Though arguably the most important appliance in your kitchen, the refrigerator is often overlooked during routine cleanings. Without regular upkeep, stains build up, food gets lost and smells can arise. Fortunately, we’ve put together a few hacks to help you easily freshen and organize your fridge and freezer.
Step 1: Deep Clean Your Fridge
Be sure to check your manufacturer’s recommendations, but most suggest a deep clean every 3 to 4 months. To start, transfer all the food from your refrigerator and freezer to a cooler. Remove the shelves and drawers and soak them in warm, soapy water in your sink. To create a deodorizing solution, stir 2 tablespoons baking soda into 1 quart hot water.
While everything soaks, use a cloth to wipe down the interior of your refrigerator with the baking soda solution, working from the top down. Dry with a clean towel. Next, to keep things up and running efficiently, unplug the refrigerator and vacuum around the condenser coils. Finally, put the drawers back in place and return your food.
After everything is back in place, give the exterior a wipe-down with a cleaning solution recommended by the manufacturer. To reduce odors, cut the lid off a fresh box of baking soda and store it in the back of the fridge. Write the date on the front of the box and replace the baking soda after about 3 months.
Step 2: Organize Your Food
To reduce food waste and organize your fridge like a pro, there are a few simple guidelines and hacks you can follow for both your fridge and freezer.
Fridge organization tips:
- Don’t stack food (like bread) on top of the fridge – the heat released will accelerate its spoilage.
- The warmest spots in your fridge are inside the door and on the top shelf. Store condiments in the door; they’re not as temperature sensitive, so they won’t be affected when the door opens and closes. Keep ready-to-eat foods and leftovers on the top shelf.
- Since milk can spoil, keep it and other dairy products in the middle of the fridge, where temperatures are consistent. Keep meat near the bottom, where it can’t drip onto any foods.
- Leave ample space between foods so you can easily see what’s there (and so cold air can circulate around them).
- Separate fruits and vegetables, and keep them in crispers. You can set the humidity level in most fridges, so set one drawer to high humidity and one to low. Ethylene gas is emitted by fruits (and some veggies, like avocados), causing foods to ripen and expire faster; keep those in the low-humidity drawer. Leafy greens will stay fresh longer in a high-humidity drawer.
Freezer organization tips:
- Freeze items in smaller portions so you can thaw only what you want to eat.
- Divide the freezer into zones, with areas for meat, vegetables and breads, to help find what you need faster.
- Tightly wrap meats in plastic wrap, then in foil. For other foods, use tightly fitting containers or freezer bags; remove all air when sealing.
Refrigerator storage solutions:
If you find soda cans rolling around inside the fridge, or if you have a hard time keeping smaller items in one place, consider adding a few refrigerator storage solutions. Fridge organization comes easy with help from accessories like lazy Susans, plastic baskets, drink dispensers and stackable bins. Use a lazy Susan for things that won’t topple over easily, like salad dressings, sauces, or jams and jellies. If sticky drips are a problem, consider laying plastic placemats down over the shelves.
Clear baskets or bins with labels allow you to store food by types, making it easy to keep things like yogurts, drinks or dressings together. Fruits and veggies are easier to see – and more likely to be used while they’re in their prime – if they’re stored in clear, stackable bins after each shopping trip. Plus, labels make it even easier to find things at a glance. To reduce food waste, consider labeling one basket “eat first” and using it for items that are about to reach their sell-by date. (If you don’t want to use labels, try chalk markers, which write on plastic and wipe off with water.)
A few additions to your freezer can help keep frozen foods in order as well. Use freezer-safe storage containers to stack pre-portioned meals, or storage bins to keep like items together. Freezer organizers can make meal planning easier and ensure that less food gets lost to freezer burn.
Step 3: Make it a Weekly Habit
Once your fridge is in tip-top shape, you can keep it that way by immediately tossing expired items and washing off any bottles or jars that have sticky residue before putting them back. Once a week, spend a few minutes organizing the contents and wiping down the interior before you do your grocery shopping.
A weekly cleanup not only allows you to keep track of what’s being eaten and what’s not, but it also helps tame that pileup of wayward (and expiring) items that can quickly overtake a fridge. As you’re cooking throughout the week, consider making large-batch items and storing them in your new stackable containers to maximize space and make future meals easier.
Enjoying your neat and tidy fridge? Try tackling the whole house with this clever spring cleaning tips and checklist that’ll get the whole family cleaning, or keep the momentum going with cleaning solutions for every other room in the house.