Thursday, April 26, 2012

How To Clean and Organize Your Refrigerator!

Yesterday was “attack something that needs attention in my home Wednesday”!

Not really. I can’t possibly limit myself to a certain day of the week for house attacks. I must have the flexibility to attack when inspiration strikes…or it most likely won’t get done. That’s just how I work. And I certainly couldn’t keep this up EVERY week! I’d perish for certain! :-)

However…even though today’s project was definitely ambitious…it turned out to be much easier and took less time than I even anticipated! The “cleaning” part took about 1 1/2 hours…start to finish. The “organizing” part took me awhile because my OCD self kept arranging and rearranging the whole set up. But I was super happy with the end result…so that’s ok. :-)

Phase One: The Cleaning!

 

This was the first time I’ve ever tried this “method” of cleaning my refrigerator and it was by FAR the easiest and fastest way I’ve ever done it! I got a few inspiring ideas from Leslie at Goodbye House, Hello Home for both the cleaning and organizing part of this post.

I guess we need to start with some “before” pictures.

         
It’s kind of funny…when I first took these pictures I thought…hmmmm…it’s really not that bad. Maybe I should wait awhile to do this project. HA! Then I completely emptied the thing and thought…Yuck!  It’s amazing what some strategically placed food and beverages can hide. :-) But take them all away and the ugly truth is GLARINGLY white! I had forgotten how WHITE my white refrigerator was!

       
So like I said, the cleaning part of this went fairly quickly. I emptied the entire contents of the refrigerator onto the kitchen table and counter in about 5 to 10 minutes. Cinchy. (I originally was going to “attack” the freezer at the same time…but when I got going realized the folly of my plan and saved that for another “house attack” day).

Next I took out every moveable part (ie. shelves and drawers, etc) and dumped them in the hall bathroom bathtub. (That bathtub is sure getting a workout lately.) I filled the tub with HOT water and some Dawn dishwashing liquid, dumped a cup of ammonia in there for good measure, and left it all there to soak.

Back at the “scene of the crime” I grabbed my “kitchen buddy”…my bottle of 1/2 ammonia, 1/2 water that I keep under the sink at all times, and started spraying. Now I know there are going to be ughs and boo’s to the use of ammonia…but it’s my choice of cleaning agent. I don’t tell you what to clean with do I? Oh wait….I guess maybe I do. hmmm. But anyway, it works GREAT!   But I’m sure vinegar would work great as well!   It’s a free country…YOU choose! :-)

I sprayed EVERYTHING liberally, let sit for just a few minutes, then wiped the whole inside of the fridge out with a wet cloth. It literally took just a few minutes. If you have ever tried cleaning your refrigerator by wiping down all the shelves and drawers while they were still IN it…trust me on this….that is WAY harder!

After this quick spray and wipe I went and checked on the stuff soaking in the tub and after just that short period of time, everything washed up wonderfully with just a washcloth. I didn’t have to expend one drop of elbow grease. :-)

As I took each piece out of the tub, I poured a large container of clean, hot water over it, just to get any suds off, then I took all the pieces and laid them out on several large bath towels that I had put down in the living room. Since it was a nice day I opened the windows and the front door and turned on the ceiling fan and within 15 minutes…everything was completely dry. Of course, living in a semi-arid state helped a lot too. :-)   If you are in a humid area…give it a bit longer. No matter how long it takes…it sure beats drying everything by hand!

         
And THAT my friends, was all there was to Phase 1 of “cleaning and organizing” the refrigerator.   I still had to put the shelves, etc back in, but technically I considered that part of Phase 2 since I had decided to do some rearranging of the way they went back in anyway.

Phase 2: The Organizing!

 

The main changes I made when returning the shelves and drawers to the fridge were lowering one of the top shelves to accommodate tall bottles. The way it was before, anything “tall” had to go inside the door or be laid flat on a shelf. I like this set up MUCH better.  The rest of the stuff went back in pretty much the same as before.

Looks pretty nice huh?

