How to get your refrigerator clean in two hours

1. Go to the fair.
2. Arrive home from the fair at 9:58 with a carload of exhausted, dirty, ice cream-sticky kids.
3. Open the fridge door and notice that it’s (the inside of the fridge, not the door) warm.
4. Notice that it stinks, too.
5. Open the freezer door and notice that everything is soggy.
6. Panic.
7. Put the kids to bed while simultaneously panicking and yelling at your husband who is also panicking, but in a manly sort of way.
8. Call your brother at 10:15. You do not care if he is awake or asleep. This is an emergency. He says yes to your question of whether or not they have extra fridge space.
9. Thank your lucky stars that your brother’s family does not hoard food like you do.
10. Curse your unlucky stars that you hoard food.
11. Remember that your mother wanted to clean out your fridge when she last visited you.
12. Decide not to think about that.
13. Load a couple wash baskets with food to take to your brother’s house.
14. Load a couple boxes with food to take to the basement.
15. Cover the counter with a multitude of jars and tubs and bottles and bags of food that might no longer qualify for that title.
16. While your husband drives the soggy, stinky food to your brother’s house, dump all the unnecessary, ancient, not-worth-keeping food into one giant bowl: maraschino cherries (two bottles), a bit of salsa, moldy blackberries, rotten celery, a lime and a lemon, horseradish, old oil, ham broth (from Christmas, really?), honey mustard no one will ever eat, a half can of orange juice concentrate…and the list goes on. And on and on.
17. Refrain from gagging.
18. Feel nauseous anyway.
19. When your husband comes back, give him an opportunity to wash the dishes. (In other words, declare that you quit and walk away in search of some desperately-needed fresh air.)

20. Come back and help wash down the fridge.
21. Let your husband take a turn washing down the fridge and watch, completely depleted but pleased, nonetheless, as he disassembles the thing and then points out all the dirt you left behind.
22. Discuss what may have gone wrong with the fridge.
23. Fret about another huge expenditure whopping you upside the head so soon after the purchase of your lovely new cleaning machine. (Appliance polytheism does hold a certain appeal, you admit.)
24. At midnight, go to bed.
25. Wake up at 7:44 and go downstairs to a wildly gesticulating husband who points out, with much knob-turning and way too many words for your fuzzy brain to absorb, that the fridge setting wasn’t just turned down a little bit as previously thought, it was turned down one-and-a-holy-cow-half revolutions, as in OFF.
26. Recall that you have four children.
27. Interrogate them.
28. When the littlest one fesses up to the error of his Curious George ways, explain the importance of NEVER touching the refrigerator knob, and then forgive him.
29. Feel pleased on many fronts: the fridge is shiny-clean and empty, there is no need to buy a new fridge, and while the work was intense and disgustingly painful, it was blessedly short-lived; there was no time to dread the task—typically the most painful part of refrigerator cleaning.
30. Become an obsessive refrigerator knob checker because there is no way on earth that you want to repeat that cleaning method ever again.

The End

More How-To Stories:
How To Get Your Kitchen Clean On A Leisurely Sunday Afternoon
How To Get Your Bedding/House/Kids Clean All In One Day


  • Marie M.

    Umpteen years ago, I couldn't turn the knob on my dryer or something — can't remember all the details. So, I called the repair man. He gives me a funny look, pulls out a tube of glue, glues it on, says: "That will be $30." Remember fifty years ago $30 was a lot of money. Your story brought it all back. And I learned an important lesson — as does your refrigerator malfunction. First: check the simple things, like is it plugged in? Before calling a professional, think. Maybe I can just put a dab of glue somewhere? Wasn't there a reason God invented duck (duct?) tape?

  • Karen

    Oh my goodness! That EXACT same thing happened to me just a week or so ago. M never fessed up, however, so apparently my 9-month old grew wings.

  • Margo

    I wish I had a kid to blame for that, but our knob used to get turned down accidently when we took things in and out of the fridge. I solved that by taping it firmly to its right spot.
    But I was laughing when I read your story.

  • Anonymous

    I am so glad to see you saved the half and half. That is what I would have cried about the most. It is a must have with my coffee in the AM! The butter would have been a close second!

    L. in Elkton

  • Anonymous

    Love it! Love it! Love it! You, holy-cow-made-my-day. Glad you didn't get whopped upside the head with another huge expenditure.

  • Mama Pea

    "Clean refrig" has (truly) been on my list for a couple of weeks now. You've given me the impetus to do the job. (I don't wanna temp the fates.)

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