House Cleaning Tips > Kitchen > Refrigerator and Freezer Cleaning Tips



How To Completely Clean Your Refrigerator and Freezer

In my opinion, cleaning the refrigerator ranks right up there with cleaning the toilet.

Unless you are a neat freak or in the habit of keeping spills wiped up, leftovers and wilted produce tossed out, the refrigerator can be one of the nastiest, most bacteria-ridden places in your home.

The recommended temperature for most refrigerators is 40 degrees, but even at that temperature, bacteria and mold thrives. If you've ever re-opened a package of cream cheese and found it covered in green mold, you know exactly what I mean.

Besides being an unhealthy environment, it's embarrassing when guests are over and help themselves to cream for their coffee or lend a hand in helping you set the table if they open the door of the refrigerator and find it looking like a total garbage dump.

It stinks ... it looks bad ... and you look ....uncomfortable.

Oh my poor dear. If this has happened to you, you need some tips on cleaning your refrigerator. You've come to the right place and and I've got em right here!

Make Your Cleaning Solution:

Get your rubber gloves ready and start by making your cleaning solution.

Both of these recipes will remove mold and mildew. Bleach will liquify it, but it's a much harsher chemical (to you, the fridge and the environment), and it shouldn't really be necessary unless you have a real emergency like dried blood or rotting meat, etc.

No matter the solution you choose to use, make sure to rinse the cleaning solution off completely with a clean, damp rag and dry thoroughly.

Regular Cleaning Solution:

This is a one-two punch for cleaning and removing odors from the Fridge. Baking soda is a deodorizer and naturally abrasive so it'll help remove gunk. Vinegar is also a deodorizer, it's acidic and helps cut through grease and dirt.

  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 quart of warm water

Heavy Duty Cleaning Solution:

If there's something really disgusting going on, you can crank it up a bit by cleaning it with a solution of:

  • 1/2 cup bleach
  • 1 quart of warm water
  • 2 tsp non ammonia liquid laundry detergent


Don't mix vinegar and bleach. Chlorine bleach can produce toxic vapors when other chemicals are added to it- a couple examples to avoid are ammonia and acids like vinegar. I usually try to avoid bleach altogether because of this, but just be sure to safe side and don't try to get creative and add anything else to your solution.

Defrosting the Refrigerator Freezer:

Really needing to defrost the refrigerator is a thing of the past. I remember all the ice that would build up in my parents fridge.

However, I had a blast from the past when I had a water leak in my freezer last winter. In a very short amount of time I had several inches of ice build up and I had to go through the ice melting (drip, drip, drip) process.

Regardless, you might as well clean the freezer at the same time as you do the fridge. Here's the tips on how to do it.

1. Either turn the temperature control "defrost" or unplug the electricity to the refrigerator (or both).

2. Remove all frozen foods and ice cube trays. If you have a second refrigerator, use it to temporary store these items. If not, put the food in a cardboard box and cover it with newspaper. Dump the ice cubes.

3. Remove all other food stuff and place on your kitchen counter or in cardboard boxes.

4. NEVER scrape or jab at the ice with a sharp instrument. You may cause serious damage to the freezing unit. Allow it to melt.

5. Most appliances have a large drip dray underneath to catch errant drips. You might want to make sure it's not full of water at this time and either put a flat pan under the freezer to catch the drips or put a large thirsty towel in the bottom of the refrigerator to help catch extra water.

Remove and Sort Food:

1. Grab a couple of clean cardboard boxes or a couple of plastic laundry tubs, depending on how much stuff there is. Remove items from the refrigerator, sorting according to product (pickles, condiments, salad dressings, etc.).

2. Either place them by group on your kitchen counters or in the boxes.

3. Check the use-by dates and discard any old and expired food or anything else that you think is "iffy".

4. Throw out old leftovers, jars and cartons that are almost empty.

Cleaning The Racks And Shelves:

1. Carefully remove all of the shelves, racks, drawers and supports and put them in your bathtub.

2. Spray them with a disinfectant/sanitizing spray cleaner.

3. If they are heavily caked with soil, you can let them soak for a while to make cleaning easier.

4. Give them a good scrubbing with a household sponge that has a scrubber side to remove all spills and surface junk.

5. Rinse well with clear warm water and allow to drain.

6. Then dry thoroughly with a clean, soft absorbent, lint-free cloth or paper towel.

Cleaning The Inside:

1. Use a kitchen sponge soaked in the cleaning solution you have selected to scrub down the interior, from top to bottom.

2. Allow debris to collect at the bottom, then sponge up the excess cleaning liquid and use a paper towel to gather the spoiled bits of food and throw it into the trash.

3. After the interior is cleaned to your satisfaction, use a small but firm brush (like a toothbrush) to reach into the crevices in the gasket, around screws and support hardware, and other irregular surfaces.

Now Rinse and Dry The Inside:

Bleach is highly alkaline, vinegar is acidic and both can and will damage the soft plastic or gaskets and make them brittle and disintegrate over time

1. In all cases, you will need to go over the insides with fresh clean water to rinse the solution off your gaskets and the plastic.

2. Dry the inside thoroughly with a clean soft absorbent cloth.

Rack and Reload The Refrigerator:

1. Grab your clean shelves and bins from the bathtub and reassemble.

2. Double check the pull dates on all food items before you put them back on the refrigerator shelves.

3. Keep like items grouped together.

4. Trim and rinse fresh vegetables to keep them in as good condition as possible if you won't be using them right away.

5. Line the vegetable drawer with paper towels before putting the vegetables in. You may also spray fresh water lightly over the vegetables when storing.

Keeping Odors Away:

1. Always cover your left overs to stop odors from escaping.

2. Check all the pull dates and discard expired foods promptly.

3. Wipe up spills immediately.

4. Watch the vegetables in the back of the bins. Some will spoil quickly and make a odor causing mess if there's not enough circulating air, so use them quickly

5. On a daily basis, just before you are ready to turn off the light in the kitchen, grab your kitchen sponge or paper towel and wipe the outside of the refrigerator using a disinfectant cleaner on the door and the door handle.

6. Pick one day of the week to pay special attention to your refrigerator to keep it from becoming an all day chore. Grab that baking soda (you can use some from the box you keep in the refrigerator) and mix 1/4 cup of the baking soda with a quart of warm water.

Heavy Duty Odor Removal:

1. If the air inside still doesn't smell fresh as you'd like, open a box of baking soda and place it on a shelf in the door. Baking soda is great for absorbing odors. Replace the baking soda monthly as it will become stale.

2. You can also wipe the interior down with a higher ratio of vinegar and water to help deodorize. Rinse with plain water after cleaning. As long as you have gotten all the gunk and debris out of the fridge the odor should be gone too.

In Summary:

Whew! Great Job. If you can get your kids to wipe up their spills in a reasonable amount of time, you won't have to go over this again in the very near future.

It will make your life easier. Or maybe you can wait till they move out... It's all good.

Connect with Mrs Clean!

Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Mrs Clean (Corina Wilson) is not only the owner of the company, but a very busy mother of 3 children.

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Mrs Clean realized long ago, that a clean home is a necessity, not a luxury when we are struggling to find the time in our day to cover the very basic levels of work and/or family obligations. The battle seems to never end... (but that's why we're here to help!)

When Mrs Clean is not busy managing her house cleaning company or running her kids back and forth to their events, she enjoys experimenting with natural and non-toxic cleaners and learning new techniques to remove stains.

She thoroughly enjoys sharing her valuable information with the readers of her blogs and various social media sites.

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