Now to the “serious” part of the organizing. I have been eyeing these bins at Walmart for a long time now. I knew I could use them for SOMETHING, but couldn’t put my finger on it until I saw this post from from Leslie at Goodbye House, Hello Home.   That was it!    The missing piece of the refrigerator organizing puzzle that seems to have plagued me my entire life. BINS! BINS, BINS, BINS, BINS, BINS! I bought 3 large ones and 3 smaller ones for less than $15.00.

I wouldn’t presume to tell you WHAT to put in WHICH bin in YOUR refrigerator…but here are a few “guidelines” that I followed. Since we eat a good deal of cheese in this family (call it compensation for a lack of gluten in our diet)…I ended up devoting two of the bins to just that. One thing that has always puzzled me about cheese is how to store the blocks that get opened. I hate using so many ziploc bags, but didn’t really know what the alternative was. Well, according to the good people at Food52.com the “proper” way to store blocks of cheese is wrapped up in some sort of paper…like parchment. Since I was out of parchment paper (which was kind of odd) I improvised with brown paper lunch sacks, which I have a huge inventory of. A quick wrap (no securing with tape, etc needed) and a stroke of the Sharpie, and the cheese dilemma was solved.

             
I also switched things up a bit with the drawers, because keeping the vegetables in the lower drawers wasn’t really working for me. Most of the time I would end up forgetting about it until it was too late to salvage and ended up tossing it. Now I have yogurt, sour cream and leftovers in the drawers, and the veggies up higher in an easily accessible and recognizable position. Maybe we will eat more veggies now. It could happen!

     
Eggs got moved up a few levels, as did the breakfast and lunch meat. (Dinner meats usually come from the freezer.)  Oh, and I almost forgot…I also had to create a designated spot for my new favorite way of storing one of my favorite things….cilantro!   So I created a spot of honor for my lovelies that was just the right height. If you LOVE cilantro as much as I do…you will TOTALLY get this….if not…well, I can’t help you. ;-)


And THAT is “How To Clean and Organize Your Refrigerator” according to Jillee. :-)   Whew…I thought I was tired after DOING it!   Writing about it was EXHAUSTING!  I realize it was rather lengthy…but if you stuck with me to this point…I commend you. Just let me know if you need any help with your refrigerator…I’ll be right over! :-)





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95 thoughts on “How To Clean and Organize Your Refrigerator!

  1. sharon

    Hey Jill juzt a. FYI…the door of the fridge is the least safe place to keep milk. It is the warmest part of tbd fridge. One of my many neurosis.

    Reply
    1. Paul

      Haha – In our house we are lucky to get the milk back in the fridge at all. We keep our milk in the door shelf built to fit a gallon jug. The milk always tastes icy cold. I think your concerns are valid if you have an old unit, but as long as that area of the fridge is at most 37 degrees, you are good.

      Reply
    2. Lynne Gill

      People kept milk on a cold slab in their larders for decades before fridges. I don’t think the short length of time a pint of milk sits in the door would be long enough to develop harmful bacteria. Do you know anyone who has been made ill through milk-in-the-fridge-door syndrome?I feel this is rather over the top .

      Reply
      1. Kat

        Thank-you for being someone with common sense! ;) I totally agree with you! My family ALWAYS kept the milk in door when I was growing up…There are 5 of us and we are all totally fine! :) Not only that but most fridges have a space specifically designed for a gallon of milk in the door….So really, how wrong can it be? LOL.

        Reply
  2. Sandi K.

    Oh, would you please come right over and do this for me?! Your fridge looks great! Have never thought of taking everything out and washing it all at once. Thanks for the post! You are always such a great inspiration to get those things done that I never think about doing.

    Reply
  3. Sade

    Oh my word! I have been putting off cleaning my fridge (’til now). I didn’t think I needed a tutorial on how to clean a refrigerator, but apparently I did. I would never have thought to put all in the tub w/ammonia. And it would never have occured to me NOT to dry the shelves/bins, etc. Thank-you in advance for making this job so much easier! Am almost looking forward to this very needed task.

