fridge guts

The other day one of my coworkers off-handedly mentioned (I forget what we were talking about) that her mom always had them deep clean the fridge before company came — at which point I completely lost my shizzle.

“Wait, WHAT?! The fridge? No freaking way! Are you kidding me??!!”

(I can be intense.)

Turns out, part of their routine company preparations included a top-to-bottom clean of the fridge: taking everything out, wiping the fridge down with bleach, discarding old stuff, etc, etc, did you ever!  Cleaning the fridge ranks so low on my getting-ready-for-company list that it’s not even on the page. I deep-clean the fridge — take everything out, wash the produce drawers, and scrub down the shelves and walls — exactly. . . never. 

In order of importance, here’s what I do (or make sure gets done) before company arrives:

Wash all the dishes and empty the drainers.
Thorough vacuum of the downstairs.
Pick up. (“De-gnoming,” my husband calls it, as in: decluttering.)
Clean the downstairs bathroom: toilet, sink, mirror.
Sweep the manure and mud off the porch.
Wash the kitchen windows. 
Wash the stove top.
Pick up the yard poops, or the dog poops in the yard. (Our yard does not poop.)
Empty trashes.
Tidy the shoe room.
Wipe down all the tables, fold throw-blankets, fluff pillows.
Light candles.

The fridge does get spot-cleaned on the regular. My fridge fills and empties almost weekly and when a shelf gets mostly empty, I might (like once a month or so) scrub at the rings of dried milk and sticky smears of pancake syrup with a soapy dishcloth.* And I frequently (though not frequently enough) wipe down the fridge handles. 

But that’s about it.

In conclusion, two questions:

  1. How often do you deep clean your fridge?
  2. What’s on your Cleaning For Company list?

And a bonus question: 

  1. Is your fridge in a perpetual state of packed-full-ness, or does it regularly resemble a chilly barren wasteland?

*My husband read this and took issue, pointing out that he deep cleans sections of the fridge when there’s been a spill. As do I! But, I maintained, disinfecting the fridge guts before company comes is a whole other level to which we do not even remotely come close.

(In the process of having the above-mentioned discussion, which may or may not have gotten a little heated, I mis-measured the water for the sourdough and spent the next 45 minutes trying to rectify the error of my ways.)

This same time, years previous: 100% hydration bread, perimenopause: Hillary, age 51, the quotidian (2.22.21), homemade pasta, jelly toast: a love story, the quotidian (2.22.16), peanut butter and jelly bars.


  • katie

    I drag out the refrigerator skeletons on trash night. Even if they are going in the compost, for some reason trash night is my trigger to clean out food that has been in there too long.

    Dont have a policy of cleaning the fridge for guests, but my family tends to say that “We aren’t bringing anything” but then brings everything so I make a habit of clearing out space in my fridge, space on my cabinets, the top of the washing machine, space on the back porch, and maybe make a cooler available. yes, it feels overwhelming to me too.

  • Elizabeth

    I clean out the contents of the fridge before I go grocery shopping each week, because otherwise there’d be no room to put the new stuff in, but as for cleaning the actual fridge….um, nope. I might swipe at a bit of syrup half-heartedly every now and then, and try to get the stray onion skins out of the veggie bin, but that’s about it!

  • Liz

    My fridge is in constant flux. Due to a doorway and the laws of physics, we only have space for a counter depth fridge. This is Not Enough Room for a family of four, especially as I eat vast quantities of veggies. (Garage chest freezers do help with overflow.) When I do my grocery pick up Saturday, I immediately wash/clean/chop all the fresh stuff and put it in clear containers for easy access alongside our requisite pecks of orchard apples that we manage to source nearly year round. I also tend to do some cooking/baking for the week, which also has to find homes somewhere in there. It usually looks pretty and neatly organized for about two hours, and then life happens and I spend the week tetris-ing the whole thing and wondering how two small boys who can’t seem to gain a pound over 40 manage to put away so much food. I swipe at spots and spills regularly, but as seems to be the case with most of us, deep cleaning only happens when there’s an especially egregious spill.

    As for company clean-up — I’m an Enneagram 1, so I have to de-gnome (I’m stealing that) multiple times a day for my own sanity. Front porch and lawn get a once over for all the random balls, sidewalk chalk, etc. The kitchen gets a wipe down, and the guest bath gets a deep clean because it always needs it (see two small boys). I’m eternally grateful for whichever previous owner picked the variegated tile for the kitchen that effortlessly hides crumbs and paw prints.

  • Alyssa

    I wouldn’t say I *deep* clean the fridge before company comes over, but I do give it a quick spot reorganization just in case someone happens to open it (I want them to be able to find what they need or have room to pop in a bottle of wine!). But I tend to keep it pretty tidy always, and deep clean it every 6-9 months. That feels good enough for our house of two, at least.

