Did you know that November 15th is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day? The timing makes sense, considering upcoming holidays like Thanksgiving and National Eat Leftover Gravy and Mashed Potatoes Until You’re Too Full to Move Week. Make room for massive amounts of pie with this guide to cleaning out your fridge:
Step 1: Dispose
Start by taking everything out of the fridge and collecting it on a free counter. If you plan to make this a leisurely activity, keep perishables fresh by transferring them into a cold cooler.
Next, say your long-overdue goodbyes to the stuff that’s expired. Packaged foods will have an expiration date, but if you have homemade meals or deli products in there, follow this guide:
Pasta, egg, or protein—chicken, tuna, etc.—salads: 3-5 days
Lunch meat, opened or deli: 3-5 days
Lunch meat, unopened: 2 weeks
Ground meat: 1-2 days
Fresh steaks, chops, and roasts: 3-5 days
Fresh poultry: 1-2 days
Soups and stews: 3-4 days
Leftover cooked meat/poultry: 3-4 days
Step 2: Consolidate
Two half-empty bottles of the same hot sauce? Combine them to save space—just make sure one isn’t expired or isn’t set to expire any day now so that you don’t have to toss both portions.
Step 3: Dismantle
Take out shelves and drawers so you can give the inside of the fridge a really deep clean. Make sure you bring glass shelves and drawers out before washing to prevent cracking.
Step 4: Inside job
What can’t white vinegar do? I’m not sure, but what it can do is get your fridge ridiculously clean—it’ll even prevent mildew growth! Distill with equal parts water to vinegar and use it to clean the inside of the fridge from top to bottom … literally. Starting at the top will make it easier to clean up soap drips as you work your way down. An old toothbrush will reach any corners and crevices that the towel or sponge can’t. Finally, dry the interior, drawers, and shelves with a dry cloth or paper towel.
Step 5: Bath time!
Drawers and shelves are next! Once you’ve made sure they’re at room temperature if you’re working with glass, dissolve two tablespoons of baking soda into a quart of hot water.
Depending on the size of your kitchen sink, you can wash shelves and drawers with the solution in there—or, if like me, you live in a tiny NYC apartment where everything in miniature, you can hose them down in a shower or bathtub. Dry thoroughly and place back in the fridge.
Step 6: Put it back
Replace the food, making sure to use a clean cloth to wipe down any containers that may need it—looking at you, jam jars and gunky bottles of salad dressing.
Step 7: Get the door
As long as you’ve scrubbed down the inside of the fridge, don’t forget to get the outside too. Paper towels and a multi-surface cleaner will work for most exteriors, but if you’re working with stainless steel, use a microfiber cloth and a stainless steel cleaner or distilled white vinegar, and wipe in the direction of the grain.
Step 8: Keep it clean
Clean out any expired food once a week, and stick a container of baking soda and a cotton ball soaked in vanilla extract in there so that your fridge smells like unicorns and rainbows 24/7.