5 Clever Ways to Deal with Messy Spills in Your Fridge, According to Grocery Store Workers

published Jan 7, 2022
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Hot sauce spilled in fridge
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Something sticky or gooey or runny (or all of the above!) has leaked or spilled in the fridge. It’s a gross mess on its own, and it’s also cold and maybe even slightly hardened. We’re all familiar with this. But do we all know how to handle the mess? We asked grocery store workers for their smart tips, figuring they know firsthand just how inconvenient and time-consuming cleaning a messy refrigerator spill can be.

Here’s what they had to say about avoiding spills in the first place and what to use to safely clean them up.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

1. Use plastic wrap as a barrier.

When it comes to particularly messy or liquid foods, Alexa Robles-Marrero, deli associate at Ralphs, uses a simple-yet-smart trick: plastic wrap. Robles-Marrero notes that working the deli counter can get quite sloppy, so avoiding messes is essential in maintaining a pristine deli fridge. 

“Foods like pasta salads and soups that have higher oil or liquid are bound to make a mess, so add some plastic wrap under or around the serving platter to make the cleanup much easier,” advises Robles-Marrero. You can even try lining your fridge shelves so that, in the event of a spill, you just have to lift up the plastic wrap and swap it out for fresh stuff.

2. Clean up with castile soap.

If you’re seeking eco-friendly cleaning products, castile soap is a great option for cleaning up messy fridge spills, says Diego Romero, a Sprouts Farmers Market spokesperson.

“At Sprouts, we like to do things the natural way. We’re always looking for ways to avoid harsh chemicals,” says Romero. “We love to use castile soap to clean because it is very versatile — and a little goes a long way!” Another bonus to using castile soap is its ability to act as a produce wash, making it easy to wash off any spills from your fruits and veggies. 

3. Try some dish soap.

Sometimes getting back to basics can be the best and most effective way to clean. Dylan Ortiz, grocery clerk at Vons, simply uses warm water, dish soap, and a clean sponge or microfiber cloth to properly wipe down fridge shelves and ledges. 

“Grocery store fridges are used by even more people than one at home, so cleaning it regularly is super important — especially with COVID around,” says Ortiz. “Disinfectant wipes are good for handles, but soapy water is good for everything else.”

Credit: Cat Meschia

4. Spray the shelves with white vinegar.

Molly Siegler, senior program manager for culinary development at Whole Foods Market, points out that her fellow grocery store workers need a quality cleaner to maintain clean and tidy refrigerators, so she says they use 365 by Whole Foods Market All Purpose Spray. To go the DIY route, Siegler provides a simple recipe to wipe up messy fridge spills.

“Using a 16-ounce spray bottle, add two parts water and one part vinegar,” says Siegler. “Add 20 to 30 drops of eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils, or 40 to 45 drops of lemongrass essential oil. Spray it onto a reusable kitchen towel and wipe down drawers and shelves carefully, but with a purpose.”

Credit: Sarah Crowley

5. Keep a plant-based glass cleaner on hand.

Using sprays with harsh chemicals near food, especially a refrigerator, is not usually advised. That’s why plant-based sprays got some nods for the fridge’s glass doors and shelves. These versatile cleaners get the job done without leaving behind harmful residues and fumes.

“No customer wants to open a grocery store fridge and get a whiff of a cleaning chemical when reaching for food,” advises Marcos Guerrero, stocker at Grocery Outlet. “Free & Clear is effective without being overwhelming.”

Do you have a good strategy for tackling fridge spills? Tell us in the comments below.