This guide covers how to clean and organize your fridge which will reduce your food waste, save you money and help your food taste better. Best of all, these steps are quick and easy so you can enjoy an organized refrigerator in no time.
Why is it important to clean out your fridge?
When it comes to decluttering your home your fridge shouldn’t be left behind. In fact, a clean fridge is essential for safe food storage. Not to mention, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to make dinner and having to dig through your fridge for the ingredients, only to then find the food has gone off.
There are many reasons why it is important to give your fridge a deep clean every 3-6 months. These include:
- Saves time: A clean and organized fridge is one of the best ways to save time in the kitchen. A disorganized fridge, on the other hand, means you cannot find items when you need them resulting in frantic searching when you have hangry teenagers to handle. It can also mean extra trips to the grocery store when you can’t find said ingredients.
- Reduces food waste: A clean and organized fridge will significantly extend the life of your fruit and veg as it allows a healthier airflow between items.
- Reduce risk of illness: Dirty refrigerators can be a breeding ground for bacteria. This includes food borne illness such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria.
- Saves money: By allowing sufficient airflow, your refrigerator will run more efficiently. This can reduce your energy costs. An organized fridge also allows you to shop more efficiently as you waste less food and only buy what you need, again saving you money.
How to Clean and Organize Your Fridge
Empty Out Your Fridge
The first step in cleaning and organizing your fridge is to empty everything out. As bacteria can multiply quickly at room temperature, add any dairy, meat or items that need to be kept refrigerated in a cooler or cool bag.
If you don’t have a cooler, you could also empty and clean your fridge one section at a time. Alternatively, work fast to limit the time your items are exposed to warmer temperatures.
As a tip, I recommend cleaning out your fridge right before your next big shop. It is much easier to declutter and organize when there is less food to start with. It also means it’s quicker to determine what can be kept and what needs to go.
The Best Way to Clean a Refrigerator
Once you have taken everything out, the best way to clean the inside of your fridge is to wipe down all surfaces with warm soapy water or Thieves Household Cleaner. You could also clean the fridge using vinegar or citric acid.
As always, I like to stick to natural cleaning products but even more so as the fridge is used to store food. Do not use any cleaning products that may release harmful toxins or strong odors which can contaminate your food.
If you’re struggling to remove caked-on foods or condiments from your shelves or drawers, I recommend making a soft scrub cleaner using a few drops of lemon essential oil, baking soda, and water. The paste will help to remove stubborn food stains and grime naturally. Wipe up any paste residue with a soft cloth and warm water. Don’t forget to wipe down the doors, seals, and the outside of the fridge too.
It’s important to then dry any removable parts naturally on the drainer or with a clean tea towel or paper towel. Dry off the inside of the fridge using a soft cloth, clean tea towel or paper towels. If you’re struggling to get the drawers out, check your user manual. Not only will this help you get them out without causing any damage, but it will also show you how to get them back in which can be the tough part.
It’s also worth noting if any of your shelves or drawers are made of glass wait until they have reached room temperature before washing them with hot water. This will reduce any risk of the glass shattering due to the abrupt change in temperature.
Sort & Purge
Now it’s time to channel your inner Marie Kondo and start sorting and purging. Similar to the KonMari method, you need to sort the food items into categories. These include vegetables, fruits, proteins, dairy products, condiments, etc.
Then, check the expiration date and throw away anything that has gone bad or is past its due date. Also, check the labels of condiments for advice such as “one opened use within one week” as some can only be open for a certain amount of time even though they are within date.
Organizing the Fridge
Now that the refrigerator is clean, and all old and expired food has been purged, it’s time to get organized. Before you do so, make sure to check the refrigerator is set at a consistent temperature, the FDA recommends 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below in the main part of the fridge, 37 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.
It’s important to remember when restocking your fridge not to cram it full. Space is essential for leftovers and new groceries. It also means you have more space to organize efficiently as well as allow proper airflow. This will keep your food fresher and keep the humidity levels in check.
There is actually an order as to where foods should be stored on each shelf of the refrigerator as well as the refrigerator doors. Use these tips to maximize food freshness and minimize food waste. Remember as you’re restocking to open the fridge door as infrequently as possible.
What to Put on the Top Shelf of The Fridge
When it comes to organizing the fridge, start at the top and work your way down. The top shelf is the warmest part of the fridge (after the door shelves.) Try your best to keep raw and cooked foods as far apart as possible. This means the top shelves are best for storing any ready-to-eat items, cooked meats, leftovers etc. This will avoid the risk of raw food dripping or dropping onto your cooked food and contaminating it.
What to Put on the Middle Shelves
For the middle shelves store dairy such as milks, cheeses, yogurt and butter. This is because the middle shelves are where the temperature is most stable.
What to Put on the Bottom Shelf
The bottom shelf is the coldest part of the fridge. This means it’s the best place to store raw meat and fish. As mentioned, keeping raw items on the bottom and ready to eat on the top will minimize the risk of cross-contamination. It is also best to wrap each item or store it in a sealed container to avoid them coming into contact with other foods.
What to Put in the Crisper Drawers
If you’ve ever wondered how to use your crisper drawers correctly, you’re in the right place. The crisper drawer (your manual may refer to it as a humidity drawer) is the bin in your fridge that should be used to store fruit and vegetables. The crisper drawer helps to preserve their freshness as you can control the humidity level of these drawers.
You can control the humidity via the vents. By closing off the airflow you will create more humidity or by opening up the vents you will create a low humidity environment. It is recommended to keep one drawer high and one low as certain fruit and vegetables thrive in one environment over the other.
Generally, anything that rots easily such as apples, pears, melons or stone fruits should be kept at a low-humidity level. This drawer is also ideal for citrus fruits and berries.
The items that are prone to wilting (usually thin-skinned vegetables) such as asparagus, spinach or kale should be kept in a high-humidity drawer. Peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes are also stored best in this drawer.
It’s worth noting that as they ripen, certain fruits such as bananas, kiwis, and pears release a hormone called ethylene gas. Other items such as avocados and strawberries can react with this gas as prematurely ripen or go off. Crisper drawers can help keep these items separate to avoid the gas escaping and softening or discoloring your other produce.
What to Put in the Fridge Door
We are all guilty of storing milk in the fridge door, but it’s actually not the best place because the fridge door is the warmest part of your fridge. Similar to an oven, fridges have hot spots and cool spots. Consider your fridge door a hot spot and also the area where the temperature fluctuates most.
This is because each time you open the door, you’re exposing any foods stored on those shelves to the hot temperatures of the kitchen.
This means it’s not the best place to store eggs either. I completely understand why it’s tempting to store your eggs there as most fridges have those neat built in egg racks. Instead, keep your milk and eggs on the middle shelf this will ensure the quality and lifespan is maximized as the temperatures there are most stable. Then, use your fridge door shelves to keep items that contain natural preservatives for example juice, condiments, pickles, or jams.
How to Keep Your Fridge Clean & Organized
Once you deep clean and organize your fridge, it’s important to maintain it. Each week before the big weekly shop is a great time to do this. By keeping on top of it each week, it will mean in 3-6 months’ time the next deep clean won’t be so overwhelming or time-consuming.
It’s also a good idea to purchase a set of glass storage containers to store leftovers and keep other fresh food neat and tidy. I prefer to store food without plastic and find this style of container easier to stack and label. They’re also safer for storing food instead of plastic and can be used again and again.
I hope these tips will help to clean and organize your fridge with ease. Although cleaning the fridge is a task we all hate, the chores we put off the most are always the most rewarding especially when it can save you money, time and food waste.
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