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How to Keep Your Refrigerator Clean, Cool and Defrosted

The single most important appliance in your kitchen is the refrigerator and keeping it clean, cool and defrosted is very important. It’s rare to find a fridge that needs manual defrosting these days. Still, the drip vent at the back may collect gunge and cause ice to form. If you can’t readily see the drip vent, look just above the main shelf, or move shelf racks.

As you clean out the fridge, the raised temperature of having the door open should make any ice lumps melt. If not, encourage them free with a spoon. Don’t use anything sharp.

Wearing cotton garden gloves (machine wash them first) can stop you suffering from the cold as you clean out the fridge. Fridge cleaning isn’t a long job – 15 minutes max. So there’s no need to worry about leaving milk and other perishables exposed to the warmer air. You leave them out longer during a meal.

Empty just one shelf at a time. This saves the need to free up an ocean of space on the worktop for food. Simply get out a large tray, then stand one shelf’s worth of food on it, and you’re ready to clean.

Starting from the top shelf, take out food and clean shelving with a damp cloth. If the shelves are stained, take them out and wash them at the sink with washing-up liquid. Be scrupulous about using clean cloths and water!

Gunge can collect in vegetable and meat drawers if you’ve been less than quick to throw out an ageing lettuce or to mop up leaked juices. When ordinary soapy water doesn’t do the trick, try using a little olive oil on colour stains. For stuck-on foods: scrape up using a plastic spatula.

A tablespoonful of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in an old coffee-jar lid left on a shelf absorbs odours for up to a fortnight (two weeks).

The exterior can get grubby fast, so wipe it each week with a damp cloth, then dry thoroughly. Use a light oil, such as WD-40, to get off stubborn marks. Wash well afterwards, to remove any odour. You can get back that showroom shine by using a light, liquid wax polish every few months. Be aware, however, that making it shine also makes it show up surface dents.

Annually, pull out free-standing fridges and use the crevice attachment to vacuum the coils at the back.

Defrost the freezer the day before you need to do a big shop, and do it when the freezer is at a low ebb. Aim to fit all the frozen food you have into one cool-box (cooler). Accept that you might lose the odd ice cream to melting.

To clean a freezer, follow these steps:

  1. Switch off the freezer.

  2. Pack the cool-box with food.

  3. Leave the door ajar and wait for ice to melt and catch any run-off.

    • For upright freezers, stand a towel on the floor and place a deep tray on the bottom shelf to catch drips – an oven-roaster tray is ideal.

    • For a chest-type freezer, look for the drainage chamber, open the valve, and place a washbowl underneath.

    • Putting saucepans of hot water on the shelves speeds up melting.

  4. Use a very mild, odourless cleaner to wipe down the insides.

    You can buy a cleaner recommended for fridges or use warm water mixed with bicarbonate of soda – 1 pint of water to 1 dessertspoon (teaspoon) of bicarb.

  5. Dry thoroughly with a clean lint-free cloth.

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