Clean Your Refrigerator Day: top tips for a clean, hygienic fridge

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Clean Your Refrigerator Day: top tips for a clean, hygienic fridge

November 15th is Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. This national day was created to encourage the public to give their fridges some much needed TLC ahead of the inevitable holiday season cookathons. That means emptying your fridge of any out-of-date produce, as well as giving it a thorough wipe down.

We've created a complete guide to help you maintain a clean, hygienic fridge – today, and all year round.

Why is cleaning your fridge so important?

Without regular cleaning, your fridge could become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. found that 7 in 10 domestic fridges contained harmful bacteria. They found Aeromonas bacteria, plus Enterobactera clocae and Klebsiella oxytoca in the samples collected. These bacteria are known to cause respiratory & urinary infections. And they can cause particular problems for anyone with a weakened immune system or existing health problems.

How often should you clean your fridge?

While 15th November is Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day – and the perfect excuse to remove the drawers, pull out shelves & clean out your fridge – it’s not enough to treat this as an annual task. Ideally, you should be deep cleaning your fridge monthly. And of course, it’s always a task that you should be incorporating into your regular deep & spring cleaning routine.

What are the dirtiest areas of the fridge?

Surprisingly, scientists from the National Science Foundation (NSF) found that the vegetable drawer was the germiest part of fridges. They found salmonella, listeria, yeast and mold in veggie drawers they tested. To reduce the risk of germs in the veg drawer, they suggest storing ready-to-eat vegetables separately to veg that is unwashed.

It wasn’t just the veggie drawer that the NSF found to be harbouring germs though. They also found E. coli & salmonella in the meat compartments of the fridges they tested.

What's the best way to clean a fridge?

Cleaning your fridge isn’t a difficult task. But it does take a little forward planning. It’s best to clean out your fridge when it’s running low on supplies, as you’ll need to put the contents of your fridge into a cooler while you’re cleaning out the fridge.

Once you’ve emptied the fridge, you’ll need to remove all of the shelves & drawers. These will be washed up with soapy water in the sink. Then you’ll need to spray a mild solution of washing-up liquid and warm water against the inside of the door, the back and sides of the fridge. Then wipe clean with a clean damp microfibre cloth. Don’t forget to clean around the seal, and the fridge door handle too. Once your drawers & shelves have been washed up, leave them to air-dry or dry them with a clean tea towel before reassembling your fridge.

You can find our step-by-step cleaning guide for the fridge here: How to clean a fridge

Top tips for keeping your fridge clean & hygienic

As well as regular deep cleaning of your fridge, there’s plenty you can do between cleans to keep your fridge clean & hygienic. Here are our top tips:

1. Wipe up any spillages in your fridge as soon as you notice them

If you notice any spillages on the fridge shelves, wipe them up as soon as possible using a clean, damp microfibre cloth & soapy water.

2. Check the best-before dates on all of your food on a weekly basis

Use the weekly shop as an excuse to check the best-before dates on all of your sauce bottles, milk and food. If you spot anything that’s passed its best, chuck this immediately. Don’t forget to check your veg drawer and remove anything that might be looking a little worse for wear.

3. Store meat on the bottom shelf of your fridge

Hot air rises. So the bottom shelf of your fridge is the coldest part. Store raw meat on the bottom shelf to ensure that the temperature remains as safe as possible. Some fridges have a dedicated meat compartment. If that's the case with yours, use that instead.

4. Always store cooked & raw food separately in the fridge

Raw food should be kept separately to cooked food to reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your fridge. Raw food, and meat in particular, can contain Salmonella, E. coli, Yersinia, and other bacteria. These bacteria could transfer to uncooked food within your fridge, presenting a health risk. 

5. Always let food cool thoroughly before you place it in the fridge

Hot food will raise the temperature of your fridge to unsafe levels. So make sure to allow any warm leftovers to cool thoroughly before you place them back inside the fridge.

6. Ensure your fridge is kept between 3-5°C at all times

Keeping your fridge temperature between 3-5°C at all times will ensure its contents are kept well clear of "the danger zone" (8°C-60°C). The danger zone is where bacteria are able to grow rapidly. Allowing your fridge to enter the danger zone range can drastically increase the risk of getting food poisoning.

7. Don't put dirty containers back in the fridge!

Noticed some sauce on the ketchup bottle? Did the jam jar feel a little sticky when you last popped it back? Use a clean cloth to thoroughly wipe the outside of any sticky or messy containers before returning them to the fridge. You'll save yourself a job in the long run.

8. Keep the fridge door for items that don't need to be as cold

Store temperature insensitive foods in the door – it's the warmest part of your fridge, so should be reserved for jams, pickles & other items that aren't likely to go off at slightly warmer temperatures. This means that the fridge door isn't the best place for your milk!

9. Take care not to overstock your fridge

As well as knowing how to store food in your fridge, it's just as important to know how much food to keep in your fridge. To stay cool, there needs to be room for air to circulate inside your fridge so make sure you're not overfilling it. Not to mention: an overstocked fridge is a prime culprit in double-buying goods, or allowing produce to get forgotten about at the back – well passed it's best before date.

10. Label leftovers

Where possible, you should label leftovers when you pop them away, including the date it was cooked, and when it needs to be used. That way you'll know at a glance what's what, and when it needs to go.

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