Dirty Fridge? Get it Cleaned and Organized In No Time
Do you have ancient containers of ranch dressing or open cans of chickpeas taking up shelf space in your walk-in cooler? Have you been taking bets on exactly what piece of mystery meat is wrapped up in paper in the freezer? Has that box of tomatoes hiding in the back of the fridge gone a little too far out of season?
Who says you have to wait until spring to do some serious cleaning in your kitchen? (Actually, your local health inspector will never tell you that unless you want to rack up some serious health code violations.) National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day officially takes place on November 15.
With the holiday season fast approaching, now is the perfect time to take a hard look at the contents in and the cleanliness of your refrigerator and freezer units. By taking a proactive position on sanitizing and purging your refrigeration, you can create additional food storage space and make sure you’re using the freshest ingredients possible in your dishes. Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to ensure that your refrigerators and freezers are as clean as the day you installed them.
1. Unplug Your Refrigeration Units
To eliminate the possibility of electrocution, the first thing you should do is unplug your refrigerator or freezer. It’s a quick and easy step, but it’s also vitally important to preventing work-related injuries.
2. Empty Each Shelf of All Items
When we say all items, we mean all items. Don’t leave anything sitting inside your refrigerator or freezer. If you have food you know for sure you want to save, move it to another container. Or, if your other refrigeration units are already maxed out to capacity, consider adding a undercounter refrigerator or worktop freezer to your array of kitchen appliances. You can also utilize coolers for temporary storage.
3. Throw Away All Expired and Moldy Food
Perishables can easily get lost in the mix by being pushed to the back or concealed behind other items in a large refrigerator. Don’t save anything you suspect of being spoiled – it’s not worth the risk of making a customer sick. Already-opened cans and jars are other offenders to consider throwing in the trash (unless they’ve been properly labeled with the date and time of their opening). Live by the mantra, “When in doubt, throw it out.” Any other food or ingredients you haven’t used for months (nor have plans on using for months) should also be tossed into a trash can or a recycling bin.
4. Completely Wipe Down the Interior of the Refrigerator or Freezer
Get a bucket with warm, soapy water, and prepare to do battle with built-up grime. Highly-absorbent microfiber cloths and mitts are perfect for scrubbing down every inch inside your fridge and removing messes that have accumulated since the last cleaning. For stubborn stains and crud, a simple toothbrush can do the trick of removing collected dirt. Make sure to rinse off all the gentle soap.
5. Disinfect with a Sanitizer
Bacteria and mold can accumulate in a fridge over time, so it’s important to disinfect surfaces with a sanitizer. Be sure to use a food-safe sanitizer, as you’ll eventually be placing items back into the refrigeration units. Since you’ve already washed inside, you don’t have to go overboard with sanitizing. A little goes a long way.
6. Vacuum the Condenser and Coils
Dust and debris saps the power being generated in your refrigeration unit's condenser and refrigeration coils by clogging air intake. Cleaning away the dust is an extremely simple solution for decreasing your kitchen’s energy costs and increasing efficiency of fridges and freezers. Start by removing the protective grill (found either on the top or bottom of your unit). Brush the coils and the fan unit to free up dirt and dust. Use a vacuum to suck up all the debris, and reinstall the grill.
7. Clean Under and On Top of the Refrigerator or Freezer
Keeping the area around your refrigeration units clean can be just as important as cleaning the units themselves. Thoroughly mop the floor under and around the fridge or freezer. If your units are movable, be sure to pull them away from the wall. Don’t forget to dust the top of the unit, as well.
8. Restock Shelves the Proper Way
Once your refrigeration units are completely clean, it’s time to plug them back in and place food on the shelves. Labeling opened products and leftovers allows you to track their freshness by writing dates and times of their use. Color-coded bins also help to create a visual display for better organization of different ingredients. Coordinate food so that everything is easily visible when the fridge door is opened, and move older items to the front so they can be used first. Make sure you’re using proper food placement procedures when restocking, including keeping fruits and vegetables above raw meats to limit the possibility of cross-contamination. For an easy visual guide, check out the graphic below:
Now that your refrigerators and freezers are clean and organized, you can start to see the benefits of keeping tidy units by limiting waste and saving money. A 2005 University of Arizona study estimated that as much as 50 million pounds of food is lost daily in full-service restaurants, while more than 85 million pounds is thrown out daily in fast food establishments. Organization of food will cut down on costs and increase the profitability of your business.
Remember to #CleanYourFridge on National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day on November 15, and put a thorough fridge cleaning on your kitchen schedule at least once a month going into the future.