How to Clean a Refrigerator? [12 easy steps]

Last Updated on October 21, 2022 by E.Pery

Did you know that a dirty refrigerator is up to 30% less energy efficient than a clean one? Over time, food residuals, spills, dust, and other forms of dirt build up on the fridge’s condenser coils and vents, obstructing airflow.

As a result, the motor is strained, and the operational capacity of the appliance is considerably reduced.

Although you wipe the exterior and interior of your fridge as part of your weekly housekeeping routine, it is essential to give your unit a top to bottom, front-to-back, and inside-out cleaning at least twice a year.

This thorough cleaning allows you to pay close attention to areas of your fridge that are often overlooked.

Cleaning this large appliance may seem like an intimidating task. However, this step-by-step guide on how to clean your refrigerator inside-out will give you a head start in keeping your fridge sparkling all year round.

How To Clean A Refrigerator?
How To Clean A Refrigerator?

12 easy steps to clean a refrigerator

  1. Prepare a staging area
  2. Gather the cleaning material
  3. Empty the refrigerator
  4. Unplug the refrigerator
  5. Clean the drain hole
  6. Clean the shelves and drawers
  7. Dry drip pan
  8. Clean the outside of the refrigerator
  9. Clean the refrigerator condenser coils
  10. Clean the refrigerator water dispenser
  11. Allow the refrigerator to cool
  12. Clean the food before putting It back in

1. Prepare a Staging Area

When giving your fridge a deep clean, you will need plenty of counter space or a folding table to place your foodstuff as you take it out from the refrigerator. A thorough cleaning may be time-consuming, so you should consider putting the most perishable food in a cooler or a stand-alone freezer.

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Clearing your sink will also make it easier for you to rinse off dirty storage containers before putting them back in the fridge. It would be best to empty your recycling bin and put it nearby if you need to toss out expired items.

2. Gather the Cleaning Material

Hot soapy water is a good choice of cleaning agent if you are looking to achieve a sparkling refrigerator. However, using vinegar and baking soda will clean and naturally sanitize your fridge and eliminate all smells.

Other cleaning materials that you may need include Dish soap, a spray bottle, towels or cloths, a vacuum cleaner, a toothbrush, a scrubbing brush, and some warm water.

You could also get cotton buds, drinking straws, or cocktail sticks to clear the dirt on the condensation channels on the back of the fridge to give it a good refresh.

Gather The Cleaning Material
Image by tomekwalecki from Pixabay

How to Clean the Fridge with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Avoid using strong detergents because they may leave residual chemicals that could contaminate your food.

Baking Soda
Baking Soda
Baking Soda

Mix seven parts of hot water with baking soda and stir until the baking soda is completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into a small plastic container and dip a dish towel into it. Alternatively, you can pour the mixture into a spray bottle.

If the fridge is not too dirty, clean the shelves, drawers, and walls with a towel soaked in the bicarbonate of soda solution. If the refrigerator has caked-on food, wash it with the solution for 10 minutes and then wipe it off when it softens.

Use a toothbrush to clean small crevices that your dish towel cannot reach. Once the dirt has been dislodged, rinse off the solution thoroughly with a cloth and dry the surfaces with a kitchen roll.

Baking soda is a natural cleaning product that will give you a clean fridge and clear any nasty smell without compromising the safety of your edibles.


Make a solution of water and distilled vinegar and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray the fridge’s interior with the mixture and leave it to soak. Use a damp cloth to wipe and rinse it out thoroughly.

Vinegar is a food-safe cleaning agent that will break down all the grime, grease, and dried gunk. It will also remove germs and completely get rid of any odor in the fridge.

3. Empty the Refrigerator

Take out all the food in your fridge before you start cleaning it. While you are on it, check the expiry date and quality of the food. Wipe the grime or grease from the underside of edible food before placing it on the counter, seal anything that is expired or isn’t safe to eat in a bag, and dispose of it.

Bacteria multiply fast at room temperature, so you need to select the most perishable food, such as meat and dairy products, and put it in a cooler or stand-alone freezer.

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4. Unplug the Refrigerator

You don’t need to unplug the fridge if you are only cleaning the inside and the outside. However, you need to clean the condenser coils during the deep cleaning. Hence, it is advisable to unplug the fridge before cleaning it.

5. Clean the Drain Hole

To clean the drain of your fridge, remove the vegetable drawers and then use the drain hole cleaning device to remove any blockage. If the clogs have been in the hole for a while, use vinegar to remove the mildew and mold present at the back of the fridge.

Once most of the gunk has come off, dip a cotton wool bud in a vinegar solution and remove the remaining deposits from the hole. Use a cloth and vinegar solution to wipe the bottom of the fridge before returning the vegetable drawers.

6. Clean the Shelves and Drawers

Take out the drawers and shelves and wait for the warm-up at room temperature. Then soak them in soapy water in the sink for a few minutes. Soaking the drawers and shelves in warm soapy water allows the grime that collects in the corners when vegetables are stored without packaging to come off.

Once the dirt is dislodged, hand wash them with dish soap and a French copper sponge. If the shelves are made of glass, allow them to warm up before passing them to prevent the glass from breaking due to a sudden temperature change.

Use a toothpick or an old toothbrush to dislodge hard-to-reach gunk on the drawers and shelves. You can also use cotton buds to get the dirt out of grooves in the fridge. After rinsing them, use a dish towel to dry them before putting them back in the refrigerator.

Refrain from washing the shelves and drawers using a dishwasher because the water is too hot. It could wrap the plastic or crack the glass. If the frames are not removable, you need to clean the fridge from top to bottom using the same procedure.

