The Cost of NOT Doing Home Maintenance: Cleaning Your Refrigerator
I still remember the old monster of a Norge refrigerator that hummed away in my grandmotherâ€™s kitchen. It was easily 20 years old when I was born â€“ and when we moved ten years later, it was still going strong. Long after friendsâ€™ parents had replaced their refrigerators â€“ some of them even twice â€“ Nanaâ€™s Norge was freezing foods solid and keeping milk fresh and unspoiled.
Nanaâ€™s secret wasnâ€™t the brand of refrigerator she picked â€“ it was in her cleaning routine. Part of Nanaâ€™s household cleaning schedule was a weekly refrigerator cleaning. The truth is that by adding a few simple steps to your regular household cleaning schedules, you can save money on your electric bill, prolong your refrigeratorâ€™s life and save yourself the expense of spoiled food and a repair bill when the fridge goes on the fritz.
Step 1: Clean the condenser coils and condenser fan twice a year.
The condenser coils are what keep the fridge cold. If theyâ€™re clogged with dust, they canâ€™t work efficiently. The end result will be a refrigerator that doesnâ€™t keep cold foods cold, and an overworked motor that will need service more often â€“ as well as a few dollars more on your electric bill each month.
The coils are located either at the back of the refrigerator, or across the bottom of the front. If theyâ€™re in front, youâ€™ll need to pop the grille off to get to them. If theyâ€™re in back, just pull the refrigerator away from the wall. You can use a vacuum to clean them, but one of the best investments you can make is a refrigerator coil brush, which is specifically designed to get into all the crevices and spaces to gently clean away the dirt and dust.
If the coils are located on the bottom front, thereâ€™s also a condenser fan (back coils donâ€™t need one, since theyâ€™re exposed). You can access it from either the front or the back of the refrigerator, and clean it with the coil cleaning brush.
Wipe down the door gasket.
Thatâ€™s the rubber seal around the door of your fridge. It seals the refrigerator tightly and keeps cold air in and warm air out. Spilled sticky stuff can stick the gasket to the refrigerator frame, and when you open the door, it may tear. Replacing a torn gasket can run you as much as $200. Whenever you clean the kitchen, make it a practice to open the fridge door and wipe the gasket down with warm water and a sponge.
Step 3: Keep vents and drip channels clear and clean.
Frost free freezers have small air vents to allow air to circulate and keep things cold. If those become clogged or blocked by food packages, air canâ€™t circulate and keep things frozen. Keep the freezer no more than about 3/4ths full, and make sure that food isnâ€™t blocking the vents.
In refrigerator section, there are drip channels that drain off water thatâ€™s evaporated in the defrost cycle of your refrigerator. The channels lead to holes that drain into the drip pan. If the holes get clogged, water will collect and cause mold, odor and spoilage.
Clean the refrigerator thoroughly once a month.
- Remove all food and store in a cooler.
- Pull out drawers and racks and put in the tub with soapy water to soak.
- Wipe down walls and floor of refrigerator and freezer with water and baking soda. If you have tough stain or spilled food, toothpaste or a degreaser can help.
- Wipe inside dry with soft cloths or paper towels.
- Clean door gasket.
- Clean the outside of your refrigerator and protect it with a spray appliance cleaner and wax
- Replace shelves, racks and drawers.
- Turn refrigerator on and let cool before replacing food.
Author Vincent Platania represents the Fuller Brush Company.
Fuller Brush has been in business since 1906, and offers safe, environmentally friendly products for keeping your home and your body clean.
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