Spring-cleaning is an annual ritual for most Americans and a great time for serious scrubbing, polishing, decluttering and reorganization. This year, be sure to add the refrigerator and freezer to your list – not only will you have a cleaner-looking kitchen, you will have an appliance that is working effectively and efficiently, and most importantly, you will have foods that are safe to eat.
Unplug the refrigerator to save energy (also for safety if cleaning coils). Empty ice from your freezer into a cooler where you can store food you plan to keep. Fill sink with warm soapy water for cleaning shelves and drawers. Set out dishtowels on counter tops for drying. Fill a spray bottle with a cleaning solution of 1cup water, 1tsp white vinegar and 1tsp dish soap.
Empty refrigerator (then freezer) and place items on counter. Take time to sort and discard old, unwanted foods, drinks and condiments. Check expiration dates and beware of moldy and freezer-burned foods. When in doubt, toss it out! Use this Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Time Chart for reference. Put foods you want to keep in the cooler.
Properly storing foods can help maintain their quality, taste and safety. Use this handy chart as a guide, but when in doubt, throw it out!
Remove drawers and shelves and clean in sink with warm soapy water; set aside to dry. Spray interior with cleaner and wipe from the top down with warm, wet sponge or towel. Thoroughly dry all and replace drawers and shelves. Wash the exterior door and handles. Replace water and icemaker and filters if needed. Clean grill on bottom front of refrigerator. Consider cleaning the condenser coils for optimum cooling efficiency (refer to manufacturer directions).
4. Check Temps
Food kept too long or at improper temperatures can become contaminated with bacteria, which can cause foodborne illness. Your refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40 degrees and your freezer 0 degrees or less to ensure food safety. You can check the temperatures with an appliance thermometer.
When restocking your clean refrigerator and freezer, organize according to usage and group like items together. Label and date new foods so you know when to use or throw out. Do not store perishable foods in the door as temperatures fluctuate there. Place meat, poultry or seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags and keep fruits and vegetables in separate drawers away from the meats to avoid cross-contamination.