Food that’s rotten or moldy is toxic to the human body, and keeping these kinds of produce and meat in your fridge can lead to more food becoming dangerous. Even after removing this spoiled food, the bacteria can still live in your fridge, and that’s why it’s important to keep your fridge clean—even before you smell something funky.
Each year, about 40% of the food in America gets wasted. Some of this has to do with product not being purchased, product spoiled during shipping, or food that’s left on the plates of countless restaurants. But some of that wasted food comes from our kitchens: the strawberries we didn’t eat, the meat that was freezer-burned, the leftovers we didn’t want to eat.
We’re going to talk about cleaning your fridge, but we’ll also talk about maintaining a clean fridge—which will lead to less wasted product, a cleaner fridge, and a healthier kitchen.
Healthy Fridge, Healthy Food
- Remove all the food in your fridge and freezer—everything.
- If possible, get these into a cooler or alternative fridge during cleaning.
- Remove any shelving or food bins.
- Begin with lukewarm water and soap and wash away any stains or spilled food.
- Use a bacterial cleaner afterwards to ensure that all bacteria are killed.
- Inspect food for mold, funky smells, and expiration dates.
These are the basics, and the process will take some time, but it’s the first step necessary to maintaining a clean fridge. In the past, maybe you removed only noticeably foul food—but now you want to start from square one with everything clean and tidy.
Most sources will recommend that you keep your refrigerator at 40° Fahrenheit or slightly below, but to get food items like milk and meat to last longer, 35° F will do the trick. So while your fridge is empty, be sure to change the temperature and then wait a half hour or so until the fridge has been able to restore its coolness. Because you’ve been cleaning it, much of its coolness has escaped.
For freezers, the ideal temperature is 0° F. However, the point of freezing food is that it traps enzymes and stops bacteria from growing. To successfully trap those enzymes, you’ll want to initially freeze your food at -10° F, and then gradually bring the temperature back up to 0°.
For your refrigerator to operate at peak performance, you’ll need to do a few other things to complete the cleaning process. Water filters and coils need to be cleaned—and it never hurts to clean underneath the fridge to get rid of any unseen spills or mold you didn’t know were there. This is a prime time to check for small leaks. So change your water filter, vacuum the coils, and get some help in scooting the fridge to the side so you can clean there.
Okay, so you’ve got a clean fridge. But, as many of you know, you run the risk of negligence, and, before long, your fridge will be as dirty and unhealthy as it was before without diligence. The best way I’ve found is to think outside the freezer-box. Most of the food that I was wasting was leftovers. I don’t like to eat the same thing several days in a row and neither does my son, so we left excess food in the fridge that eventually spoiled.
With a weekly meal-planner, I managed to reduce the amount of spoiled leftovers and also saved on my grocery shopping. Each day I knew exactly what to make and, more importantly, how much. So if you really want to keep your fridge in its prime condition, plan your meals.