Cleaning the Kitchen Workhorse

Of all the appliances in the home, the refrigerator is probably the hardest working. We stock it full, ignore expired items and leave smelly spills until they become one with the fridge (and not in a zen-like fashion).  Not only does a clean refrigerator keep food fresher, it extends the life of the appliance.  

Your best friend in this cleaning process will be baking soda.  It is best to avoid using scented dish soaps and sprays, as they can leave behind a scent that the food will adsorb.  The mix is created using 2 tablespoons of baking soda for every 1 quart of hot water.  

At this point, you can unplug the fridge if you have short nerves and your fridge beeps what seems to be obscenities every time it is kept open longer than 30 seconds.  Then remove all food, jars of condiments, drinks, etc.  Place anything likely to leak, such as defrosting meat or cartons of berries, on a rimmed plate.  

As you remove, throw out expired items or food past its prime.  If there is no expiration date, then my rule of thumb is to throw out anything you feel the need to smell for freshness prior to eating.   

Once everything has been cleared, remove all shelves and drawers for cleaning.  Using a sponge or cloth, wipe them clean using the baking soda mix.  For stubborn messes cover them with a warm wet cloth for a few minutes then use a nonabrasive scrubber or gently go over with a razor blade.  For crevices and cracks, try using a toothbrush with the same baking soda mixture used to get things clean.   Dry thoroughly with a cloth or paper towels before returning to refrigerator.

Make sure everything that goes into the fridge is immaculate; wipe off rims of jam jars, salad dressing bottles, and ketchup containers before storing them.  To keep things free of funk, try keeping an open jar of baking soda inside the fridge.  You can also place a small bowl with coffee grinds, activated charcoal or unscented chlorophyll cat litter inside until things are fresh and clean.

Before you are done, be sure to wipe the outside surfaces.  Windex and most household cleaners work for non stainless steel refrigerators, but I use a special mix for stainless steel varieties.  Just fill a spray bottle with diluted white vinegar.  The acetic acid in the vinegar cuts through the oil left behind by fingertips, rather than smearing it around like a lot of other cleaners. 

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