

It smells rotten

If you've got opened foods in your refrigerator like deli meat or sausage, you should probably toss them after four days. Cooking them in a new dish could extend their life, but any longer and they tend to let off a rotten smell, signaling they've gone bad. 

It has a slimy texture

Your food should never be slimy -- this goes for meats, veggies and lettuce, especially packaged greens. Deli meat is a repeat offender here. The slime is due to bacteria taking over the food. If you open the packaging and notice the food has a slimy film, chuck it in the compost immediately.

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If your produce is looking slimy, don't eat it.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Do the egg test

If you've got eggs with a sell-by date that's well over a month ago, there's an easy way to tell if they're still good to eat without cracking them open. 

You'll need to fill a deep bowl with water and place one egg at a time in the bowl. If the egg goes straight to the bottom and falls on its side, it's still very fresh. If it falls to the bottom, but it's standing up, it's still fine to eat, but you should eat it sooner rather than later. If it floats, it's time to throw it out and buy new eggs.

If they're standing, you'll probably want to use them before they go bad. Check out these egg recipes for dishes you can make at dinner and brunch.

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Don't let your eggs go bad.

Alina Bradford/CNET

Pantry items you should throw away now

  • Canned foods with many or deep dents: If you notice your canned food has a deep dent, especially in the side, steer clear. Small dents to the metal band at the top or bottom of the can could be a result of superficial shipping or storing damage, but deeper depressions raise concern that the food inside may be affected by botulism, which according to the CDC, is a serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body's nerves.
  • Potatoes that smell bad: If your potato is growing sprouts, it's still fine to eat. But if it smells anything other than earthy, it has probably gone bad. Also, look for potatoes that are leaking -- this means they're rotting.
  • Moldy bread: If your bread is moldy, don't try to save it. Just throw it out.

Now that you've got your fridge cleaned out, it's time to move on to the pantry and other areas of the house. Here's how to tell when flour, sugar and other baking ingredients expire and how to clean your showerhead before guests arrive.

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Originally published Jan. 19, 2019.