Regularly cleaning out your refrigerator is a smart way to protect yourself from germs and foodborne illnesses, while also preventing you from wasting food and money. 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.
- 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!
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.