When it comes to food safety, one of the most important items in your kitchen is the refrigerator. Unfortunately, it is the least likely for you to clean. Refrigerators keep food cold to prevent harmful bacteria from growing. It only makes sense that you should clean it regularly to keep food safe.
Start cleaning your refrigerator by removing all food items and placing them in a cooler with ice or gel packs to keep them cold while you’re cleaning. During the removal phase, throw out anything that is visibly spoiled, leaking, or has an unpleasant odor. This is also a good time to check dates on dairy products and condiments and replace them if necessary.
If you can remove any drawers or shelves, do so and wash with hot, soapy water. Allow anything glass or ceramic to come up to room temperature before washing to avoid breakage. Clean all inside surfaces, including the doors and rubber gaskets, with hot, soapy water. Wipe with clean water to rinse off soap and dry with a clean towel. If you need to sanitize your refrigerator, wipe down with a diluted bleach solution made from 1 tablespoon unscented bleach in 1 gallon of water.
Place clean shelves and drawers back in the refrigerator along with any food items you removed. Wipe all containers and bottles with a warm cloth to remove any stickiness or residue before returning to the clean fridge. Put a thermometer inside the refrigerator to make sure the temperature is at or below 40 degrees F to prevent bacteria from growing.
Keep your refrigerator clean throughout the year by cleaning up spills as soon as they occur and keeping track of leftovers. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends storing leftovers for no more than three to four days. It is also a good practice to wipe down door handles and control dispensers with a disinfecting wipe daily in order to remove bacteria left by hands.
Source: Annhall Norris, Extension Specialist, Food Preservation and Food Safety