Between the entertaining, cooking, and leftovers, the holidays can take a toll on your refrigerator, leaving behind odor, stains, and spills. Wondering how to clean a refrigerator that smells? A mixture of baking soda and water safely cleans and deodorizes. Learn how to clean a refrigerator after the holidays with this step-by-step guide to freshen your fridge.

Post-Holiday Recovery: How to Clean a Refrigerator

how to clean a refrigerator

Why is knowing how to clean a refrigerator so important? Already the kitchen’s workhorse, your refrigerator works even harder over the holidays, weathering spills and odor and cooling additional amounts of food. Our refrigerator cleaning tips not only clean, but ensure that your hardworking fridge operates efficiently. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Microfiber cloths or soft sponges
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Toothbrush 
  • Rubbing alcohol

Step 1. Empty the Fridge

The first step in how to clean a refrigerator is to remove all stored items from shelves, bins, and drawers. While it’s recommended that you don’t overstuff your refrigerator, this can be difficult over the holidays. When removing multiple items, take the time to evaluate whether they should be kept or thrown away.

Use these organizing tips when emptying the refrigerator:

  • Make sure items are properly stored: Ensure that containers are properly sealed and wrappings are secure. Anything that isn’t sufficiently contained should be thrown away or repackaged.
  • Throw away spoiled or expired foods: Anything that’s over a week old should typically be thrown away. Foods that have visible mold or noticeable odor should be disposed of immediately.
  • Dispose of unused items: Even if an item isn’t spoiled or expired, if you haven’t used it in 6 months, it should be thrown away. This decreases clutter and maximizes space for foods that are used more frequently. 

Step 2. Remove Shelves, Bins, and Drawers

Most refrigerators have removable shelves, bins, and drawers that can easily be taken out. Remove as many as possible and lay them on your countertop to ready them for handwashing.

clean inside a refrigerator

Step 3. Wash Refrigerator Interior

Using commercial cleaners to clean inside a refrigerator can leave behind odors that transfer to food. Instead, a homemade natural refrigerator cleaner can effectively clean and remove odor.

Here’s how to clean the interior when your fridge smells bad:

  • Mix cleaning solution: Combine 1 part baking soda and 7 parts warm water.
  • Wipe down refrigerator: Dip a clean cloth or sponge in the solution and wipe down the interior from top to bottom. Use a toothbrush dipped in the solution to scrub hardware, corners, and crevices.
  • Address stubborn stains: You may need to add additional baking soda to lingering stains or soak them with another cloth dampened with the cleaning solution.

Step 4. Wash Shelves, Bins, and Drawers

While the refrigerator’s interior soaks in the cleaning solution, wash each shelf, bin, and drawer with warm water and dish soap. To ensure that pieces don’t crack when exposed to warm water, you may need to wait until they come to room temperature before cleaning. When they do, use a soft sponge or microfiber cloth to gently scrub each item. Rinse away all soapy residue and dry thoroughly with a clean cloth.

Step 5. Wipe Down Refrigerator Interior

Using a clean, dry cloth or sponge, wipe down the refrigerator’s interior from top to bottom, removing all of the cleaning solutions. If your refrigerator smells bad even after using the baking soda solution, sprinkle a few drops of vanilla extract on a paper towel. After all the cleaning residue is wiped away, wipe down the interior with the vanilla-scented towel so it imparts a fresh scent.

clean stainless steel refrigerator

Step 6. Replace Storage and Foods

Put storage shelves, bins, and drawers back in the refrigerator. Before replacing food items, wipe down bottles, jars, and containers to ensure that they’re free of drips and crumbs. How can you prevent odor from returning? Place an open box of baking soda on a shelf to absorb bad smells, replacing it every 3-6 month

Step 7. Clean the Refrigerator’s Exterior

Once the interior is clean, the next step in how to clean a refrigerator addresses the exterior. While you can use an all-purpose cleaner to wipe down most exterior materials, stainless steel refrigerators require different methods to remove fingerprints.

Here’s how to clean stainless steel refrigerator exteriors:

  • Wipe down the entire surface with a damp microfiber cloth, making sure to wipe with the stainless steel grain.
  • Dry thoroughly with a separate clean cloth.
  • For tough stains, add a few drops of rubbing alcohol to a cloth and gently scrub.

From post-holiday cleaning tips to how to change a refrigerator water filter, the team at D&T Appliance are your refrigerator maintenance experts. Call us for all your kitchen appliance repairs and concerns!