You use your fridge every day. Several times a day. And it holds things you eat and drink.
When was the last time you cleaned it? Like really cleaned it, not just wiped up something that spilled? Literally took everything out and gave it a really good scrub? Oh man, just think about what you could find in there… or those expiry dates… It’s not a pleasant thought.
There’s a really good reason to clean that kitchen mainstay. Your dirty fridge is way grosser than you think!
Dirty Fridge… Ok, How Dirty?
The average American cleans their fridge twice a year. Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve got you thinking now, don’t I? Are you an “average American?”
But just think about the average day in that cold community of food. You take a package of ground beef out of the freezer to thaw for dinner. The meat thaws, and tiny droplets of condensation drip, drip, drip. Maybe they migrate over to your egg carton. Maybe they drip down into your fruit drawer… hello e.Coli!
Even if you don’t see it, doesn’t mean the bacteria isn’t there. Trust us, it is. And potentially so is mold and mildew. Yuck! Maybe I won’t be cooking with that ground beef tonight, unless my stomach settles after this!
What’s the Dirtiest Part of Your Fridge?
Ready for it? The vegetable drawer. Not the top shelf, not the condiment shelf, the spot where most food actually touches the fridge!
In fact, veggie drawers can contain as much as 750 times the level of bacteria considered safe! That bacteria includes things like E.coli, listeria, and salmonella. Yep, there are those thawed beef drippings.
Researchers wanted to find out just how dirty the average fridge is. So, they tested it. Tests on samples from the vegetable drawers of 30 frost-free home fridges showed they had an average of 7,850 bacteria colony-forming units per square centimetre (cfu/cm2). Some swabs taken had as many as 129,000 cfu/cm2. To put that in perspective, the standard recommendations for ‘clean’ food preparation and storage surfaces is for 0-10 cfu/cm2. Ya, big difference.
The cleanliness of your fridge actually has a lot to do with the temperature.
Many fridges are not set to the correct temperature. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Even if your food seems to be cold, if the temp is too low or too high it can create an unsafe environment for food storage. Harmful bacteria like listeria monocytogenes will multiply at an alarming rate in that bad boy unless it’s at the proper temperature.
So what temp should you set your fridge at? According to food safety standards, keep the fridge below 5°C and the freezer below -15°C. Keeping food at these temp significantly slows the growth of harmful bacteria and minimizes food spoilage.
For the freezer specifically, just setting it to -15°C or below isn’t enough. Check it regularly using a thermometer to make sure it’s actually at that temp. And try to avoid overcrowding the freezer. It’s easy to try and shove as much food in there as humanly possible to make use of the small space, but air needs to circulate around frozen foods to keep them at the correct temperature, so give them room!
How to do a Dirty Fridge Deep Clean
It doesn’t have to take all afternoon to give your dirty fridge a deep clean. Here’s how to do it effectively in as little time as possible.
- Empty if out. Wipe everything down and leave it on the counter. Check expiry dates as you take stuff out and toss anything past its prime.
- Take out any removable shelves and drawers and put them in the sink.
- Fill a large bowl with warm water and cleaner. We like to natural dish soap for a really good clean (just be sure to rinse well).
- Wipe, scrub, rinse, repeat. Get right into all the nooks and crannies. Wipe it down with a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture.
- Next, do the same to the things in the sink. Dry those well.
- Replace all the dry shelves and drawers, and then put your food back in.
Voila, goodbye dirty fridge, hello clean!