The Covid-19 pandemic has created a nation of cleaning fanatics, with South Africans having spent thousands more on household cleaning products this past year than before.
But although kitchen countertops and hobs may get wiped down regularly, fridges, freezers, and other large appliances need more attention to keep them working efficiently and reliably.
Appliances in good working order use less electricity because they don’t have to work as hard as those in poor condition. This means you save on electricity costs, as well as maintenance and repairs.
The fridge is probably the hardest working appliance in the kitchen. To ensure it’s up to the task of storing food safely, you need to deep clean it at least twice a year.
The best time to do this is before a big grocery shopping trip when the fridge is likely to be at its emptiest.
Start by emptying all food from the fridge. Bacteria can quickly multiply at room temperature, so put any meat, dairy products, and other foods that need to be kept cold in a cooler bag packed with frozen dry ice blocks.
Throw away any items that are clearly past their prime. This includes anything that is past its best before date and any jars that may have been overlooked for some time.
Remove vegetable crisper drawers and all removable shelves. If you don’t know how to take them out, consult the user manual or the manufacturer’s website – you don’t want to damage anything.
Next, wash the shelves and the crisper drawers in soapy hot water or the dishwasher. Remember to allow glass shelves or other glass items to reach room temperature before washing. This lessens the risk of cracking in hot water.
Rinse the shelves and crisper drawers in clean water. Allow them to dry naturally in the draining rack or dry with a clean dishcloth and leave them on the counter to dry.
Inside the fridge, use a cotton bud or toothpick to remove any food residue that may have collected in between shelves and refrigerator walls. Pay particular attention to the grooves shelves rest on, as they can be hotspots for dirt.
Cotton buds are also useful, for inaccessible spots like the drip hole at the back, which can easily become clogged and grimy.
- Don’t use hot water to clean the inside walls, as this will raise the fridge temperature. You will have to wait longer to get perishable foods back inside. Instead, make up a weak solution of dishwashing detergent or bleach with cold water, and use this to wipe down the interior.
- Dry the inside of the fridge thoroughly using paper towels or a clean dishcloth.
Outer surfaces need to be wiped down with dishwashing detergent solution, using a soft cloth to avoid scratches.
- The door handle and door surroundings need special attention, as germs quickly build up around these areas through frequent contact with hands.
- If you have a freezer directly below the fridge, use a stiff brush or the crevice nozzle of your vacuum cleaner to remove crumbs that often collect in the folds of the freezer door seal.
- Run the corner of a cloth dipped in a weak bleach solution along the folds. Be sure to dry the seal afterward.
At the back of the fridge are the condenser coils that need to be kept free of dust for optimal performance. Clogged condenser coils could cost you an extra few hundred rand a year in electricity and will shorten the life of your fridge.
You need to turn off the fridge and move it away from the wall to vacuum the coils to remove the dust.
Most fridges have two small wheels at the back to facilitate moving them. For even easier access, make the fridge stand permanently on an adjustable fridge trolley – available from hardware stores. This will also enable you to regularly sweep or vacuum under the fridge.
Switch the fridge back on and replace the shelves and crisper drawers. If your fridge has a thermometer, wait until the temperature drops to 5°C before replacing the food. Some fridges have a fast-cool function, which helps to speed up the cooling process.
Remember not to overfill the fridge. This will inhibit air circulation, which will prevent the fridge from working efficiently.
The guidelines provided above if well implemented will assist you to extend the lifespan of your fridge and help you save on electricity bills.