animation of elephant in a refrigerator

How to Clean Out Your Refrigerator

It’s’s bold…and it will not be ignored!  We use them several times throughout the day, but we can sometimes treat our refrigerators like the white elephant in the room, and hope that by ignoring it, somehow, the spills will just clean themselves.  Whether you only have a few minutes to spare or you have enough time to build your own refrigerator, How To Clean Out Your Refrigerator, we’ll take a look at a few simple solutions to keep your fridge looking and smelling fresh.  So open the back door for that elephant and read on!

Ignoring the Obvious  a refrigerator with door open in a dark room

So, before we continue, I think I need to take a quick minute to explain: to my knowledge, no elephant can fit into any kitchen.  For those who may not be familiar with the saying, “The white elephant in the room,”  it’s referring to how we can act as if we cannot see something that is really quite obvious.

It’s simply a metaphor to describe how we can – with certain situations – pretend as if we’re not aware of but we’re really just trying to avoid it (oh, the tricks our minds can play on us).  An elephant in any room would be hard to miss, but I white one!  Even more noticeable.  I can never seem to remember if the elephant is pink or white, but that is not the issue.  But really…how long do you really want to ignore cleaning your fridge?

The Elephant in Your Fridge

How often do we ignore the obvious in terms of cleaning up our fridge?  That little guy in the image looks pretty cramped and uncomfortable, similar to how the items in our refrigerators may feel.  I’m all for creating more space, but when you have multiple jars of pickles, relish and other condiments piled on top of each other, it just may be time to organize.

How do you feel when our refrigerator is not in order? Are you more prone to eat out because you don’t even have space for more groceries?  Have you been longing to buy fresh vegetables but the lack of space prevents you?  How uncomfortable do you feel when you have guests over and they go into the fridge to grab something, and everything just looks … messy.

Cleaning Your Fridge Is Not Surgery

I think one of the issues that may prevent us from rolling up our sleeves to get our fridge in order is the assumption that it will just take so long.  As a professional house cleaner, I cleaned many refrigerators, and I can say it’s definitely not my favorite things to clean.  But sometimes it was surprising to see how the task often looked as if it would take much longer than it actually did, and once the spoiled food was thrown out, the task was halfway complete!

Speaking of elephants…you’ve probably heard the joke: How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Yes, it may seem gross to think of eating an elephant.  But teh concept makes perfect sense; trying to eat a whole elephant – even a baby one – in one sitting would be overwhelming, but smaller pieces would make it much more doable.

Whether you’re able to finally set aside time to do that deep cleaning that’s often needed after teh holidays, getting a jump start on spring cleaning, or just need to get your fridge organized, you’ll find that taking smaller “bites” will make it all the easier.  But the bigger issue is usually what we perceive to be a lack of time, so let’s take a look at how we can clean our fridge without feeling as if we need to take a week off from work

If you have 15 minutes, you can: shelf in refrigerator with little food

  • Clean up any spills on the side doors and shelves.
  • Check the expiration dates and toss out any expired foods or beverages.
  • Wipe down the inside of the fridge.
  • Makes sure all foods are in the properly sized food containers.
  • Get rid of any food that may have freezer burns.
  • Wipe down any jars and containers
  • Use a disinfectant to wipe door handles.
  • Dust or clean off the top and sides of the fridge.

Quick Tips:

  • Don’t forget to keep a fresh box of baking soda in the fridge…yes, it still works.
  • Don’t you hate it when the light bulb burns out and no one seems to have the right size!  Have 4 bulbs available, so when you get down to one, you know it’s time to restock.


If you have 30 minutes, you can:

  • Fully clean out the drawers: remove all the contents then use soap and water to clean the drawers, air dry –
    air drying is my preference, perhaps because I can really be that lazy sometimes, but a cloth or paper towel should work just as well.
  • Clean out all the side doors – you should have already been able to discard all expired items, so now it’s just a matter of doing a thorough cleaning.
  • Sweep and mop behind the refrigerator…yes, this needs to be done.  If you haven’t done it in a while – or ever – be prepared to see some funky junk!  But once you do it, you may only have to do it once every few months, but that’s something you can decide.

Quick Tip:

  • No need to use harsh chemicals, a thin paste of baking soda and water will do just fine.  For a nice lemon scent, dip a clean rag with some lemon water (I also use this when I want the microwave to smell fresh).

If you have 30-60 minutes, you can… interior of a clean refrigerator

  • Defrost your freezer.
  • Clean out all your shelves: remove all items, remove shelves if you are able and do a thorough cleaning.

Quick Tip:

  • If you keep a calendar on your refrigerator, you selectant to select a day for cleaning out your fridge; an alternative would be a small magnetic bulletin or chalkboard.  That way, you’re giving yourself a specific date, just as you would your doctor or dentist.

That wasn’t so bad, was it! As the saying goes: Inch by inch it’s a cinch; yard by yard it’s too hard. 

I would love to hear from you, so feel free to leave me your comments below.

Let’s keep it clean!


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