How Often Should You Clean Your Refrigerator?

When you’re a self-proclaimed foodie and a Martha Stewart wannabe, keeping the kitchen tidy is crucial. Otherwise, things can get really out of hand. And while most people (try to) wash their dishes on the daily, not many people know how often you should clean the refrigerator. There’s a good chance that most people don’t even think about it; it can be quite the task, after all.

This might be exactly why National Clean Your Refrigerator Day was invented. Yes, it’s a real thing. And no, I’m not making it up. This strange (yet useful) holiday falls on Tuesday, Nov. 15 this year — just in time to clear some space for those tasty Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s all starting to make sense now.

Think about it. The kitchen can breed germs, mold, and everything in between. Your refrigerator works day and night to keep things fresh. And when food goes bad, the refrigerator is the first to know. It’s the same deal when a container breaks or leftovers are forgotten. This major appliance is home to accidental spills, rotting foods, condiments, meat, vegetables, just to name a few. Everything is kept in one small space, all day and night. Needless to say, it’s a hardworking machine that needs a little love every now and then.


So what’s the recommendation? According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you should lightly clean your refrigerator once a week. This includes checking expiration dates and the state of perishable foods. By doing so, this lessens the risk of food poisoning and unpleasant odors that stick around for ages.

Spills should be cleaned on the spot, though. This prevents cross-contamination and substances from hardening up. It might seem like an inconvenient habit, but it will save you frustration and annoyance in the long run.

The handle of the refrigerator should also be cleaned frequently. It’s not much different than a doorknob. If anything, it has a higher risk of exposure to unpleasant germs thanks to the nature of eating and handling food.


Deep cleaning your refrigerator is another story, though. This type of housework should be done at least four times a year. Think of it as a seasonal activity to keep the habit regular and consistent. To deep clean, remove every single product from your refrigerator and unplug. Clean the inside with a clean sponge, baking soda, and water. You can also make a food-safe cleaner with vinegar, lemon, and water.

It's also a good idea to leave an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator all year round. This is a clever and inexpensive technique that helps eliminate odors. Change the box every three months to ensure freshness.

If the thought of routine housework makes you groan, think of it this way: The cleaner your refrigerator is, the longer your food will last. I mean, keeping farmer's market veggies next to rotting fruits isn't the best idea. Do it for the leftovers, guys.