23 tips to keep your fridge clean and food safe

Here's how to get your fridge clean, keep it clean, and keep your food safe.

Alina Bradford
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
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Fix the fridge funk

If your fridge is regularly filled with containers of unidentifiable fuzzy stuff, spills that no one ever seems to confess to and limp, sad produce, then you've come to the right place. Here's how to clean up your refrigerator and keep it clean.

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​Use baskets

Hit up your local dollar store for inexpensive, brightly colored baskets. Small plastic baskets can round up small items, bottles that tend to fall over, eggs or items stored in plastic bags, like shredded cheese.

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Remove clutter

Chances are, there are a bunch of things in your fridge that don't need to be there. In fact, there are around 25 common items -- like potatoes -- that people keep in their fridge that don't need refrigeration. Move these items to your cabinets.

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​Line your crisper

I always line my vegetable crispers with paper towels or newspapers. The reason is twofold. 

First, they soak up any juices that may come off of fruits and veggies, making cleaning the drawers a breeze. I just throw out the liner and put in a new one. 

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Keep it crisp

Second, the a paper liner in the crisper drawer absorbs any extra moisture. Less moisture equals crisper produce and produce that stays fresh longer. 

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Unbag it

Also, don't leave fruits and vegetables in their plastic grocery bags. This will make them spoil faster, plus you can't see what you have. 

Put them in an open mesh, plastic organizing basket or just leave them loose in the crisper drawer.

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​Start a one-bottle rule

To cut down clutter, enforce a "one bottle" rule. For example, only one bottle of salad dressing, mustard, mayo and ketchup is allowed in the fridge at once. Your extra, unopened bottles can be stored in the pantry with no worry and you'll save a lot of space in your fridge.

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No plates

While you're at it, make a no-plate rule, too. From now on, everything that goes into the fridge needs to be in proper storage containers with lids. This will reduce spills in the fridge and nix moldy plates of umm-what-is-this-mess grossness.

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Cups, too

Ditto for cups. If I had a dollar for every time my kids put a cup in the fridge that got knocked over and became a sticky mess I'd be a pretty rich lady. Just say no to cups in the fridge.

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​Designate shelves

Remember the mantra, "A place for everything and everything in its place," from when you were a kid? The easiest way to organize your fridge is to designate a certain type of food to each shelf. This eliminates search time and makes your fridge neater. 

To keep track, use a dry erase marker to write the type of food on the lip of the shelf.

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​Stop drips and spills

If bending over and wiping out your refrigerator shelves rates low on your list of fun things to do, then line your shelves with plastic placemats. When a spill happens, all you need to do is remove the mats and rinse them in the sink.

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​Make an egg carton organizer

The next time you use up a 12-pack of eggs, cut off the top and put the bottom in your fridge's door shelf. The egg cubbyholes are perfect for storing squeeze bottles upside down. The bottles are organized and their contents are always ready for squirting.

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Or use a six-packer

A six-pack box left over from your favorite bottled beverages works, too.

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​Bag it up

If the meat you buy at the grocery store doesn't go straight into the freezer, leave it in its plastic grocery bag when you put it in the fridge. This will ensure that any leaking juices will be caught in the bag, nixing the need for cleanup.

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​Use binder clips

Take some binder clips from the office and put them to work in the kitchen. My family usually accidentally tears off self-zipping bag closures on grated cheeses and such, so I use binder clips to clip bags closed, preventing spills. 

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Save some beers

You can also use a binder clip to prevent stacked wine and beer bottles from rolling around. Just clip it to the shelf (if you have rack-style shelving) and stick the metal ends up to block any rolling bottles.  

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Keep cool

Chances are, the items in your fridge aren't where they need to be. Some areas of your fridge are colder than others, making them better suited for certain foods. 

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Storing in the door

For example, the door is a good place for ketchup, hot sauce and other condiments that don't grow bacteria rapidly, but not other items.  

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The temperature of the the door area fluctuates a lot because of it opening and closing. That makes it a bad location for eggs, meats, milk or other items that are easily perishable, according to the USDA. Store these items on the inner shelves of the fridge to keep them fresher, longer.

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Make milk last

You can also make milk last longer if you move it to a bottom shelf. Bottom shelves tend to stay cooler than the top shelf, according to Consumer Reports.

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Throw out leftovers

You should be throwing out leftovers on a regular basis. Not, just to keep your fridge organized, but also to prevent illness. The USDA recommends tossing cooked leftovers after four days.

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Tracking leftovers

Have you ever peered into a container of leftovers and wondered how long it's been in the fridge? Wonder no more. Keep a dry erase board on your fridge and every time you put leftovers in your fridge write down the type of leftover and the date on your board. Now you'll know exactly how old a leftover is with just a glance.

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Round up your gear

Corral your dry erase marker, the pen you use to label leftovers and other small kitchen tools with a magnetic locker organizer. Just stick it to your fridge door.

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Move the meats

When you're giving leftovers the boot, check your meats. Raw poultry and ground meats should only stay in the fridge one to two days. After that, move them to the freezer.

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Best-by date? Or use-by date?

You should also pay attention to the dates on your food packages to determine freshness. These can be confusing. Here are some tips on how to decipher these dates.

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