How to clean and organize your refrigerator

Cleaning and organizing the refrigerator is the perfect spring cleaning task. Let’s get started!

Time it takes: 60 minutes

Materials I use: Apron, rubber gloves, dish sponge, dish soap, 2 soft cleaning rags, tea towel, spray bottle filled with 1/2 white distilled vinegar and 1/2 water, butter knife, rubber spatula.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Don the apron and rubber gloves, and gleefully open the door of the refrigerator.
  2. Take all the food out.
  3. Remove the top glass shelf and take it to the sink. With a dish sponge, wash it with warm, soapy water. Rinse the shelf clean and place it vertically on the counter top to air dry on a dry dish towel.
  4. Repeat until all the glass shelves and plastic drawers are clean and sitting outside of the fridge.
  5. Using a soft, wet, soapy rag, wipe out the inside of the refrigerator – walls, ceiling and floor. Scrub the difficult parts with the dish sponge. For the extra tough gunk, I find it useful to scrape it (very gently!) with a butter knife.
  6. Spray down the inside of the fridge with the half water/half vinegar solution, and wipe it out with a dry rag. Use this opportunity to wipe down the shelves on the refrigerator door too. Once the vinegar smell dissipates, you’ll be left with a fresh scent and a shiny fridge.
  7. One by one, carefully dry off the glass shelves and plastic drawers with a tea towel, and place them back into the fridge.
  8. Optional step: Line some of the main shelves with rubbery drawer liners.
  9. Close the refrigerator. Now sort the foods you pulled out into two or three groups. One should be KEEP and the other DUMP. Another might be GIVE AWAY. Foods to dump are those which appear moldy, smell bad, or are past their expiration date.
  10. Before placing any KEEP item back in the fridge, use a wet rag to wipe any stickiness off the bottom of the container.
  11. Arrange the KEEP items logically, with kids’ foods on lower shelves where they can reach them, and other items in plain sight so they can easily be found.
  12. Place older items in front of the newer ones. Take the opportunity to create meal plans for the next two weeks which are specifically intended to use up older items in your fridge.
  13. Optional step: Add labels to the shelves on the door. (See example in photo, above.)
  14. Use a rubber spatula to get old condiments, yogurts, sauces, etc. out of jars and other containers. (It’s flexible rubbery-ness allows you to easily scrape stuff out of tough spaces.) You can either flush this old food down the garbage disposal, or scoop it all into a plastic grocery bag to later put in the outside trash. Old fruits and vegetables can be composted.
  15. Once they’ve been scraped, soak the jars and containers in hot soapy water for a few hours to loosen any remaining food particles before washing and air drying. Don’t forget to recycle your jars and other containers!
  16. If you have any food items to give away, make plans to do this and label them as such before putting them back into the fridge. (E.g., “Send home with Mom for cousin Connie. She loves jalapeno pepper jelly.”)

Have a photo of your organized fridge to share? Send it to Crystal!