Previously we posted an article with some really good information on decluttering your home. One of the things we didn’t touch on though was the state of your fridge.
Let’s face it, we’re now well into the month of January and all the leftovers from Christmas and New Year’s should be consumed by now.
And what you’re left with is a fridge that probably looks something like this:
No worries, at least not for another few weeks until that weird smell starts up while you keep trying to ignore and avoid the inevitable – the annual Fridge Spring Clean!
As monumentally daunting as this task may seem, it’s actually one of the fastest and most satisfying cleaning jobs you can do. Follow our handy steps below and you’ll see that it’s not as bad, tiring, or time-consuming as you may have thought to declutter your fridge.
STEP 1 – Remove ALL Food.
Now an important part of this step is to ensure that all your kitchen countertops are free and available. Another important step is to have your garbage bin or a black bag available.
Start with the topmost shelf and when you remove a food item check its expiration date. Remember that Best Before dates only apply to unopened items – once they’re open they will deteriorate much faster. This same principle applies to condiments; just because a bottle is two-thirds full but expired doesn’t mean you should keep it! So throw out that 2-year old bottle tomato sauce or chutney!
Leftovers are best used within 4-7 days, any longer and you run some serious contamination risks. It’s also a good idea to store large portions of leftovers in smaller containers as this will speed up the cooling down process and inhibit bacterial growth, and it is also easier to reheat or store in the freezer.
Throw all expired food and deteriorated food items away. If you’re unsure of an item’s state, use your nose; if it smells off, it probably is.
Once all the shelves are clear of all food items, and only the non-expired, “good” food has been sorted on the counter, place them in a cooler bag for temporary storage before proceeding.
STEP 2 – The Shelves, Drawers, and Removable Parts.
Remove all the shelves, drawers, and other removable parts from the fridge. Make sure your sink is full of hot, soapy water with a dash of bleach to help kill any bacteria. Set glass shelves aside to warm up to room temperature so they don’t crack when you wash them in warm water. Wash all other plastic and metal parts thoroughly and set to dry. Once the glass parts are room temperature wash them too and pay special attention to the grooves where the joins to the plastic edging are – these can become quite grimy with spilled food build-up. Use an old toothbrush to scrub thoroughly. Make sure all the washed parts are dried properly before placing them back inside the fridge.
STEP 3 – The Inside Cleaning.
Use a warm soapy cloth from your sink mixture to wipe down the interior of the fridge. Do not scrub or scour the inside walls, but if there are really stubborn “stuff” that doesn’t seem to come off then make a paste with your dishwashing soap and bleach, smear it on the area, leave for a few minutes, and try to wipe it off again. If that still doesn’t work check your local shops for specialised fridge cleaning solutions.
Start at the top and work your way down so that all drips and spills can be cleaned up at the end. Tackle all grooves and edges with the toothbrush.
Also take a good look at the door rubbers and seals and tackle them with the toothbrush to get rid of all the crumbs and built-up gunk that has accumulated between the grooves.
When you’re done use a towel or super-absorbent cloth to dry the inside as much as possible – the moisture will not be welcome once the food is repacked and the fridge is closed.
STEP 3 – The Outside Cleaning.
When the inside of the fridge and all the removable parts have been cleaned, dried, and put back, make sure to do a thorough wipe-down of the outside of the fridge too. Pay special attention to the underside of the doors as spills will have accumulated there and this is not only a breeding ground for germs, but it attracts cockroaches and other insects too.
Remove all magnets and notes that you may have stuck onto the outside of the fridge and check everything to see how valid it still is. Throw old notes, take-away menus, and unnecessary items away and organise everything so that the important things are easy to see and read.
STEP 4 – Plan and Repack the Food.
Now that the fridge is clean it’s time to repack the food back into it. Make sure all containers and condiment bottles are clean on the outside and wipe them down to make sure they don’t create a mess on the shelves again.
The warmest areas of the fridge are the door and top shelves. This is the best place to store drinks, condiments, and fresh produce that doesn’t need to be very cold.
The middle shelves are ideal for leftovers, butter, cheeses, and yoghurts.
Milk and meat products should go on the bottom shelves as these are the coldest areas of the fridge and will help preserve those products for longer.
It is better to store eggs inside their cartons instead of using the egg tray that comes with your fridge as the cartons will keep them fresher for longer and protect them from bacteria. Most fridge egg trays can be removed and you will find the cartons should fit quite comfortably in that space.
Some fruits and vegetables give off a ripening gas called Ethylene. This gas can cause other produce to ripen too quickly and cause the food items to spoil prematurely. So it is a good idea not to store Ethylene producing foods alongside ethylene sensitive foods in the same area of the fridge.
Here is a list of which produce items does what:
Ethylene producing foods: Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas (ripe), blueberries, cantaloupe, cranberries, figs, green onions, guavas, grapes, honeydew, kiwifruit, mangoes, nectarines, papayas, passion fruit, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, potatoes, prunes, quince, and tomatoes.
Ethylene sensitive foods: Asparagus, bananas (unripe), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, garlic, green beans, kale, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, okra, onions, parsley, peas, peppers, spinach, squash, strawberries, sweet potatoes, watercress, and watermelon.
Plan how you will organise and repack your food items and group similar items together for easy retrieval. A good idea is to use plastic containers like old ice-cream tubs to put all your condiments into so that they are all together and can be pulled from the fridge easily. You can also buy specialised fridge bins from most plastic shops. The same grouping can also be done for any other groups of similar food items and this will not only help make your fridge more organised, but you will also be able to notice very quickly when an item is running out and needs replacement.
Follow the steps above and declutter your fridge a few times a year and not only will you have a cleaner, healthier fridge, but you will be able to manage the contents better.