Mold in Your Refrigerator? Here’s What to Do.

updated Sep 22, 2020
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

There are few kitchen messes that are grosser than mold in the refrigerator. We’re not talking about a container of moldy cheese or sour cream. (Although, yes, those things are gross.) We’re talking about full-fledged mold that’s somehow managed to grow on the appliance shelves and walls. To put it simply: This is not ideal and you do not want mold in the refrigerator. Here’s what causes fridge mold, what you can do about it, whether or not it’s dangerous, and how to prevent it in the first place.

What causes fridge mold?

The most common source of refrigerator mold is rotting food. Usually, you can (sadly) throw that food away and be fine, but mold spreads through the air and through surface contact. So spores form a moldy piece of cheese could spread through air circulation or onto the shelf it’s sitting on. (Remember, refrigerators are dark most of the time and mold likes darkness!)

Mold can also appear if, say, your fridge has been unplugged for an extended period of time. (Maybe you lost power for days? Maybe you’ve inherited an already moldy fridge in a recent move?)

Or you could have a mechanical problem (this could be the case if you see no rotting food or the mold comes back even after you’ve given the inside of the fridge a good cleaning). If you think it might be a mechanical issue, an appliance professional can come in to check to make sure your fridge is working properly.

Is the mold dangerous?

Any type of mold in your fridge is a problem (whether it’s black mold or a different type), as it could cause allergic reactions for you or the people in your household. Reactions could include things like sinus congestion, coughing, asthma-like symptoms, irritated eyes, rashes, and more. And these reactions could be very problematic and dangerous for people with compromised immune systems, the elderly, pregnant women, and young children.

How do I get rid of fridge mold?

Distilled white vinegar is a powerful mold-and-mildew killer and it’s our favorite option for fridge cleaning. Take out all the shelves and drawers that are removable (for easier access) and spray them down with vinegar (do no dilute the vinegar). Let the pieces sit for a few minutes while you spray the inside of the fridge. Get every nook and cranny, as you want to be extra thorough. Scrub the surfaces with a rag, wipe again with a clean damp cloth, and then dry all the surfaces. Repeat as needed and be sure to throw away any paper towels and wash all rags that come into contact with the mold (use hot water and detergent!). Also, be sure to check the rubber seal around the door. If there’s mold, you can remove it with 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach mixed with 1 quart of water. If you want, you can add a box of baking soda or lemon wedges for extra deodorizing measures.

How do I prevent fridge mold?

Preventing fridge mold from popping up is definitely better than having to clean it. You can prevent it by eating your food before it goes bad. And discarding food right away when it does start to rot. Also: Be sure to cover food in the fridge (either with foil, plastic wrap, or by storing it in a food-safe container). And clean your fridge on a regular basis.

Note: If you are dealing with a severe mold issue or it keeps returning, please consult an expert. Mold can grow into the air vents and coils of the refrigerator and may not be safe for use with a surface cleaning only.