How to Clean a Refrigerator and Freezer: 6 Spots You Don’t Want to Miss

The fridge and freezer should be a happy place—a vessel for favorite yummy foods, snacks, and leftovers. But this appliance duo won’t stay happy forever if you don’t know how to clean a refrigerator and regularly maintain the icebox.

The good news: a refrigerator spruce up don’t need to be done often. In fact, Jennifer Walker, owner of professional organizing company Simple Beach Living in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, recommends setting a 15-minute timer every six months to do a bit of upkeeping. Start by tossing all expired bottles, jars, and soy sauce packets.

Apply the wardrobe trick when decluttering: If you haven’t finished that strawberry jelly in a month, you probably won’t eat it three months later. A weekly wipe down of the exterior, especially if it is a stainless steel appliance, will keep the fridge looking like new.

Check out our easy-to-follow guide on how to clean a refrigerator and freezer.

Clean the coils

Each fridge has its own unique features. Some have coils under the fridge, behind the base grille; some coils are at the back of the fridge; and, others have coils on top of the fridge in a sealed in panel. To access the coils, you may need to pop off or unscrew a panel. Regardless of where they are, clean the coils every six months to a year, says appliance tech Chad Delaney, co-owner of Delaney’s Service in Ponte Vedra, Florida.

Dirty coils have to work hard to push the heat out and keep your food cool. This means dirty coils will increase energy costs and the fridge will age faster. Delaney notes that pet hair builds up on the condenser coils. “If you have a big hairy dog, you’ve got to clean the coils at least every six months,” he says. Use the nozzle on a vacuum to suck out all that dust and pet hair. Bonus points if you pull the fridge out and away from the wall, then vacuum all the junk at the back. This may be a two-person gig.

Scrub the inside walls

Keep the fridge temperature at an optimal rate by cleaning the inside when the gunk starts to build up. According to Delaney you have to remove everything inside the fridge and place it on a nearby countertop. Then get a nonscratch sponge or towel and dampen it with water and a mild cleaner, liquid dishwashing soap, or a homemade concoction of baking soda and water.

Get into the crevices

Delaney recommends using cotton swabs or a soft toothbrush to get gook out of crevices and corners in hard-to-reach places like the lining on the glass shelves. Dry it all off with a paper towel or towel before placing groceries back. Also important, keep the door gasket clean with a mild dish detergent. If the gasket gets too dirty, it doesn’t hold the seal when you close the fridge door.

Clean the ice maker

Scale build up can lead the ice to stick to evaporator plates and result in freezing and functionality issues. The frequency of cleaning depends on usage, Delaney says. If you have a large family and are running the machine often, take out the ice bin and wash it in the kitchen sink with a gentle cleaner. Attempting to clean the ice maker while still in the freezer could make the cleaner frost. Air dry or towel dry before putting the bin back in the freezer.

Replace fridge water filters

Swap out fridge water filters about every six months. Add this task to your smartphone calendar, Walker recommends. However, if you don’t consume fridge ice and water on a daily basis, you can probably get away with stretching out replacing the water filter, Delaney notes. When it comes to replacement filters, find the original equipment manufacturer’s brand because it will work best.

Deal with fruit flies in the fridge

You’d think that the tundra environment of the fridge would kill fruit flies, but that’s not always the case. Delaney has seen fruit flies take down a fully operational fridge before. To prevent issues, wash the fruit before placing it in the fridge, Delaney says. To clean up the fruit fly corpses veteran appliance salesman, Frank Fraser of Setzer’s in Jacksonville, Florida, recommends a solution of vinegar and mild soap. “It would be a mess if they got in the drain,” he says of the opening of the fridge’s interior back wall where debris can accumulate.  Clean the drain with warm water and a skinny bottle brush.

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