    Reply
  4. Joan J

    I am psychotic about keeping my refrigerator clean and organized… but my big problem is getting OTHER people (ahemmm… glaring at husband as I type this) to put things BACK in the appropriate spot. One time I even labeled each shelf for appropriate contents — only to have the labels ignored. But I absolutely love love love the basket idea. Perhaps this will work!

    Reply
  5. the red curl

    jillee: awhile back you showed us how to make enzyme cleaner, and i love the ever livin’ out of mine! it has replaced SO many of my old cleaners (though, like you, some things still require the ammonia spray!) and does so many jobs! what a multitasker!
    i never see/hear you use yours though. does it not work/lose potency? is there a film later? after all the time i spend waiting on batches of the stuff, i use it as much as possible, but if there is some reason i should go back to my arsenal of cleaners instead of the one, i hope you let us know! :-)

    ps? my hub is sick of hearing “well according to jillee…”, “jillee says…”, and this classic: me-”i found it on…” hub-”jillee?” me-”yes!” hub-”of course you did!” doris downer can go suck eggs. you’re stayin’.
    love ya dahlin’! you keep my house clean, homemade, and tasty! thanks!

    Reply
  6. Krysten

    ya. maybe if i am ambitious …. i will take pictures before and after of my fridge :) it is a lot worse than yours, thus making the transformation that much more exciting! it is definitely in need of a good cleaning for sure! i really am in a rut feeling like i never get anything accomplished, maybe if i start taking pictures i will have proof of what i accomplish haha! thank you for the inspiration :)

    Reply
  7. Megan

    Your fridge looks fantastic! I love all of your tips!
    On a completely different topic, I eat Greek gods yogurt too. Have you tried the vanilla honey flavor? It’s
    Ah-mazing!! ;)

    Reply
  8. Trudy

    HATE cleaning the fridge mainly because I like removing all the shelves and bins. Washing them up in the sink is such a chore! Why didn’t I think of the bathtub? Thank you, Jillee! Love cheese. Have lunch bags and markers. Adore!!!!! cilantro! My main wish for my birthday dinner in December was that the meat for the carne asada be marinated with plenty of the stuff, the homemade pico de gallo (knew my son would make it!) would have plenty of it and that there would be an abundance of fresh cilantro at the table. Mmmmm…(wiping away drool.) And the bins are ideal, too! All in all one of the best cleaning and organizing posts I’ve personally ever seen. Now, need to go plant those cilantro seeds…LOL! Thanks, Jillee!

    Reply
  9. Angel Bell

    My fridge is one of my toughest chores. I hate it. My tub is upstairs, so that is not options, but I will start using my utility sink….DON”T KNOW WHY I DIDN”T THINK OF THAT BEFORE!! I also read on pinterest, I think, that you could use that sticky plastic wrap to line your shelves in the fridge to keep them from getting so yucky and when they get dirty you just peal it off and stick on more. It’s worth a try. Can’t wait to organize my fridge now.
    ps…Where did you get those great bins with the handle?

    Reply
  10. valerie

    I have read that milk should go in the fridge and not the door too, but with two teenage boys in the house, milke never lasts long enough to spoil in the door of the fridge. Just my two cents! :) Love your blog Jill!

    Reply
  11. Christine

    Hi Jillee,
    Your fridge looks fabulous! I’ve always read about storing cilantro and basil in a vase with water, I must try b/c it does spoil fast, I end up buying a bunch every week! I have a similiar double door fridge, which is packed to the max, and I have a couple q’s….

    How long are those bins? Is there room behind them?
    I have a ton of condiments/jars that take up 1 1/2 shelves. They are short, tall, fat, skinny and I’m wondering if the bins will work for them since they don’t all fit in the doors?

    Thanks, love your blog….
    Christine

    Reply
    1. Donna Holmen

      Wow. Cool idea, but I would use the solid color Press and Seal as this is a way busy print! I could see using this on the main shelf. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  12. NaDell

    I was cleaning out my fridge just before Thanksgiving last year (I’ve done it since then too, don’t worry!) and took out the glass shelf that didn’t have the metal edge and put it straight into the sink of warm water and it completely SHATTERED!

