How to clean a refrigerator and banish odors

Full fridge with door open
Full fridge with door open (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Every household needs one of the best refrigerators to keep their groceries chilled and lasting longer. And just like keeping our kitchen worktops and floors pristine, it’s essential to know how to clean a refrigerator inside and out.

The fridge is a number-one place for spills and leaks, and just like our other kitchen appliances, it's vital to regularly clean a refrigerator properly to get rid of everyday dirt and bacteria spores. In fact, not cleaning often is one of the common refrigerator mistakes we all tend to make. 

While mastering how to clean a refrigerator properly may seem like a huge task, there is an easy method for cleaning without it being a hassle. Once you’ve deep-cleaned your entire fridge, you’ll also benefit from these 5 tips to organize your fridge so foods last longer. So if you want to give your fridge some TLC, follow our step-by-step guide on how to clean a refrigerator and banish odors.  

1. Empty out the fridge 

Empty fridge

Empty fridge (Image credit: Shutterstock)

First thing’s first: empty out the contents of your fridge before deep cleaning. Throw out any out-of-date foods, jars of condiments that have been around for a long time or any other old items. Chilled items such as dairy products, meat and other items can be stored in a cool bag or ice box to keep cool. It’s advisable to clean the fridge before you do your weekly shop, and fill it back up again! 

2. Remove shelves and salad crisper  

Fridge shelves

Fridge shelves  (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Next up, take out all of the removable shelves, door compartments and the salad crisper. Wash thoroughly in the sink with hot, soapy water, using a small brush to get into the corners, crevices or awkward spots. After rinsing the shelves and salad crispers, allow them to dry naturally on the drainer or hand-dry with a clean dish towel . 

3. Clean the inside of your fridge

Cleaning fridge

Cleaning fridge (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Now you can get to work on tackling the interior.You can easily make your own cleaning solution by mixing two tablespoons baking soda to one quart hot water into a bowl or spray bottle. Using a sponge or cloth, work from top to bottom to prevent drips trickling onto cleaned surfaces. To get into any grooves, use an old toothbrush or toothpick to reach tiny cracks or around hinges. 

Don’t forget to clean the rubber gasket around the fridge door to remove any sticky residue, grease or daily grime. This will maintain a tight seal, and keep your fridge in good condition. Once all cleaned thoroughly, wipe everything dry with a clean towel.

4. Clean the outside of your fridge

Cleaning fridge door with cloth

Cleaning fridge door with cloth (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Then, take a cloth using the same solution to clean the exterior of your fridge, scrubbing away any spills, stains or dirty fingerprints. Pay close attention to the handles where bacteria can build up, and even the top of the fridge, which often gets neglected. 

If you’re cleaning a stainless steel refrigerator, there are various ways of how to clean stainless steel. However, always wipe along the grain using a microfiber cloth to avoid scratching. Once you’ve deep cleaned and dried the fridge, you can replace the shelves, salad crisper drawers and food back to their rightful place. 

How to get rid of odors? 

Baking soda on fridge shelf

Baking soda on fridge shelf (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Whether something has gone bad at the back of the fridge or there’s been a spillage, refrigerators are prone to lingering smells. A good solution is to leave a small bowl or ramekin of baking soda in the fridge.Or you could even sprinkle a little in the drawer or side shelves. Baking soda is a natural cleaning agent, and deodorizer that eliminates nasty smells.  

If you want to know more, check out these 10 things you didn't know you could clean with baking soda. Just bear in mind these things that you should never clean with baking soda to avoid damage.  

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!