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You’re Cleaning Your Fridge Wrong. Here’s the Right Way to Do It

You may want to rethink using your kitchen sponge.

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I recently got into a discussion with my mom after I noticed she picked up my sink sponge and started to wipe up the pomegranate juice that my daughter had knocked over in the refrigerator. My type-A, germophobic self had a heart-attack watching her do so.

If you can relate to this, then hello to my fellow germaphobes – I’m glad to be in such good company! If you’re sitting there wondering why this would equate to a steep rise in cortisol in anyone, then listen up; you’re going to want to take some notes. 

A 2017 study published in Scientific Reports found that kitchen sponges harbored 362 different species of bacteria, with researchers sharing that the saturation of bacteria reached unfathomable levels in just a square centimeter. If your brain is spinning trying to calculate just how much this is, stop stressing. Believe me when I say it’s a LOT.

As much as I love to share science, I knew my mom didn’t need more statistics thrown at her. She needed facts. She needed a “how to” when it came to cleaning the fridge (and truthfully, I needed it, too!). 

Thankfully, that’s when Kait Schulhof, owner of A Clean Bee, popped up in my feed, and I knew I had to ask her. Schulhof is a female entrepreneur in the clean-living space with her wisdom shared widely across the internet and her popular TikTok account that’s attracted over 100,000 followers and counting. 

Schulhof shared her best advice below – and you’re going to want to hear what she has to say. In fact, save, share and tell a friend, because let’s be real, we could all use a clean bee in our corner!

How often should we clean the fridge?

It’s a good idea to quickly wipe down the shelves in your fridge once a week. I like to do this right before grocery shopping when I’m meal planning for the following week. The 5- to 10-minute process gives me a chance to take stock of inventory I need to use up, toss or replenish. 

What’s the best way to clean the refrigerator weekly?

For a quick weekly wipe down, the process is simple. You’re going to start with the top shelf and work your way down. Start by removing your refrigerator items, then spray the shelf with a gentle cleaning solution of one part distilled white vinegar and one part filtered water. Give the shelf a quick wipe with a damp microfiber cloth. If you notice a lot of crumbs, sometimes it can be helpful to suck those out with the hose attachment of your vacuum first. 

How about monthly?

For a deep clean (once a month), I like to pull everything out. Shelves, storage baskets, drawers… everything. I scrub each component in my sink with soap and hot water. The soap I like to use when cleaning is a diluted mix of Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds and water (½ cup Sal Suds per 1 quart water). The Sal Suds formula is extremely concentrated, which is great because a single bottle will last a long time and minimize unnecessary packaging waste!  

I’ll also wipe the walls and base of my fridge while it’s completely empty and the shelf components are drying. Once everything is clean and dry, I’ll place all the parts back into the fridge.

Other fridge-cleaning tips from Schulhof

If you’re cleaning a particularly grimy fridge (think mold, mildew or any other scary and smelly material growing inside), you will want something stronger than vinegar and dish soap to tackle the job. Start with a bowl or tub of soapy hot water, a scrub brush and a sponge to scrub away all of the grime. Once wiped clean, sanitize the surface with a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended diluted bleach mixture: 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water. Give the fridge enough time to air dry before restocking it with any food.

Note: This method also becomes extremely important if you recognize food inside of your refrigerator is involved in a recall. Similar to Schulhof’s recommendations, the CDC also recommends you perform the deep clean with the bleach and water solution to prevent any bacteria from spreading. 

To get more clean living tips from Schulhof, follow her on TikTok, Instagram, or her podcast.