    Just a little warning that if you have just GLASS shelves, let them ADJUST TO ROOM TEMPERATURE before shocking them with warm water. It was a mess and then I didn’t have my biggest shelf for Thanksgiving (that I was hosting…)

    Your fridge looks excellent!

    Reply
    1. Hope Long

      The very same thing happened to me a couple of months ago. I didn’t think I’d done anything different than the other times I’d cleaned the fridge – not sure what the difference was this time. Have you been able to get a replacement shelf?

      Reply
      1. NaDell

        I think the difference was that it was really warm water I put it in and the glass was really cold. That happens sometimes occasionally with Pyrex 9×13 glass pans, if you don’t let it cool before putting it in lukewarm water (happened in my HS Foods class anyway, but it wasn’t me putting it in lukewarm water.)

        I didn’t get a new shelf to cover yet. I figured I’d just get a sheet of plexiglass, but my husband wants to get real glass (I don’t know why) so in the meantime, I found an old half shelf to use and I moved the other two half shelves down to be right above the drawers (my glass went across the two bottom drawers) and although there is a space above the drawers before the next shelf starts, it works for now.
        I guess I should look into getting a replacement shelf soon… My next door neighbor fixes appliances, so I’ll ask him. =)

        Reply
      2. NaDell

        I talked with my neighbor (who repairs appliances) this afternoon and he called to see how much a replacement glass would cost and it’s just $20. He’s ordering it Monday and it should get here Tuesday. $20 is super cheap for a huge piece of glass that goes across the whole fridge. I don’t think plexiglass is even that cheap (maybe not even plywood!) I’m so glad it will be fixed. =)

        Reply
        1. Hope Long

          Wow. I am excited to think that maybe I, too, can get another shelf for that price. Will definitely be calling the repair people soon. You have to think that if it’s happened to us, it’s happened to other people, too, so maybe they keep a good number of these shelves in stock. Here’s hoping! Thank you for the info.

          Reply
  13. Leah

    Oh man you are my guru!!! The gogurt idea is perfect!! Thank you so much for your inspirational ideas!! P.s my husband loves you too because you keep me going! My house has never looked better!!<3

    Reply
  14. M

    For what it’s worth, there is no need to keep eggs in a fridge. The shells are permeable and can taint if there is anything ‘smelly’ on the fridge with them. An advantage of keeping them at room temperature is that they will give you far more volume when you cook/bake with them.

    Reply
  15. Carrie Funk

    Cleaning the fridge like this is the ONLY way to go!!! I’ve done it this way for a couple of years now and you can also check expiration dates of stuff!

    I don’t know if I can get the kids and hubby to keep up with the baskets, but it sure looks nice!

    I’ve been doing Spring Cleaning, but I keep forgetting to take before and after pics!

    Have a great weekend!

    Carrie

    Reply
    1. Jillee Post author

      Heidi, I used to wrap it in a paper towel and put it in a plastic bag…ala Rachael Ray style…but now I just wash, fill a small cup halfway up with water and stick the cilantro in it like a bouquet. Whenever I want some…I just snip some off with my kitchen shears. Kind of like giving it a haircut. Stays MUCH fresher for MUCH longer this way! :-) Hope this helps!

      Reply
      1. Dana

        I can never use all of my cilantro before it goes bad, so I started putting bunches of cilantro in the food processor with about 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, press down about into ice trays (for large-cubed trays, filling about 1/3 of each cube size], then cover and freeze to use as needed. I would love it if I could find an ice tray that comes with a lid!

        I just pop one or two into my mexican dishes, soup, and thai/indian dishes and stir as it’s simmering (I like cilantro with almost anything). I also like to use it w/drained, sauteed chickpeas and a little lemon or lime & some season salt.

