7 Surprising Things You Should Refrigerate (and 4 You Shouldn’t!)

published Jul 8, 2021
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Credit: Liz Calka

To refrigerate or not to refrigerate — that is the question. The eternal dilemma of whether or not to store things like bread and butter in the fridge or leave them out on the counter has puzzled the world for decades. While perishable items like milk and yogurt should always have a spot in the fridge, there are other items that could be better left at room temp, or surprising things like skincare products that deserve a spot in your refrigerator. 

If your fridge is crowded and items are fighting for precious shelf space or your cupboards and counters are packed, these expert tips will help you store things smartly and keep your kitchen working in optimal order. 

Good to Refrigerate 

1. Bread

One of the most divisive items in the fridge vs. countertop debate is bread. Should it be kept in a bread box? Is it best frozen? What is the truth? “Keeping bread in the freezer is a good move,” says Claire Lower, Senior Food Editor at Lifehacker. “If you bake a little too much and are worried about it going bad, you can cut it into slices and then put the slices in the freezer in a Ziploc, then just grab a slice or two as needed and warm it up in a toaster or the oven.”

2. (Some) Skincare Products

Not all skincare products need to take up precious shelf space in your fridge, but if you’re trying to extend the life of an eye cream or want a cooling facial mist or sheet mask for steamy days, by all means, pop ‘em in and let them chill! “If you aren’t using a product on a regular basis and want it to last, you can always store it in the refrigerator,” says celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. “This may help to maintain its freshness for longer.” Rouleau recommends using products within 12 to 18 months; refrigerators can help a product stay fresher, longer, but they’re not a miracle worker! 

3. Aloe Vera

Did you bask in the summer sun too long and now your skin is feeling the pain? Keep a bottle of aloe gel stashed in the fridge to soothe sunburns. If you’re making it yourself directly from the plant, definitely try to keep it refrigerated whenever possible so it doesn’t spoil.

4. Pillowcases

When it’s sticky and steaming hot outside and you’re begging for just a little relief (even if you have AC!), pop your pillowcases in the fridge or freezer for an hour or two before bed to get that “cool side of the pillow” feeling as you drift off into sweet dreams.

5. Fresh Herbs

We have some great tips for keeping parsley, cilantro, and other fresh herbs at their best, and that does not include leaving them to wilt in a pile in the crisper drawer! Make sure they’re clean and dry, then trim the stems and place herbs in a glass filled with cool water in the fridge. Voila! Longer-lasting, delicious fresh herbs at your fingertips.

6. Whole Grain and Alternative Flours

If you’re baking with coconut flour, whole grain flour, or wheat germ, you’ll want to consider storing them in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container (not the bags they came in!). Susan Reid of King Arthur Flour told Kitchn that the high levels of oil in these flours and meals may oxidize quickly. The freezer is the best place for whole grain flour, but you can easily store your go-to alternative flours in the fridge. Regular flour is just fine stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry cupboard or pantry.

7. Baking Utensils

If you’re rolling out pastry dough in preparation for a summer pie or dessert, writer and creator of Unsnackable Folu Akinkuotu recommends storing tools like bowls, utensils, and even cutting boards in the fridge, especially on hot days. “Alongside measuring by weight instead of volume, controlling the temperature of your ingredients is the best way to ensure better final results when you are baking,” she says. “Often your utensils that are sitting in a warm kitchen raise the overall temperature of ingredients that you are trying to keep cool.” 

Don’t Refrigerate

1. Hot Sauce and Condiments

“Most condiments do just fine out of the fridge, especially if they are high-acid or high-salt,” says Lower. “There is absolutely no reason to keep hot sauce in the fridge, for example, and hot sauces taste better at room temperature.” Store your faves in the cupboard instead. (This does not apply to egg- or dairy-based condiments like mayonnaise — keep those stored in the fridge!)

2. Butter

Butter can be a hot topic re: refrigeration requirements, but Lower says it’s best kept on the counter in a dish or crock. “I always have at least one stick of butter on the counter at all times,” she says. “ It’s mostly fat, so unless you are leaving out for a very long time, it will be totally fine. If it takes you that long to make it through a stick of butter, you do not like butter all that much.”

3. Tomatoes

These juicy red wonders thrive in a bowl or on the counter, not in the fridge. “Putting tomatoes in the fridge is a Big Crime,” says Lower. “I don’t care what anyone says — they taste and feel worse at colder temperatures. I simply cannot abide a mealy tomato!” Keep tomatoes at room temperature and your sandwiches and scrambles will thank you.

4. Perfume

Some perfumistas recommend keeping fragrances in the refrigerator to protect them from light and preserve the scent, but Tynan Sinks and Sable Yong, co-hosts of the Smell Ya Later podcast, disagree. “I think the rule about fragrance is it’s always best at room temperature. Whether you’re dealing with a natural or synthetic scent, the contents of the fragrance can be affected by big fluctuations in temperature which can cause it to wear differently,” says Sinks. 

The real watchout for fragrance is sunlight. “Leaving [scents] out in direct sunlight for days could affect the scent,” says Yong. Store your faves in a cupboard or keep them away from windows to protect them from light and you’ll be able to enjoy their delicious aroma for longer. 

“If you’re like me and like to use your fragrance bottles as decor, just make sure you keep them out of the sun as UV rays can affect the wear of the scent more drastically,” says Sinks.