You have to deep clean your fridge. Do it right (so you don’t have to do it all the time). Learn how to deep clean your fridge in easy five steps.
For more tips, check out all of our cleaning posts.
Last year, we were hit so hard by Hurricane Florence. We had to evacuate, and we ended up losing power for almost three days while we were gone.
When we got home, we had to throw away most of our fridge’s contents. That was the hardest part. Our house was fine, but my chocolate syrup and expensive Japanese sauces were not.
As I was cleaning out the fridge, it felt like a good time to deep clean it. And when my neighbor texted me saying she was doing the same thing and asked me for tips, I figured it would be a good idea to write a how to deep clean your fridge post.
The fridge is just one piece that you need to clean in your home. For more help, including checklists and things you always forget to clean, check out The Ultimate Guide To Spring Cleaning Your Home.
How To Deep Clean Your Fridge
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Step 1: Empty the contents of your fridge.
You want your fridge to be empty because it’s much easier to clean that way. If you aren’t throwing away all the contents of your fridge due to a hurricane, then this gives you a good opportunity to actually assess what’s in your fridge.
Check expiration dates, look for anything you may have completely (but accidentally) forgotten about. Toss anything that’s expired, growing mold, etc.
Put your non-expired items into a cooler so they can stay cold while you’re deep cleaning the fridge.
Step 2: Remove and clean the shelves and bins.
How often do you clean the shelves and bins in your fridge? I do every other week or so, but I know some people who only do this when something drips or spills. Don’t be those people. Be like me.
Be really careful when you are taking out the shelves. Many have a glass pane in the center that is removable. You don’t want to pull this out carelessly and have the glass fall out and shatter.
Make a paste from baking soda and water. Put that on a wet rag and wash down all the shelves and bins. Clean both sides of the drawers, even though your fridge’s contents only sit on one side. You never know what has dripped on to the other side.
Personally, I think a paste of about two tablespoons baking powder to one tablespoon warm water works best to scrub, then use a lot of water to rinse it off. The baking soda will eliminate odors while it cleans.
Use that ratio, but make a bunch of it because you’ll use it to clean the entire fridge.
Alternatively, some people will mix together dish soap and water and wash with this. We don’t recommend that because the dish soap can leave behind a scent that can be absorbed by some of the food in the fridge.
Dry these with a towel or just set them on a drying rack to dry.
Step 3: Scrub the inside.
While the fridge is empty, scrub down the walls with the same baking soda and water mixture. Then, wipe it down with a wet rag. You can also dry the inside with a dry towel if you want.
While you’re inside, clean everything inside. Wipe down the door latches, the ceiling of the fridge, the base grill, everything. That grate at the bottom is probably removable. So remove it and wipe down any water, vacuum any crumbs, and clean it.
Dry the inside with a paper towel.
Step 4: Put everything back.
Put back your shelves and your bins.
Then, wipe down all your containers of food with a wet rag before putting them back in the fridge.
Since you’re physically holding every item for a moment to wipe it down before it goes in the fridge, this is a good opportunity to really go through and organize your items. Don’t just throw them back on the shelves willy-nilly. Figure out where you’re going to put them and what makes the most sense.
Step 5: Clean the outside.
If you have a stainless steel fridge, use a stainless steel cleaner to clean the outside. The stainless steel wipes are incredible and make cleaning so much easier. We use those to clean the dishwasher and microwave too.
The part of the fridge behind our door handles is always so messy with fingerprints, so I have to wipe that more often than any other piece of the fridge. So be sure to clean that piece on yours.
If you have a water dispenser, remove the drip tray under it and wash and dry it before returning it to the fridge.
If you can access the drip tray at the bottom of the fridge and can remove it, clean that as well. Not all refrigerators allow access to it, so definitely don’t go breaking your fridge if you can’t remove it. Instead, just wipe it down from the outside.
And don’t forget to dust off the top of your fridge. Plus, if you use that space as a catchall for junk, go through what’s up there and throw away anything that doesn’t need to be there.
Deep Cleaning A Fridge: Frequently Asked Questions
You should clean your fridge every week. Go through you food to make sure things haven’t expired. If anything has, throw it out. Check leftovers and make sure that they’re still edible. If not, throw them out.
You should deep clean your fridge every three to six months (we recommend every three months).
Of course, if something spills in your fridge, you should clean that spill (and anything it leaked on) immediately.
We don’t turn off the fridge when we’re cleaning it because our shelves and bins are removable. So we remove them and close the fridge door.
If the shelves and bins in your fridge aren’t removable, you’ll want to consider turning off the power to the fridge (you can unplug it if you can get behind the fridge or turn it off via a circuit breaker). That way, you won’t waste electricity by leaving the door open while you’re cleaning.
If you’re evacuating because of a hurricane, do the quarter in a cup in the freezer trick. Basically, you fill a cup with water and put it in the freezer. When it’s frozen, put a quarter on top.
When you get home, check the quarter. If it’s still on top, that means you didn’t lose power and you don’t have to worry about throwing away your food and deep cleaning. If the quarter is at the bottom, that means you lost power for a considerable amount of time and you need to throw away the contents of your fridge. While you’re doing that, you can deep clean the fridge following the steps in this post.
The coils behind the fridge can get dusty, which eventually can result in the fridge needing to work harder and not being as energy efficient as possible. Similar to how an HVAC unit works harder and uses more electricity if you don’t change the air filters on a regular basis.
Once a year, you should pull the fridge away from the wall and clean the coils in the back with either a duster, a soft bristled brush, and/or a vacuum. Make sure you do this with the power to the fridge turned off to be safe.
More Kitchen Cleaning Tips:
The fridge isn’t the only place you need to clean in the kitchen. So, when you’re done deep cleaning the fridge, you might as well clean the rest of the kitchen too. To help, read our Ten Things You Forget To Clean In The Kitchen post.
And, while you’re at it, go ahead and learn How To Clean A Dishwasher In Three Steps so you can do that too.
And finally, check out these Six Tips To Keep Your Kitchen Running Efficiently to complete the kitchen revamp.
Which of these How To Deep Clean Your Fridge steps do you forget most when you’re cleaning?
Sunday 4th of September 2022
I've always been told to use a swiffer or vacuum on the grids on the back of the fridge and pull the tray out from under the fridge and clean it. That wasn't mentioned on your list. Has that changed?
drugstore diva lisa
Monday 5th of September 2022
Cleaning the coils is more for helping the fridge run more efficiently than for the sake of it being "clean," which is why we didn't include it on this list.
Not all of the refrigerators allow for that water tray to be pulled out, so it was sort of implied to be wiped down with the outside. But I'll definitely edit this to make it more specific. I also didn't add cleaning the drip tray (under the water dispenser) since not all models have that to clean, but I'll add that now too for sake of completion. Thanks!
Wednesday 28th of August 2019
hahaha honestly, it's our house helper who does this chore for us. I think she does it once a month. She takes out everything, defrosts, wipes, and trashes spoiled stuff.
Wednesday 28th of August 2019
This is so important to do on a regular basis. My kids are forever spilling stuff in our fridge, so it's almost a monthly task for us.
Tuesday 27th of August 2019
This is also a good time to clean the top of your fridge. You'd be shocked at how much greasy dust I found the last time I did mine.
Monday 26th of August 2019
I need to really deep clean my own fridge. My daughter left the freezer door open yesterday and all our food defrosted!