7. Dry Drip Pan

To dry the drip pan:

  1. Remove the base grille to access the drip pan under the fridge.
  2. Mop the water on the pan with paper towels
  3. Pull out and clean the pan with warm, soapy water.
  4. If the drip pan is not removable, use an absorbent cloth to wrap around the head of a long-handled brush
  5. Dip the pan in warm, soapy water and clean it thoroughly.

8. Clean the Outside of the Refrigerator

How to Clean the Exterior of a White Appliance

Use hot soapy water, vinegar, or baking soda with a soft dish towel to wipe off the dust on the white exterior surface. While cleaning the outside, pay close attention to the door gaskets and the areas around the handles. Rinse the shell off and use another towel to dab it dry.

How to Clean the Exterior of a Stainless-Steel Appliance

Dip a soft cloth in soapy water and wring off excess water. Wipe the surface of the fridge and then rinse it off with a clean damp cloth. Make sure that the soap detergent does not contain chlorine, which could damage the stainless steel. Dry the surface with a cloth.

If the fridge’s surface has a stain that won’t come off with hot soap and water. Find a cleanser that is designed specifically for stainless steel. Avoid using an abrasive cleaner on the outer surface of a stainless steel fridge to avoid damaging it permanently.

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How to Get Gunk Out of the Seal Around the Door?

Clean the gaskets with a cloth dipped in warm soapy water or vinegar, or baking soda. Rinse and dry the seal with a dry cloth and then apply petroleum jelly along the rubber to seal the door tightly.

As you clean, check whether any tears or cracks in the rubber could prevent the door from maintaining a tight seal.

9. Clean the Refrigerator Condenser Coils

Cleaning condenser coils is an intense task that requires you to go through the fridge’s manual before you start cleaning it; if you lost the manual, search it on the internet using your fridge’s model number.

Before cleaning the refrigerator coils, ensure that the refrigerator is unplugged. Move the unit to access the coils located at the back of the fridge. Using a coil brush, clean the coils. Vacuum all the debris on the floor, and use a foam cleaner to dislodge all the dirt.

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Wipe the coils with a dry cloth, move the refrigerator back to its place, and plug it back in.

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How Often Should You Clean the Condenser Coils?

It would be best if you cleaned refrigerator coils at least once a year.

10. Clean the Refrigerator Water Dispenser

When giving your fridge a deep clean, you should not overlook the water dispenser of your unit. Cleaning the water dispenser ensures that your filtered water and ice remain clean and free of germs.

Before cleaning it, it’s best to consult the fridge’s manual and check the ice maker replacement schedule to get specific instructions and information. Replace the filters according to the manual to keep the ice maker and water dispenser in good working condition.

To clean the water dispenser tray:

  1. Wipe it using a cloth dipped in a vinegar solution.
  2. Rinse off the vinegar and dry the tray with a cloth. If you can remove the tray, hand wash it in the sink with dish soap and thoroughly clean the area underneath the tray.
  3. Use a soft toothbrush to get build-up stuck in the vents, crannies, and nooks.

11. Allow the Refrigerator to Cool

After giving your refrigerator a thorough cleaning, close the door, plug it in and switch the regulator back on if need be. Wait for the temperature in the freezer to reach -18 degrees and the refrigerator at 4 degrees, then put the food back in.

You can use your refrigerator’s cooling function to speed up the cooling process.

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12. Clean the Food Before Putting it Back in

Before you put anything back in the fridge, you should make sure that it’s clean. Wipe the underside of the foodstuffs with a damp cloth and rinse off the goo on bottles and food storage containers with warm water. Thoroughly dry the storage containers before returning them to the fridge.

Take the lid off containers and bottles where gunk has accumulated and thoroughly clean them before putting them in the refrigerator.

Do you Need to Sanitize the Food before Returning it to the fridge?

Not necessarily. However, if you had expired food in the refrigerator, it’s advisable to sanitize the fridge before restocking.

To do this:

  1. Make a solution of 1tbsp liquid bleach and 1 gallon of water.
  2. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and use it to wipe the interior of your unit.
  3. Leave the door open for 10 minutes to allow the fumes to dissipate before putting your edibles back in.
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How to clean a refrigerator that has odors?

If your refrigerator is giving off odors, some foodstuffs in your fridge may have gone bad. So, before you begin to clean it, check if there is any recalled food and dispose of it. Also, check whether your fridge and freezer are 4 and -18 degrees Celsius, respectively.

The best cleaning agent to use for a smelly fridge is vinegar or bicarbonate soda. However, suppose you do not have these. In that case, you could use ground coffee, activated charcoal, porridge oats, lemon halves, vanilla, and orange peels.

Spread these agents on a tray and leave them in the fridge for a couple of days. They will soak up the awful odors and leave your fridge smelling fragrant.

How often should I clean my fridge?

How often you clean a fridge depends on how large the household is. If several people often use the refrigerator, it needs to be cleaned more frequently.

It would be best if you also wiped off spills as soon as they occur. However, a weekly routine cleaning and a deep clean twice a year will keep your fridge in good working condition for a long time.

4 tips on how to keep your fridge clean for a long time

  1. Wipe off spills as soon as they occur.
  2. Avoid restocking the fridge with recalled foodstuffs
  3. Using baking soda or vinegar in your weekly or monthly housekeeping routine.
  4. Keeping baking soda in the refrigerator to absorb any present odor.

Bottom line

If you have not cleaned your refrigerator in a long time, you need to do it now to save on energy and prolong its lifespan. This step-by-step guide provides you with a detailed process description of deep cleaning your refrigerator, making the task a bit less of a hassle.