Spring has sprung and that means it’s time to clean house. There is something I find really satisfying about giving everything a good once over but I am always a little shocked by how dirty my house and particularly my kitchen are. This year I decided to tackle my kitchen spring cleaning in two parts – first the fridge, then the pantry and kitchen drawers. I will post next week on doing a through scrub of the rest of your kitchen but it’s wise to do the fridge separately as it’s somewhat labor intensive. I will warn you – this isn’t the prettiest post! I think of myself a clean and tidy person but man was there some gross stuff in the fridge. So this is me being open and vulnerable as a public service announcement that you just never know what you will find once you start cleaning.
I usually wipe down the shelves every couple of weeks and of course clean up spills etc as they happen but at least once a year (I try for twice) I do a wholesale cleaning. Make sure to set aside at least 45 minutes for this task. You will need a small bucket or container (I used a large tupperware), a sponge preferably one with a scrubby side, baking soda, and paper towels. You will also need a large cooler with ice packs to store the more temperature sensitive items like meat and milk.
#1 – Fill up that cooler with everything you can’t leave out for an hour. Some will tell you to unplug your fridge but mine is wedged into a weird corner of our pantry – I am not even sure I could unplug it if I wanted to. I think as long as you work fast keeping it running is just fine. Also fill up the tub with cool water and about a tablespoon of baking powder. It’s not an exact science – you don’t want to use too much water as you will likely have to change it out a couple of times. Also use cool/cold water as opposed to hot. If you have glass shelves in your fridge like I do hot water plus cold fridge can equal a cracked surface.
#2 – Clean out the drawers in your fridge. I have 2 produce drawers and one I use for cheese (a cheese only drawer = heaven). Pull everything out and check for freshness. With produce if something is starting to go can you use it in short order? Or is it something that can be frozen? If so leave it to the side and deal with it later, if not chuck it. Cheese is a pretty simple binary choice of keep or toss – just make sure to really assess everything that comes out and whether or not it should go back in. Pull out the drawers (if you can, at least one of mine can’t come out) and bring them over to the sink. Rinse thoroughly, using your baking soda and water mixture to get out anything stubborn. Leave to dry. Any drawers that can’t come out use the sponge to clean and then dry with a paper towel.
#3 – Clean out the shelves. Pull everything out of your shelves and give them a once over just like your produce. Is the orange juice still good? Do you need four half full bottles of water? Toss anything you don’t need. Again use your sponge and water/baking soda mixture to tackle the shelves. If anything is particularly stuck on (hello maple syrup spill) shake on a little baking soda directly on the spot and use the scrubby side of the sponge. Don’t use any kind of kitchen cleaning spray as the smell can get in your food and many are not safe to touch edible items. At this point my water mixture was looking really gross so I changed it out with fresh water and baking soda. Dry the shelves with paper towels.
#4 – The last frontier – the door. The door is where most food goes to perish, at least in my fridge. Mostly condiments and mostly underused, the door items really need a close inspection as you take them out. Check all expiration dates. I have no idea how but there was a bottle of ketchup in my fridge with an expiration date in 2014 but yet I clean it twice a year! Also lots of the door inhabitants are sticky like jam or BBQ sauce. When you pull the bottles and jars out give them a once over and see if you need to wipe off the bottom with a damp paper towel. No sense in cleaning the door if you are just going to put back in dirty items. Once everything is out give them the same treatment as the shelves, making sure to get the corners of any shallow shelves.
#5 – Restock and organize. This is one of the benefits of cleaning the whole fridge at once – you can really take stock of what you have and put it back in a more systematic way. Once the whole fridge was empty I was able to group like things together. Beers in one section, yogurt, sour cream and buttermilk in another. This is especially helpful in the door section where items can sort of get lost. I created an Asian shelf with my garlic chili sauce, pickled ginger and curry paste all together. Of course in our fridge we need a mega shelf to handle hot sauce so I used a smaller one to house our jams and jellies. I am sure in no time my fridge won’t look as styled but at least it will still be clean. Check back next week when I go through the pantry and the oh so scary utensil drawer.