        Reply
  16. jane

    Bought the baskets yesterday. Today was cleaning/organizing day, and the fridge looks amazing and munchies are much easier to get to! Thanks…

    Reply
  17. Brandi

    This is perfect! I was just about to clean out my fridge and attempt to reorganize it but this idea really helps. I needed a better way to store food for my little one to access easier on her own (yogurts and juice drinks) and I think the drawers will be perfect for her! Thanks….You have so many great ideas that have helped this single mom make cleaning (and life) much easier! :)

    Reply
  18. Donna Holmen

    Jillee, I did this too! I saw the other blog with the baskets and ran out and bought them. I did it maybe 4 months ago and I LOVE it! It’s heavenly to reach in and pull out a basket of dairy products or salad fixings. I should probably take a couple of minutes and wipe everything down this weekend.

    Girl, you sure have a lot of eggs. :-) Donna

    Reply
    1. Jillee Post author

      haha…I wondered when someone would mention the eggs. :-) What we have to give up in gluten…we make up for in protein! lol. Plus…gluten-free, No. 2 son LOVES “Potato Yummies” (we made that up) which takes lots of eggs.

      Reply
  19. deniseinark

    I just grow my own cilantro and basil. For the basil, I cut off a stem or two- as many leaves as I want for the moment – and bring it in. Pull off the bigger leaves and stick the rest of the stem, with just the top two leaves left, in a vase on the shelf over the sink. Every last one has rooted, and I wind up giving little basil plants to friends. Don’t refrigerate the basil – it doesn’t like to live cold (kinda like me.) This year, the cilantro started out as a transplant on one side of a big pot, with seeds started in the other side. As the transplant has tried to bolt, the seedlings are coming along. When the original version isn’t worth cutting anymore, it can come out and be replaced by some more seeds (I bought several packages) while I start cutting from the seedlings that have now become nice big plants. But the best tip I ever got about buying cilantro is not to buy it at a regular gro store, but at a Mexican or Asian market. Instead of .89 a bunch, it’s like 3 or 4 bunches for a dollar. If the market isn’t handy (our closest one is several miles out of the way), go ahead and buy a bunch and freeze it in ice cube trays.

    Reply
      1. Donna Holmen

        Great ideas with the herb plants! I will try them for sure! I like to have my fresh herbs. I too go to the Mexican market. Ours has cilantro and basil for very, very cheap. Ours is a bit of a drive too, so I stock up a bit in the winter. You can freeze basil leaves too. I put a few leaves between layers of paper towels in freezer baggies. It is good for cooking but not if you need the whole fresh leafs.

        Reply
  20. Jourdan

    I saw this and went “I’ll never find baskets like that to organize here in Germany” and low and behold I found them at a grocery store this evening. I’m so happy that I can finally find things without having to pull everything out of my fridge! Thanks for the tip!

    Reply
  21. Katy

    I don’t have an easily accessible bathtub to soak fridge shelves and drawers. I used to get water all over the kitchen when I tried to wash and rinse them in the kitchen sink. I developed an easy method to get them clean. In the kitchen sink, put a cleaner all over the shelf or drawer with a spray-on cleaner like 409 or Krud Kutters or with dish detergent wiped on with a wet sponge or paper towel. Let the cleaner soak in for a while and then wipe/ scrub the shelf or drawer to be sure that all of the dirt is loosened. BE SURE THE HEATING ELEMENT IN YOUR DISHWASHER IS OFF. Put the shelf or drawer in the dishwasher and run the rinse-only cycle. I am able to fit several door shelves and glass shelves in the dishwasher at one time. When I wash my vegetable drawers, one at a time, I put them in the bottom of the lower dishwasher rack, over the center water jet. When the shelves and drawers are rinsed, I usually put them outside and let them dry in the sun. I’ve used this method many times and no harm has ever come to any of my fridge shelves or drawers.

    Reply
  22. Jessica

    hehe last time i cleaned my fridge i washed the shelves in my tub but it was only because my sink that had no shut of valve had brokena nd i had to wait until monday to have it fixed, For thos eout there who don’t have dishwashers and you want to get a load of dishes done fast take it to teh bathroom and have family help you take it back out you can wash a whole kitchen full of stuff in minutes!

