Looming large in the kitchen, at the very heart of our home, is the refrigerator. No single appliance gets more of our attention than the fridge. But in the course of being constantly filled and emptied, opened and closed, and home to all forms of food, a refrigerator can get, well, nasty.
Relationships are about give and take. Your refrigerator gives a lot to you and your family. To keep it happy, sometimes you have to give back. If you don't have the time or inclination, many cleaning services offer refrigerator cleaning as an additional project during the cleaning process.
How old is too old?
A decent refrigerator should last about ten years. Want to get more out of it? We have some tips that might keep your fridge at optimum health:
- Keep the top cleared so it doesn’t heat up
- Clean the coils about twice a year (or more if you have pets) with a coil brush and a vacuum or an air compressor. Make sure the fridge is turned off when you do this.
- Don’t allow it to live in a warm place, such as the back porch or garage.
- If you empty it for any reason, such as a family vacation, leave several gallon sized water bottles in it to keep it from having to ‘cool air’.
How cold is too cold?
A refrigerator should be between 32-40 degrees F. A freezer must be below 32 degrees. Freezer burn is not your friend, but it won’t ruin food’s safety, only its quality.
Cleaning is also important, so give your fridge a little love scrub now and then:
Cleaning the Freezer
You don’t have to let food sit in the freezer until you don’t want it anymore or until it gets freezer burn. Be brave! Throw it out. Then wipe out the sides and bottom with a gentle cleaner or a mixture of vinegar and hot water from a spray bottle. Use a sponge or an old rag to wipe it out, and clean the gasket all the way around and check it for spots that are going bad (the corners especially).
Cleaning the Refrigerator
Don’t forget to start eating food in the week or so leading up to the cleaning so you’ll be low on food before you clean it. All of the bins, shelves, etc. can be removed and washed with hot soapy water and then dried. It might be easier to take them out to do this. Then use a wet rag to wipe down the door, inside and out. A toothbrush can help clean the gasket seal and small crevices.
A word on moldy food.
A few more words on dealing with a moldy seal (fridge or freezer)
If you don’t have an automatic ice dispenser, feel free to buy an ice scoop so everyone in the home doesn’t have their questionably clean hands on the ice while trying to refill their glass.
During a power outage, keep the doors to the refrigerator and freezer closed. Remember those seals you maintained so diligently? This is when they pay off! The food in your refrigerator will stay cool for up to four hours. If the temperature reads below 40 degrees when the power is restored, the food is safe. If it’s been at or above 40 degrees for more than two hours, throw it out.
The food in the freezer will keep for up to 48 hours. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 °F or below, it’s safe to eat.
We know that sometimes families get busy and the refrigerator gets a little neglected. This is normal. But a little bit of attention now and then will give you a long and happy union with your refrigerator.
Don't forget the wine.