  • Jenn

    We deep clean our fridge maybe once every 12-15 months. Usually it’s associated with a tragic sticky or oily spill, not with some altruistic effort at cleanliness. Haha.
    When company comes, we tidy the FR and DR, thoroughly clean the kitchen and bathroom, and we tidy the laundry room (path to the back door). We also sweep and vacuum, dust, wipe the DR table and coffee table. I’ve never considered cleaning the fridge, but it’s never gross. We clean as we go. Sometimes I think we should vacuum crumbs from our kitchen drawers though.
    Our fridge fullness waxes and wanes. I prefer it fairly empty, like we finally won the battle with the leftovers and recent veg harvests. Yay, blank canvas! Usually when our fridge is full (it’s only two of us), it’s because my husband went to Costco alone, or because we cooked too much or harvested too much. Then it just feels like, Challenge accepted!

  • Melissa Nash

    Ahh, the fridge clean out. Every Women’s magazine exhorts us to clean the fridge on the regular. This is just unnecessary guilt. Clean out the fridge to make good use of the food The Lord has provided – yes! To make sure food that needs to get tossed gets tossed – yes! For company – nope. My fridge is almost always filled up with our families meals/meal prep/leftovers/snacks. Cleaning it every week would mean removing everything. Not worth it. Maybe your friends Mother used company as an excuse to clean the fridge and take inventory of what she had to offer them.

  • Sherill

    I wipe out the fridge shelves and clean vegetable drawers before leaving on a trip because the fridge is so empty; in my mind, an empty fridge practically invites me to wipe it out. As for company, I might also wipe up the kitchen floor, but I never clean the fridge in preparation for guests.

  • TJ

    Q1 & Q3: Empty nesters here so our fridge is always fairly bare except for produce & condiments. I spot clean as needed, but deep clean it once per season.

    Q2: no kids, no pets so house is usually pretty neat, but before a party or such I will: clean/ sanitize bathrooms, deep clean kitchen, dust/vaccum/mop, clean patio furniture if we’ll be outdoors.


    We live in a 100 year old house with individual rooms so the floor plan is the opposite of the open concept. So when we have guests, it’s easy to just close the doors to the kitchen. That means that I only focus on tidying up the rooms they will be in: the living room, the dining room and the first floor half bathroom. I would never consider doing anything to the inside of the refrigerator (because why would they see that space?), but I do make sure the dishwasher is empty.

    As for a complete cleaning of the fridge, I do it when I ascertain it really needs attention AND when I have time for a time consuming job like that. I don’t consider it a thankless job though as I really like the orderly, clean way it looks when I’m down.

    Finally, thanks for making me smile: I haven’t heard the phrase “did you ever” in many years since my childhood in the South.

  • Thrift at Home

    I rarely clean the inside of my fridge. I spot clean if it catches my eye and I have a few minutes. I don’t find it easy to clean – I stress more about all the cold things sitting out somewhere while I scrub fruitlessly at mystery rings and spots.

    Also, with three kids in the house our fridge gets a serious workout. It’s either jam packed or bare. I am constantly managing the food flow! Pulling things from the back and announcing them to the ravening horde – who may or may not eat them. I call our fridge the “prepared food case” to rebrand the leftovers because Americans love the convenience of prepared food, right?!

    At the top of my getting ready for company list is my own internal state. If I am serene, then I am focused on the guests and I never apologize for the state of my house. That said, I do like to tidy up, give the bathroom mirrors, sink, and toilet a wipe/shine, wash/put away dishes, and generally have soft music or candles or lights.

  • Anna Garza

    Part 2. I was so overwhelmed at the thought of cleaning the fridge for guests I didn’t answer your questions.
    1. deep clean once per year, it is spot cleaned before new groceries are put in
    2. company clean list-guest bathroom, floors, kitchen sink and counters
    3. the fridge ebbs and flows with the amount of food in it

  • Anna Garza

    Clean the fridge before company comes over? The only time I clean my fridge for company is in prep for Thanksgiving since I need the space and many relatives will be in and out of my fridge. If I had to clean my fridge every time I have guests I would never invite anyone over.

  • Becky R.

    I usually do a complete clean of my frig a couple of times a year by taking all the drawers out and shelves out, washing them, washing the walls and floors of the frig. I get paranoid about it when it has been a while. It’s a big, messy job, and I don’t enjoy it one bit. I keep wondering why some engineer doesn’t design a frig that is easy to deconstruct and clean. He would make a mint! I do go through my frig and throw away things that need to go before company. Who wants their company to see “meatcake”? That’s what I call items that are not identifiable. My frig is usually packed, and after I clean it, it looks like a wasteland. I clean the frig handles when I routinely clean my house. I am a nurse, and I know that’s probably one of the dirtiest places in the kitchen. My get ready for company list looks much like yours with the exception of cleaning windows. Everybody has their own quirks. 😉

  • Katherine

    Are we talking “company coming over for dinner” or “company staying with us for a few nights”? Either way, we do not clean the fridge for company, but I’m curious if there’s a distinction for some people. We deep-clean the fridge once every couple years, usually prompted by a spill or something falling behind a drawer. (And by “we,” I mean my husband.) Cleaning for company involves de-cluttering, and maybe a little bit of surface cleaning (like the bathroom sink counter, which always seems to be gross…). Sometimes it also means running the dishwasher so there’s space for the extra dishes the company will create.

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