I got a bit of the cleaning bug yesterday and decided to deep clean our fridge. So, here are my tips!
A few days before the cleaning, I like to purge as much from the fridge as possible. It makes for way less of a chore and you don't clutter your counters with food while you're in the middle of the project. I first sort through food and condiments then toss anything expired. Rather than throwing out the whole jar, I do the extra step of emptying and rinsing everything out - let's recycle, people.
Once expired things are gone, I like to spend a couple of days before the big clean making a point of eating whatever's in the fridge to avoid going grocery shopping. I'm like Joey.
I find it easiest to empty the entire fridge at once, so I pull out the less sensitive perishables first (condiments, La Croix, a jar of olives, etc.) then remove dairy products last. To keep things from spoiling, you can put temperature sensitive items in a cooler with ice.
As you empty, store items on the counter in the same sections they came out of - or consider reorganizing where things live!
Scrub and Soak
Removing all of the shelves is necessary for getting all the gunk out, so don't cheat by leaving them in. Believe me - the majority of the crumbs in my fridge were under the shelving brackets. Take notice of how the shelves fit in the grooves, and which drawer coordinates with which shelf. You might want to take a photo so you don't find yourself cursing at the fridge when you forget how the puzzle fits together - like I did. Oy.
I find it easier to clean cold grime by soaking it in hot water to dissolve it rather than trying to scrub nearly frozen pasta sauce off a shelf. If it's super stubborn, you can pour some boiling water over it, or rest a super hot damp sponge on it for a few minutes. I soaked the shelves and drawers in my kitchen sink, but you can use a utility sink, the great outdoors, or even a bathtub. I design an assembly line where I always have one thing soaking, one thing being scrubbed, one thing being rinsed, and one thing drying. Speed is important when all of the perishables are sitting out on the counter.
As each removable item was cleaned, I took it outside to rinse and dry. I made a bit of a mess dripping soap on the kitchen floors as I carried them outside, but my floors needed cleaning too, so win-win. I rinsed everything off with my garden hose outside and let them sit in the summer sun. They dried in no time.
In between soaking, I wiped out the inside of the fridge. I first used a dishtowel dipped in the hot soapy water to get all the grime off. For stuck on gunk, you can use a scrubby sponge or even a toothbrush for stubborn spots. I made sure to wipe the gaskets, coil of tubing for the water dispenser, the light, switches, and vents. Once the food stuffs were cleaned off, I followed up with a new dishtowel that I damped then put some vinegar onto. You could also make a water/vinegar 50/50 solution to dip your towel repeatedly.
I'm already a natural cleaning product gal, but if you aren't, I recommend avoiding bleach and chemicals in the place that keeps your food. I also prefer to clean with reusable/washable/compostable tools rather than disposable paper towels. The IKEA dishtowels, reusable sponges, and a compostable dish brush are my best friends. You can pop them into the washing machine or dishwasher to keep them fresh for many cleanings.
Put Everything Back
Start by putting the shelves and drawers back. Refer to the photo you took so you know how the puzzle fits, but take a moment to consider putting things back in different spots to make it more efficient for you. You may want to adjust the shelf layout if you developed a new storage system during the process of unloading everything. Here's a great guide on how to store your food and here's a diagram of where it should go in the fridge.
If your shelves were particularly grimy, your condiment jars and containers are likely grimy. Give the bottoms of each of them a wipe of hot soapy water before putting them back in. Note that if you had the fridge open for a long time it won't be very chilled, so you may want to keep some items in the cooler until the fridge is ready for them again.
Clean the Exterior
The exterior may not need more than some sanitizing on the handles and a simple wipe. I like to use this natural stainless steel cleaner and wipe it in the grain of the stainless. If you have some hard water buildup on the water dispenser, soak those items in vinegar overnight to make them like new again. Remove the grille and give it a soak and spritz, too. Then, dust the coils behind it.
And that's it! Happy deep cleaning!