How to Get Your Refrigerator Really Clean in 7 Seriously Simple Steps

a homeowner in gloves cleaning the inside of a refrigerator

The day you have been waiting all year for has finally arrived – Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day! (No? Just us?) If you weren’t aware, this special holiday is November 15th, but you really shouldn’t wait until a special day to give your refrigerator a good scrubbing.

(Not to scare you, but a dirty refrigerator can actually lead to Listeria growth.) 

Clean your refrigerator the proper way and get it squeaky clean with this quick and easy guide! 

First, how often should a refrigerator be cleaned?

It really depends on how often you dirty your refrigerator, but experts recommend cleaning your refrigerator three to four times a year. We recommend you do it at the start of every season. 

Of course, you should always wipe up spills immediately. As we mentioned earlier, Listeria bacteria can grow in the refrigerator, sometimes from leaking thawing meats. “Cross-contamination” can occur easily if your unsuspecting produce comes in contact with dangerous meat juice. (Ew!) 

Clean your refrigerator in seven easy steps 

a woman throwing out an orange while cleaning her refrigerator
When in doubt…

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests the following steps to get your refrigerator squeaky clean: 

  1. Dispose of any spoiled or questionable food. (When deciding what to throw out, consult the USDA’s Food Facts page.)
  2. Place remaining food in a cooler and unplug the refrigerator. 
  3. Remove crispers, ice trays, shelves, and drawers. Wash them with hot water and detergent. (Dish soap will do.) Follow up with a sanitizing solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid bleach to 1 gallon of water. 
  4. Wash the inside of the refrigerator and freezer, including the door and gasket, with hot or warm water and baking soda. Rinse with the same sanitizing solution. 
  5. Replace the drawers, shelves, crispers, and ice tray, and leave the refrigerator door open for 15 minutes.
  6. Wipe down the front and sides of the refrigerator. 
  7. Plug your unit back in and restock the food. 

What about refrigerator coil cleaning?

refrigerator coils with dust on them
Prolong the life of your refrigerator by cleaning the coils!

Great question! If you are not a pet parent (and why aren’t you?), then you may only have to clean out your refrigerator condenser coils once every six months. If you have fur babies, then you may need to clean your coils along with the rest of your refrigerator – three to four times a year.

It’s super easy! 

  1. Unplug your refrigerator. 
  2. Pull out the toe-grill and use the coil brush and vacuum to pull the dust out the front. 
  3. Shimmy the refrigerator away from the wall. (Be careful, and if you need backup, call in your family!)
  4. Locate your condenser coils in the back of the unit. Using a coil brush and a vacuum, remove the dust and vacuum the area.
  5. If dust is persistent, use a toothbrush and a can of air. 
  6. Vacuum up any remaining dust. 
  7. Push your refrigerator back into its cubby and plug it in.  

Why do you need to do this? Dusty and dirty coils can cause the unit’s compressor to work overtime and shorten the lifespan of the unit. It can also increase the temperature of your refrigerator (which is not good for your Greek yogurt) and can create a fire hazard.

Are you wondering, “Does cleaning refrigerator coils save energy?” The answer is yes! By cleaning your refrigerator coils, you’re helping your refrigerator to run efficiently, which saves energy (and saves you money on energy costs)!   

Do refrigerator water lines need to be cleaned?

a woman getting water from her refrigerator
Enjoy fresh, clean water!

Yes! Your refrigerator water lines can grow mold and algae, and mineral deposits from hard water can clog them. That’s why it’s important to clean your refrigerator water lines at least twice a year. This, too, is a relatively simple process. 

  1. Unplug your refrigerator and turn off the water valve leading to your refrigerator. 
  2. Prepare to catch water from the water line with a bucket nearby. 
  3. Disconnect the water line from the refrigerator. (You may need a screwdriver to do this.) 
  4. Empty the water from the reservoir and any ice in the ice maker.
  5. Pour a distilled vinegar mixture (1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of clean water) into the line. Let it sit for 10 minutes. 
  6. Pour clean water down the line to flush out the vinegar. 
  7. Clean the water dispenser with rubbing alcohol and use a cotton swab to get into hard-to-reach places. 
  8. Reconnect the line and plug back in the refrigerator. Turn back on the water valve. 
  9. If you have an ice maker, turn it on and let it run for three cycles. This should clear the vinegar.
  10. Wash your ice trays or bins in hot, soapy water once done. 

Changing your fridge’s water filters 

a homeowner changing a water filter in a refrigator
Change out your water filter every six months!

When giving your refrigerator a deep clean, you may also need to change the unit’s water filter. Different units use different types of filters, including a twist-on water filter, a push-in water filter, or a filter attached to the water line. Before attempting to change your water filter, always consult the owner’s manual. 

For push-in filters, either press a button or push the filter casing to reveal the filter. Take out the filter, remove the cap, and place the cap on the new filter. Place the new filter in the casing and push the filter in until it locks. 

For twist-on water filters, turn the filter counterclockwise. Once it’s straight, pull the filter out. (This may require a firm tug.) Then remove the old filter and replace it with a new one. Push the new filter straight into the housing and turn until the filter locks into place. 

For all other filters, consider hiring a professional to change it. While it is doable to change these filters, many times the homeowner will need to disconnect the water supply lines from the water valve before changing the filter, which may require pliers. Consult your owner’s manual, and if this is outside of your DIY capabilities, speak to a professional.  

Need to troubleshoot your ice maker? Check out Why Does My Ice Maker Keep Freezing Up

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