The Kitchn’s Spring Refresh Day 3: Banish Bad Vibes from the Fridge and Freezer

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Sarah Coffey)

Is there anything more connected to the way we feel about ourselves (deep down) than our refrigerator? Movies use this correlation all the time — just think of Oscar’s moldy-sandwich fridge in The Odd Couple, Sigourney Weaver’s portal-to-another-dimension fridge in Ghostbusters, or basically every movie ever where a bachelor opens his refrigerator and finds sour milk, so we know he’s unhappy.

When we clean out our refrigerators, we’re not just letting go of expired food. We’re (hopefully) letting go of guilt or inertia or whatever’s holding us back from making a change.

There’s no sugar-coating it — this day is a tough one, but let’s just roll up our sleeves and get through it. By the end of the week, you’ll have a space you love a little (or a lot!) more and new energy to make a fresh start.

1. Grab the trash can, compost bin, and recycling & start sorting.

It’s so much easier to sort your stuff when the bins are all there next to the refrigerator. Work from the bottom up, tackling the crisper drawers first, then the shelves, and finally the door where those old crusty condiments are still hanging out. We all have the occasional zombie Sriracha bottle that’s lived beyond its shelf life and “turned.” Let it go.

2. Take everything out and wipe down your fridge.

Fill a bucket with warm water and dish soap. For every quart of water, add 1/8 cup of soap. If you’re an essential oil person, you can add five to 10 drops of lemon or orange oil (optional).

Take everything out of the refrigerator, making sure as you do so that there’s nothing else you want to get rid of. Wipe down the inside of your fridge with a sponge or rag and use a scrub-brush to tackle any glued-on spills. Replace everything that’s fresh and still usable.

3. Sort your freezer.

Remove everything from your freezer and toss expired or freezer-burned foods. Put the stuff you’re keeping in a cooler, or line the sink with ice so it can sit there for a bit.

4. Defrost your freezer.

Some of you may luck out and be able to do this job in 15 minutes, and some may have the kind of freezer that takes hours to defrost. For those in the second camp, keep in mind that today’s task is most importantly about cleaning your refrigerator and sorting through your frozen stuff. You can leave the defrosting for a later date if you have to.

For those with more manageable iceboxes covered in a quarter-inch of ice or less, unplug the freezer, leave it open, and put some towels inside to soak up the water. (This post has some other helpful tips, including putting a pan of boiled water in the freezer to help speed up the thawing.)

5. Clean your freezer.

You can use the same solution of hot water, soap, and (optional) essential oil to wipe down the inside of your freezer. Or, if it really needs some serious whitening, use a quart of hot water with two tablespoons of baking soda, or a quart of hot water with 2 cups of white vinegar.

Congrats! You did it. The spooky Ghostbusters portals that were (possibly) hanging out in your fridge are gone. I hope you feel awesome, because you are!