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How to clean a fridge (and keep it that way)

Is your fridge looking a little the worse for wear? Just follow our simple steps for a fresh-smelling fridge that’s sparklingly clean.

Updated Reading Time: 4 minutesBy Cleanipedia Team

A view of the inside of a fridge with fruit and vegetables inside
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Want to know how to clean your fridge and get it sparkling again? You’re not alone. Despite pretty much everyone owning a fridge these days, not many of us know the best way to clean them.

But fear not – we’ve put together some simple steps to help you get your fridge back to its best. As well as a whole host of ideas for tackling tricky areas and keeping your fridge in its newly clean state.

So whether you want to know what’s best to use to clean inside the refrigerator or how to clean the drip tray at the back of the fridge, we’ve got you covered.

You will need:

  • Spray bottle
  • Soft clean cloths
  • Cotton buds
  • Cool bag
  • Ice packs
  • Blunt knife
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Washing up liquid
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How to clean a fridge with vinegar in 8 simple steps

Giving your fridge a thorough clean – as we’ve outlined in the steps below – is something you should aim to do every three months or so. The ideal time to do it is just before you do a weekly shop, when the fridge will be emptier and you’ll have less food to take out, sort through and store.

  1. Empty the fridge

    This is a simple step on the surface, but it’s worth taking a little time to do it right. When you take all the food out of the fridge, make sure to: check use-by dates and throw away anything that's expired; wipe down any sticky containers; and put meat and dairy products in a cool bag with ice blocks.

    Tip: If it’s been a while since you defrosted your fridge freezer, you might want to consider doing this before you clean (seeing as you’re already removing the food from the fridge). Take a look at our step-by-step guide to defrosting your fridge freezer.

  2. Remove the shelves and drawers, then wait

    Take your shelves and drawers out of the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature before washing them. This reduces the risk of the change in temperature causing cracks, particularly if the shelves are made of glass.

    Tip: If you’re struggling to remove any shelves or drawers, it’s always best to consult the user manual for your fridge. If you can't find the user guide, check the manufacturer’s website or try espares.co.uk.

  3. Make up your cleaning solution

    Lots of people wonder what to clean a fridge with. The answer is that it’s best not to use lots of chemical products inside your fridge as these can release odours which could be absorbed by your food.

    Instead, use one part cool water to one part white vinegar mixed in a spray bottle. Not only will this see off dirt and food residues, but the vinegar will also deodorise the fridge. (Don’t use hot water here as it will raise the temperature of the fridge, meaning you’ll be waiting longer to replace your food.)

    Tip: We’ve suggested vinegar to clean the fridge, but you can also use bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) – keep reading to find out how.

  4. Clean the inside of the fridge

    While the shelves and drawers are warming up, it’s time to tackle the inside of the fridge.

    Spray the interior of the fridge with the vinegar solution, close the door and let it sit for 15-30 minutes. Once the solution has had time to work its magic, use a damp clean cloth to wipe everything down thoroughly. Rinse and squeeze out your cloth as you go, to ensure you’re not just spreading dirt around.

    Make sure you pay particular attention to the grooves on the sides of the fridge interior where the shelves rest, as they can be hotspots for dirt. A cotton bud is a handy tool for getting into crevices like these and can also be handy for fiddly places, such as the drip hole (more tips on this later).

    Once everything’s looking clean and sparkly, dry the inside of the fridge thoroughly using a clean, dry cloth or tea towel. Then close the door to start letting the fridge cool back to its usual temperature.

  5. Wash the shelves and drawers

    Your shelves and drawers will hopefully be up to room temperature by now, so it’s time to get them clean too. Simply wash them all thoroughly in the sink or a washing up bowl with hot water and washing up liquid. Then rinse with clean water and dry them thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth or tea towel.

  6. Clean the outside of the fridge

    You can also use the vinegar solution on the outside of the fridge. Simply spray on and wipe down. 

    It’s also important to pay attention to the door seals (particularly if you have a fridge freezer) as they can quickly collect crumbs and spills. 

    First, vacuum the seals using the crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner. Then take a soft cloth, wrap it around a blunt knife, dip it in the vinegar solution, and run it gently along the crevices in the seals. Use a fresh, dry cloth or kitchen towel to repeat the process – this should ensure the crevices are nice and dry.

