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11.06.2014

Ask a Health Advocate: Do you have any tips for cleaning out the fridge?

Regularly cleaning out your refrigerator is a smart way to protect yourself from germs and food-borne illnesses, while also preventing you from wasting food and money. Does the idea of cleaning out your refrigerator keep getting pushed to the bottom of your “to do” list because the task seems so overwhelming? Have no fear–we are here to help! Follow these simple steps to tidy up your fridge and its contents:

Step 1: Discard old food from your fridge. These tips can help:

Use your senses: As you remove each item from the refrigerator, check its look and smell to determine if it needs to be discarded. Good rules of thumb for what to toss are:

  • Wilted or mushy fruits or vegetables—chuck anything that doesn’t seem fresh. If fruit is starting to brown, put it in the freezer to use in smoothies or sorbet!
  • Leftovers that aren’t stored in airtight containers or that have been in the fridge longer than 3-5 days
  • Raw eggs that are more than 3 weeks old, or hard-boiled eggs that are older than 1 week
  • Raw fish, chicken or ground meats that have been in the fridge longer than 1 or 2 days, or are past the expiration dates listed on the package
  • Fresh steaks or other meats, including deli meats, that have been refrigerated for longer than 3-5 days
  • Any item that has mold or that doesn’t smell quite right
  • Any item with an expiration date that has already passed

Check your condiments: While most condiments are stamped with an expiration or use-by date, that only indicates the shelf life of the product. Once the item has been opened, it should be used within two months. Ditch any condiments you know have been open for longer than two months. And for the future, keep a marker near your fridge and write the date that you opened an item on its container.

Be sure to put each item to be discarded in the waste bin or compost container as soon as you decide to throw it away.

Now that you have removed any expired or inedible food, it’s time for Step 2—Cleaning your refrigerator!

Start with a clean slate: Place items you wish to keep on a countertop until the refrigerator is washed out. Plus, this helps you clean all your fridge’s nooks and crannies without any food being in the way!

Make a simple homemade cleaning potion: For a non-toxic, low-cost, and effective cleaning solvent, mix ½ cup white vinegar and ¼ cup baking soda in a gallon of warm water. Baking soda can help you remove spills that may have been around a while and need a little extra scrubbing.

Scrub away: Using a clean sponge with a non-abrasive scrubber surface, dampen it with hot water and squeeze it out. Then, wipe down all shelves, drawers, and sides of the refrigerator walls and door. For hard-to-clean stains, apply baking soda directly to the stain using the damp, squeezed-out sponge.

Remember to rinse the sponge frequently, and use a damp paper towel to clean up any spills from meat to prevent contamination. After the entire fridge has been washed, dry all its surfaces with a soft cloth.

Prevent odors: Once the entire refrigerator is washed and dried, place an open box of baking soda on one of its top shelves, toward the back, to help absorb odors. Replace the box approximately every 3-4 months.

If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to the Wellness Coaching program, reach out to your Wellness Coach for more healthy tips.

Have a question for a Health Advocate? Email nhess@healthadvocate.com, and your question may be the topic of an upcoming “Ask a Health Advocate” column!