How to clean a fridge – banish bad smells and mould with our expert tips

Because nobody likes a drawer full of mouldy veg sludge!

Organised fridge
(Image credit: Future PLC / Philip Lauterbach)

How to clean a fridge is usually a task at the very bottom of the cleaning list. If the door is closed it can easily become out of sight, out of mind. If you've recently had to start holding your breath when you open the fridge door it's not just time to give your fridge a clean, it's time for a deep clean.

Smells will always accumulate in a fridge, but if your fridge has started to develop an unpleasant pong, like old blue cheese - especially if there's no cheese in your fridge - be worried. Rather than a yearly task, the fridge should be cleaned monthly to remove any old food bits and clear the drainage hole of any foul spelling mould. 

If your fridge is overdue a cleaning, we've created an in-depth step-by-step to get it looking as close to factory fresh, and new as possible. Then you can move on to how to organise a fridge to get it looking as slick as The Home Edits.

How to clean a fridge

What you will need

Open fridge with plastic spray bottle

(Image credit: Future PLC / Phil Barker)
  • Gentle cleaner - white vinegar is a good option mixed with hot water
  • Non-scratch scourer 
  • Micro-fibre cloth - we like Marigold's extra thick micro-fibre clothes
  • Cleaning brush
  • Cotton wool buds or toothpicks
  • Bicarbonate of soda

1. Empty the fridge

Open grey fridge

(Image credit: Future PLC / Phil Barker)

Remove all food from your fridge and transfer it into a cool box or bag, or into a shaded location to keep cool while you clean out the fridge. 

Make sure everything is removed from the fridge including any removable shelves or compartments. These should be taken out and put to the side and allowed to come up to room temperature.

2. Clean the fridge with a gentle cleaning solution

Fridge with sponge

(Image credit: Future PLC / Phil Barker)

While you're waiting for the compartments to warm up, wipe the inside of the fridge down with a gentle cleaning solution and a non-scratch scourer. The best cleaning product recommended by the experts at Marigold is a cleaning solution of equal parts white vinegar and hot water. But if you do want to use a remade cleaner make sure it is as gentle as possible. 

‘When it comes to cleaning your fridge, we recommend using gentle detergents for the interior cavity to prevent damaging the fridge gasket which seals the fridge shut and reduces the risk of mould,' says David Palmer, Senior Product Specialist Home Appliances at LG Electronics. 

'Strong detergents can also scratch the interior plastics which can create space for bacteria to grow which you do not want inside your fridge.'

3. Wipe it down with a dry cloth

Cloth in inside of fridge

(Image credit: Future PLC / Phil Barker)

It is essential to dry off the inside of the fridge and remove any lingering cleaning solution. The best way to do this is with a dry microfibre cloth. We like Marigolds extra thick micro-fibre clothes which can be used and washed many times before needing to be replaced.

4. Clean the fridge drainage hole

Cotton whole bud in fridge drainage hole

(Image credit: Future PLC / Phil Barker)

If your fridge still isn't smelling as fresh as it could, the drainage hole at the back could be blocked. Poor a small amount of vinegar and water into the hole to get rid of mould, then use a cotton wool bud to work the vinegar and water solution around the hole. 

5. Wash the shelves and compartments

Wooden dish brush scrubbing drawer

(Image credit: Future PLC / Phil Barker)

Once the removable compartments have come up to room temperature hand wash in warm soapy water. Clean the drawers using a bottle cleaning brush (or sonic scrubber) to get into all the corners and grooves. 

For the shelves stick to wiping them down to avoid causing any damage. 'For the shelves, we advise wiping these down but do not submerge them in very hot water if they have just been removed from a cold fridge freezer – as while they are tempered glass, the thermal shock may cause them to shatter,’ says David Palmer at LG Electronics. 

Wipe dry the shelves and drawers with a microfibre cloth, and clean out an food left on the shelf grooves with a toothpick or brush before putting them back in the fridge.

6. Vacuum the fridge seal

Vacuum cleaner hoovering seal

(Image credit: Future PLC / Phil Barker)

use a handheld vacuum cleaner with the crevice tool, or a brush to get rid of any crumbs, food, gunk in the fridge seal before wiping down and making sure they are dry.

7. Restock and wiped down the outside

Organised fridge

(Image credit: Future PLC / Phil Barker)

Before popping the food back into the first, make sure you allow it some time to drop back down to temperature. When it has and you've replaced all the food, turn your attention to the outside of the fridge. 

Use a mix of bicarbonate of soda and water to wipe down the fridge door and the handles, before drying it with another microfibre cloth.

Some experts have found that charcoal is the secret to banishing bad kitchen smells, so it's well worth reading up on this and utilising that hack accordingly, too. Anything for a nice-smelling fridge, right?

How often should you clean a fridge?

Fridges are often forgotten about but they should be cleaned out monthly, no matter what smart technology they feature. 'Despite LG’s NatureFRESH™ and DoorCooling+™ technology keeping food fresher for longer, we do suggest cleaning your appliance once a month as it’s a good habit to empty the contents and make sure everything is within its use-by date to prevent any lingering bad odours,' says David Palmer at LG Electronics.

Rebecca Knight
Deputy Editor, Digital

Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.