Cleaning Your Refrigerator

Cleaning your refrigerator can be easy if you take it one step at a time.

Do you shudder every time you need to open your refrigerator? Are you afraid of just what might be lurking behind last week's leftovers? Then it must be time to do a little cleaning. Spills and spoiled food are more than just an unsightly inconvenience; they can be hazardous to your health! Even when food looks and smells fine it can harbor bacteria that can make you sick. Keeping your refrigerator clean is an important step in avoiding food-borne illness.

Before you dive in, bring over a picnic cooler and a trashcan. Take everything out of the refrigerator. If an item is past the expiration date, throw it away. If not, place it in the cooler with an ice pack. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends keeping leftovers only three to five days. Keep food any longer than five days and there is the possibility of bacteria growth. If you do not remember how long something has been in there, it is best to just throw it out. Even food that appears edible may already be spoiled and could cause illness if eaten.

Once everything is taken out, either thrown away or safely in the cooler look at your shelves. Many newer model refrigerators have shelves that can be taken out. Remove any drawers or shelves that you can and bring them to your sink. Wash them with warm soapy water or a mixture of one or two teaspoons baking soda to one quart of water. Be sure not to use hot water since a sudden change in temperature can caused plastic and glass to warp or even shatter. Never use harsh or abrasive cleaners as they can mar the surface.

Once you have finished with the shelves, place them somewhere safe to dry. With either soapy water or a baking soda solution you can wipe down the inside of your refrigerator. Pay attention to anything that may have built up in the grooves where the shelves and drawers fit. When everything is clean, use a clean damp rag to rinse away any soap. Make sure to wipe all surfaces dry to discourage any mold or bacteria growth. When everything is dry, put back the drawers and shelves then return the items stored in the cooler.

There are a few things you can do to make your next cleaning session a little easier:

1) The first tip is obvious, but often forgotten. Clean up any spills when they occur. It is much easier to wipe up a fresh spill than one that has been sitting there all week.

2) Keep the temperature set at 41°F or lower. This temperature slows the growth of bacteria.

3) In between your thorough cleanings, regularly make time to go through the contents of your refrigerator and throw away any expired or spoiled items. Doing this every week before you do your shopping will not only give you more room to put things away, but can help keep you from buying duplicate items.

4) If you have trouble with smells in your refrigerator, place an open box of baking soda inside.

5) The best tip for keeping your refrigerator in good condition is to make it a habit. Set a regular time to thoroughly wash the inside and stick to it!

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