    Reply
  23. Jessica

    Tonight at 11 PM I went crazy and started to clean my fridge this way. It is 1:30 AM now and it looks AMAZING!! I LOVE using the tub. Even though mine is upstairs, the trips up and down the stairs were totally worth the end result! Thank you for all your great tips that help fuel my middle of the night cleaning “parties”.

    Reply
  24. Amanda

    I just did this to my fridge, and I LOVE IT! I would say, ‘you have no idea what a good feeling it is to have such a clean fridge’, but you do know! Thanks to you I know the feeling now, too! Thanks!! ~Amanda

    Reply
  25. Tammy Carlisle

    Saw your refrigerator on pinterest this morning. I got so inspired that I went out and purchased my plastic bins. I’m having my teenagers help clean the refrigerator out and I can’t wait to get it all put together again. Oh the joy of a clean refrigerator! Thanks for all of your tips!!!

    Reply
  26. Deb

    Regarding your cheese wrapping, I use foil and wrap tightly so no air gets in on all sides. This keeps it fresh and no mold grows at all, and it doesn’t dry out.

    Reply
  27. Denise

    I just had to do this to a new to us fridge as ours died Monday. I called a friend who divorced 3 years ago and and asked if he still had the fridge, he said yes, you can buy or use, we decided to buy it. Maybe I should have taken a look first as I completely forgot that single men DO NOT clean! Holy Cow was that fridge nasty. The hubby and boys brought it home and we got it in place after cleaning the exterior. Then it was my turn to clean the interior…. Two hours later, it looks like it just came in from the show room. Now I have to wait for the allotted 24 hours to turn it on. Can’t wait.

    Reply
  28. KeriLynn

    So followed your advice about cleaning the fridge, put all the drawers and shelves in the bathtub with some dawn BAD IDEA. The bottom glass shelf of my fridge exploded in the bathtub as soon as it hit the water, I cut open my finger and have several cuts on my feet. And of course now a bathtub and bathroom full of glass. Not to mention almost $200 to replace that piece of glass now. YOU SHOULD PUT A CAUTION on this please. My fridge is less than 2 years old and it has tempered glass shelves just like yours so this obviously won’t work for everyone. Please WARN people! Thanks.

    Reply
  29. debi

    TOTALLY awesome! i enlisted the help of my 8 year old “organizer” son and went to town! seeing as i can’t buy the french door stainless steel fridge i want- this is the PERFECT solution to my problem- food getting shoved to the back because it’s “hiding” behind something else, or i buy the same things over and over- that i already have!
    as far as milk in the door- we are a family of 7 and we go thru at least a gallon a day- i’m sure it won’t spoil! :)

    Reply
    1. debi

      also- had to enlist the other kiddies to hike up and down the stairs to the tub- but that was a BRILLIANT idea! :) why did i never think of it before?!?!??! best.pinterest.post.EVER! lol

      Reply
  30. Jennifer C

    Love the idea of using the bathtub to clean the shelves. I have had shelves with gunk on them that I thought I would never get off with a rag! Good caution from the readers, though, about letting the glass warm up before putting it in the warm water. I should try putting at least some things in baskets, too. My only thought was, did the food stay cold enough as it sat on your table all that time? I’m loving this idea, but I’m also slightly afraid I will have spoilage.

    Reply
  31. Louanne

    Thank you so much for posting this, and thank you to whomever first pinned it to Pinterest. My husband unexpectedly starting using a wheelchair 5 years ago and has struggled with retrieving things from the back of the refrigerator or off the top shelf since then. We organized the refrigerator with the same baskets today and it looks like this will make things much easier for him. :)

    Reply
  32. Kristen

    I love how organised this looks. You have inspired me to get in the kitchen and tackle the refrigerator. I will be keeping my milk inside the refrigerator though, so I will have to figure out the door storage on my own.

    Reply
  33. Lisa

    Did this yesterday. I love having my Brita water pitcher and milk on the top shelf. My door shelves aren’t wide enough for the milk but it fits great on the top shelf. Thanks for the inspiration!!

    Reply

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