  7. Replace the shelves and drawers and allow to cool

    You can now put all the shelves and drawers back into the fridge. But before you put the food back in, you’ll need to make sure the fridge has cooled to 5°C or below. (If your fridge has a fast-cool function, use it to speed up the cooling process.)

  8. Put the food back in (the right way)

    Once it’s time to put the food back in, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to organise your fridge, so don’t just cram everything back in wherever it fits.

And there you have it. A sparklingly clean, perfectly organised fridge. But for tips on keeping it that way – and for tackling tricky fridge cleaning jobs – read on...

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How to clean a fridge with baking soda

Bicarbonate of soda – or baking soda – is a great alternative to white vinegar for cleaning the inside of your fridge. Like vinegar, it’s a natural cleaner that won’t leave chemical odours behind. And it will see off nasty fridge smells into the bargain.

Follow the steps for cleaning your fridge as we’ve outlined above, but when you get to step three you can break out the bicarb.

  • Mix two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda with about one litre of water.

  • Then wipe the paste onto the fridge's interior surfaces with a soft, damp cloth.

  • Leave it to sit for 10-15 minutes, then rinse it off with a clean cloth.

  • Finally, dry the fridge with dry cloth or tea towel and shut the door.

  • You can then follow steps five to eight above to complete the clean.

How to deal with a smelly fridge

What do you do if you’ve cleaned everything but you still can’t get rid of a lingering smell in your fridge? Not to worry – take a look at our guide to ridding your fridge of unwanted smells (you’ll need to break out the baking soda again).

How to clean your fridge’s drip hole

Condensation naturally builds up in a fridge, and it should be collected into the drip hole at the back (usually about the height of the lowest shelf). From there it goes into a drip tray at the back of the fridge where it will evaporate.

But if your drain hole gets blocked by food, condensation can start collecting as pools of water at the bottom of the fridge, often inside your vegetable drawer. You may also notice a nasty smell that won’t budge. If that’s the case, follow the steps below:

  • Remove the vegetable drawers from the fridge.

  • Use a flexible, thin bottle brush – or even a specialist drip hole cleaning device (search ‘fridge hole cleaning tool’ to find one) – to work out the blockage.

  • If whatever was clogging up the hole has been there for a while, it's likely that there's mould and mildew at the back of the fridge. To deal with this use a syringe to pour a small amount of vinegar and water into the drain hole.

  • Once you've removed as much of the blockage as possible, use a cotton bud to work the vinegar solution around the hole to remove any residue.

  • Finally, use the vinegar and water to wipe the bottom of the fridge out before replacing the vegetable drawers.

How to clean the drip tray at the back of the fridge

The drip tray is where condensed water from the fridge ends up after draining out through the drip hole (see the section above). It’s usually located above your fridge’s compressor, which evaporates the water that ends up in the tray. It’s important to occasionally check and clean the drip tray to prevent mould growth and nasty smells.

How you clean the drip tray will depend a lot on the make and model of your fridge or fridge freezer. So the first place to start is the user manual.

Usually, you’ll need to move the fridge out from the wall and unplug it, so you can access the back of the fridge safely. The drip tray may be immediately accessible, or you may need to unscrew a panel to get to it.

Cleaning it should be as simple as wiping it down with some kitchen towel or a clean cloth. But if it’s really dirty, you can use cleaning wipes like Cif multipurpose wipes or a solution of white vinegar and water.

How to keep your fridge clean: ongoing maintenance

Cleaning your fridge will be a whole lot easier if you keep on top of smaller cleaning jobs regularly.

Assuming your fridge is pretty average and that it’s restocked on a weekly basis, these are some helpful guidelines to keep your fridge clean and hygienic:

  • Every day Take a minute when you open the fridge over the course of the day to check for any spills. If you spot anything, deal with it immediately. In most cases cleaning wipes like Cif multipurpose wipes will do the job perfectly well. You can also use these to wipe down the door handle (which is worth doing as it’s one of the most germ-ridden places in the kitchen).

  • Every week Before doing your weekly grocery shop, sort out all the items in your fridge. Food past its use-by-date should be thrown away. If anything is still within its date but you don’t anticipate using it, perhaps give it to a neighbour to avoid waste.

  • Every 3 months Carry out a deep clean, as we’ve explained above. You could also consider creating a rota for cleaning different parts of the fridge over the course of a month, to save it becoming a big job every time.

Originally published