How to clean a refrigerator so your fave snacks stay fresh

Your fridge makeover is long overdue

Organized fridge with vegetables and containers
(Image credit: Ello / Unsplash)

There’s nothing to put you in a better mood while cooking than to open your refrigerator door to an organized and clean space. Whether you’ve been ignoring your cold storage for months or just want a refresh, a cleaning routine for your refrigerator can save you time while making meals in your kitchen. 

You might be super into a perfectly curated space with snazzy organizers for every vegetable and fruit maybe you just want to know where your milk is in the morning, either way, a clean fridge is just as important as an organized pantry when it comes to knowing your grocery inventory. Here is a simple step-by-step on how to clean your fridge.

Good to know

Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour

Difficulty: Easy

Helpful hints: Try to aim cleaning your fridge when you're almost out of groceries and juuuuust about to head to the store. You'll have less to clear out and won't have to have a bunch of fresh food sitting out for too long.

Here's what you'll need

How to clean a refrigerator

Step 1: Empty your fridge

Much like organizing your closet or helping your parents clean out the garage, this process begins by taking everything  — and we mean everything — out. If you notice spoiled food on this journey, feel free to toss, but the focus here isn’t on checking every expiration date. Focus instead on taking it out, placing it on the counter, and moving on to step two. 

Step 2: Take out the shelves and any containers

In this step, remove every shelf, butter container, or any element that is removable from the fridge. Set them out on the counter and spray them down with an all-purpose cleaner. Run butter dishes or food storage containers through the dishwasher.

Step 3: Begin cleaning the inside of your fridge

Start your cleaning by spraying an all-purpose cleaner (yes, we're going for Method which you can grab from Amazon) throughout the inside of the fridge, reaching all the crevices. Wear gloves and go through with a microfiber cleaning towel to wipe down each part of the fridge. Start with the upper portion and work your way down. Don’t forget the doors! 

Once each place in the fridge is sparkling, it’s time to reach further into the crevices with a cleaning toothbrush. This helps you get to those places in the fridge that are difficult to see but need to come clean. 

Step 4: Deep clean your shelves and containers

It’s time to bring the elements of the fridge you took out earlier — the shelves, containers, and crisper drawers — and bring them over to the sink. Using dish soap, clean the bins and shelves under the sink as you would when washing dishes. 

Step 5: Take inventory, replace, and restock

Once the bins, shelves, and other removable elements are dry, carefully place them back into the fridge and start putting back all of your food and condiments, too. Before placing everything back into the fridge, check expiration dates and any signs of food that's gone bad.

Toss any food that you’re not going to need or that has expired. Reload the fridge by considering where you want to group items. For instance, you may want to find a specific place for all your sauces, or you may want to group all of your sparkling waters on the bottom shelf. A thoughtful arrangement can help you keep your fridge organized for longer.   

Step 6: Wipe down the exterior of your fridge

Once the fridge is closed up, use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe down the exterior. Be sure to rub the full circumference of the handles and pay attention to any smudges or sticky spots. 

Step 7: Take out the trash

If you noticed expired items and threw them in the trash then be sure to take out your trash as soon as you can to avoid any lingering smells. Voilà! The inside of your fridge is now sparkling and ready to use.


What is the best way to deep clean a fridge?

It might be tempting to take everything out and do a quick wipe-down of the inside of your fridge and call it a day. However it’s important that every few months your refrigerator receives a deeper cleaning. Using the same process, switch the all-purpose cleaner out for a refrigerator-specific solution or go old school by combining two tablespoons of baking soda and one-quart hot water. Using gloves, wiping down your fridge with one of these solutions on a sponge or cleaning cloth should help you deep clean. 

How do you clean the outside of a refrigerator without streaks?

Depending on your appliance type, it can be difficult to wipe the outside of the fridge without creating streaks. Begin by removing any fridge magnets on the exterior for a clear surface. With any type of fridge, using mild soap and hot water on a clean microfiber cloth can help you avoid any streaks. Pay attention to areas that are often touched, like the handles. 

Kate Santos

Hello! I’m Kate Santos, a writer and photographer based in Los Angeles. In the design world, I got my start working as an Editorial Intern for Dwell magazine in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve written about design and architecture in many national magazines and online publications, including Playboy, Hunker, and The Culture Trip.

I grew up in a very old house in North Carolina and am still influenced by the rustic, charming, antique and aged elements of a home. Sustainability and longevity is extremely important to me and I believe learning to reuse materials or purchasing items you’ll love forever goes a long way. I also lean towards the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi when designing my own home, embracing the perfectly imperfect items I can find.