The home refrigerator tends to collect old items, like mostly empty jam jars, half-eaten jars of salsa, salad dressing bottles, and all manner of other items. Stains are common from spilled liquids, overturned cola bottles, and so on. The outside may collect magnets, children’s art and business cards. Getting organized the is the best way to start to clean a refrigerator. Choose a day when you can devote two or three hours to the job, get a couple of sturdy garbage bags and a roll of paper towels, and begin the process.
Start by removing all the old jars, bottles, and containers. Look at the expiration dates and throw out everything that is near or past that date. Discard everything wrapped in foil or plastic wrap that is not labeled or cannot be identified. Look in the crisper drawers, butter keeper, and other compartments, and make sure old food is removed from them, as well.
The next step is to take all the edible food out and put it in a box in the freezer, if there is enough room. If not, store it in a cool spot next to an air-conditioner, or outside if the weather is cold. This will ensure the edible food does not get mixed up with what has been discarded in garbage bags.
Make up a solution of baking soda and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution all over the surfaces of the refrigerator and wipe it off with a paper towel. Be sure to wipe out the door gaskets, since they tend to be crumb collectors.
Do not use any kind of cleaning agent with any toxic properties. Vinegar can be used, but it may leave an undesirable odor. Baking soda and water will not leave an odor and is safe for all surfaces. Wipe down the shelves and walls, including the crisper drawers, butter keeper, and egg keepers, if you have them. Remember to clean the “ceiling” of the refrigerator, as well as underneath the crisper drawers and the back wall.
When cleaning the refrigerator, you may want to put a fresh, opened box of baking soda inside to absorb odors before putting the food back in. Replace all the shelves. If the refrigerator has a distinct odor, wiping down the shelves with a bit of diluted lemon juice will help clean the odor out without affecting the taste of the food stored inside.
Finally, put the food back in the refrigerator. Adjust the thermostat, if necessary. Take all the stuff off the front of the fridge and discard or put away old or outdated items. Clean the outside with a soft cloth and favorite appliance cleaner. With a little elbow grease, a homeowner can clean a refrigerator in a fairly short time.