5 Fridge Cleaning Secrets for Fresher Food and Longer Life

electrically install refrigerator

You already know how to clean a refrigerator, don’t you? After all, you’ve probably had lots of practice. It’s full of a constantly changing inventory of food and runs 24/7 – so much so that keeping it clean may seem like a never-ending task!

Keeping your refrigerator’s insides clean cuts down on refrigerator odors, but by tackling just 5 of your fridge’s lesser-known areas, you’ll extend your refrigerator’s life and reduce its energy consumption. 

Here’s where to begin.

1. Clean the condenser coils

clean a refrigerator

You’ll find these radiator-like coils either behind or below your refrigerator. If you don’t keep them clean, your refrigerator’s compressor will run hotter than it should, dramatically shortening its lifespan. Plan on cleaning the coils at least twice a year – more often if you live in a dusty climate or have furry pets.

  • Unplug your refrigerator.
  • Access the coils by either removing the grill on the front or pulling the ‘fridge away from the wall.
  • Use the dusting attachment on your vacuum or a soft brush to clean away the accumulated debris. Do a thorough job – it doesn’t take much dust or pet hair to hold in the heat. Just think of how warm your pet stays under that fluff!
  • Put your refrigerator back the way it was and make sure it’s plugged in.

2. Keep those gaskets clean! 

clean a refrigerator

That rubber seal that edges the door (or drawer) of your refrigerator and freezer compartments is a gasket. Its sole job is to keep cold air in and warm air out. Unfortunately, gaskets are often overlooked when you clean a refrigerator during the regular ‘fridge cleaning process.

Gaskets are designed with deep grooves that probably have something to do with blocking airflow. However, they seem to do an even better job of trapping every crumb or drop of moisture trying to escape from your ‘fridge! All of those moist crumbs and sticky drips provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and mildew. And you thought the science experiment inside the ‘fridge was scary!

Not only is a dirty gasket disgusting, but it makes your refrigerator’s compressor work extra hard trying to keep your milk cold and your ice cream frozen. Clean those gaskets every three to six months to keep them sealing properly. You’ll save energy and help your refrigerator last longer.

  • Gently spread the seal apart so you can see the grooves. Wipe away as many drips and crumbs as you can.
  • Scrub the gasket with a mixture of 1 quart very warm water and 2 Tbsp. baking soda. An old toothbrush works great for getting into the grooves.
  • Rinse the entire gasket thoroughly.
  • Use a soft towel to wipe the gasket dry.
  • Rub the entire gasket with mineral oil and buff dry with a clean soft cloth.

3. Check your refrigerator’s drip pan  

You may remember your mother or grandmother spending hours defrosting her refrigerator. Modern refrigerators don’t require those messy defrosting marathons because they defrost themselves every few hours.

Those melted drips find their way into your refrigerator’s drip pan. You’ll need to occasionally clean the pan (and the drain hole that feeds it) of accumulated debris and mineral deposits. You’ll probably need the directions in your owner’s manual to even find the pan, so go ahead and follow their instructions for cleaning it.

4. Don’t forget to clean the ice and water dispenser!

water treatment, clean a refrigerator

Sugary liquids splashing onto the ice and water dispenser can encourage the growth of bacteria, mold, and other nasty contaminants. Use a vinegar solution to thoroughly clean the ice and water dispenser at least twice a year. You’ll want to wipe out the drain pan under the dispenser at least weekly. Make sure you also change the water filter as recommended in the manual for how to clean a refrigerator.

5. Now that it’s clean, maintain the proper temperature

clean a refrigerator

A refrigerator operates at peak efficiency when its interior temperature is between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees is optimal for a freezer). Add a temperature check to your other routine refrigerator maintenance.

In order to maintain the proper temperature, a refrigerator needs enough thermal mass to regulate temperature changes. Keep plenty of food and drinks inside your refrigerator to absorb the warm air that darts in every time the door opens. You can always fill any temporary gaps with jugs of water – and then use that water for future pitchers of nice, cold tea or lemonade.

With these tips your refrigerator will be running long past its “best by…” date and save some wear and tear on your wallet, too!     


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