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How Clean Is Your Refrigerator?

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN

Reviewers: Academy Nutrition Information Services Team

Published: February 10, 2017

Reviewed: March 16, 2023

cleaning refrigerator - How Clean Is Your Refrigerator?

Mold, bacteria and spills in the refrigerator can put you at risk for food poisoning. Maintaining a clean refrigerator can help improve the safety and quality of your foods. For the best cleaning results, always refer to the owner's manual of your refrigerator, but a few simple refrigerator cleaning tips work in most situations:

Refrigerator Cleaning

  • Wipe up spills immediately, especially juices from raw meat, chicken or fish. Defrosting meats on the bottom shelf in a covered container reduces the chance of a spill and cross-contamination.
  • Scrub down the inside of your refrigerator (including shelves and drawers) using a clean sponge and warm soapy water. Rinse with clean water, then dry with paper towels or a clean cloth. Avoid using cleaners that may pass on flavors to food or cause damage to surfaces.
  • Frequently clean the refrigerator handle. That is the part of the fridge that gets touched countless times a day.
  • Keep the front grill clear of dust to allow free airflow to the condenser for best cooling and efficiency. Also, clean the condenser coils with a brush or vacuum. Unplug the refrigerator when cleaning the coils.

What's In the Refrigerator?

Sort through foods at least once a week, throwing out foods that have been "hibernating" and are expired or no longer suitable for eating. Consider labeling foods with the dates they were made to keep track of their freshness. Leftovers usually last three to four days in the refrigerator, whereas fresh fish, poultry and ground beef are best consumed within one to two days of purchase, and whole cuts of fresh beef, such as steaks, are best consumed within the first five days of purchase.

Except for infant formulas, product dates are not expiration dates. They indicate when a product should be used for best quality. The terms "sell by," "best by" and "use by," may give you a reference for how long a food might last. However, if you aren't sure how old something is or if it's safe to eat, remember — when in doubt, throw it out.

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