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cleaning fridge and freezer

A Safer, Fresher Fridge & Freezer

Ideally, the interiors of refrigerators and freezers should be cleaned about every 3 months. Since most of us live in the real world, chances are your appliances are overdue for a thorough cleaning. Spring into action with these easy step-by-step directions!

  1. Consult the manufacturer's manual for general cleaning of your appliances before beginning. Since frozen foods stay colder longer, clean the freezer compartment first. (If you need to defrost the freezer before cleaning, follow manufacturer's instructions.)
  2. Turn the power controls off.
  3. Transfer foods to a covered insulated cooler.
  4. Using a solution of 1-2 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm (not, hot) water, wash the interior. Remove shelves, drawers and other removable parts for separate cleaning. Rinse and wipe dry. (NOTE: If odors and stains are especially stubborn, disinfect with a solution of 3/4 cup liquid chlorine bleach mixed with 1 gallon warm water.)
  5. If appliances are heavily soiled, it may be necessary to change the cleaning solution several times.
  6. To clean the refrigerator, repeat steps 2 through 5.
  7. Vacuum dust from the condenser and wash the drain pan. (Consult your manual for specific location and directions.)
  8. Return interior parts and food to the clean freezer and refrigerator.
  9. Turn the power back on.
  10. Wash the exterior surfaces with warm, soapy water or as manufacturer directs.

To Toss or Not to Toss

Here's a guide to help you maintain the quality of foods kept in your fridge & freezer.

  • Remember to check the thermometer periodically -- the inside of the refrigerator should be cold (40° F or lower) and the freezer should be 0°F or lower.
  • Once a week, throw out perishable foods or leftovers that have been in the fridge for more than 3-4 days.
  • Always check the package date for specific storage information about a food -- the time periods below are general storage guidelines.
Food In the Refrigerator In the Freezer
Milk 5-7 days  
Yogurt 7-10 days  
Cheeses 6 months, unopened
3-4 weeks, opened
6 months
Apples 1-3 weeks  
Lettuce 5-7 days  
Frozen Vegetables   8 months
Bacon 2 weeks, unopened
1 week, opened
 
Luncheon Meats 2 weeks, unopened
1 week, opened
1-2 months
Ground Beef 1-2 days 2-3 months
Chops/Roast 3-5 days 6-12 months
Fresh Poultry 1-2 days 6-12 months
Frozen Pizza   1-2 months, unopened
Dressings 3 months>  
Mayonnaise 2 months  
Catsup 1 month or longer  
Mustard 6-8 months  
Eggs in the shell 4-5 weeks  

Giving food the deep freeze keeps it safe to eat almost indefinitely. But if items have been in frozen animation for quite awhile, it might be time to give them the old heave-ho for quality's sake. Not sure how long is too long? Here are some additional tips:

  • Freezer burn dries out food but does not make it unsafe. Exposure to air causes the food's surface to form grayish-brown leathery spots. Minor areas can be cut away before or after cooking. Heavily freezer-burned foods should be discarded for quality reasons.
  • Other color changes in food can be due to abnormally long storage, freezer burn or lack of oxygen. The bright red color of meat usually turns dark or pale brown. This is acceptable unless there appears to be extensive freezer burn.
  • Frozen vegetables or cooked foods may turn a dull color due to excessive drying from improper packaging or lengthy storage. Again, discarding them is a matter of quality, not safety.
Cleaning the Refrigerator
cleaning fridge & freezer
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