Spring Clean Your Way to a Healthier Refrigerator
TEXARKANA, Ark. –
I’m going to meddle for a minute. When was the last time you cleaned your refrigerator. I don’t mean threw away something that was growing, I mean washed down shelves, checked expiration dates on foods, things such as that.
The refrigerator may be one of the less frequently cleaned places in your home, which could be hazardous to your health. When it comes to food safety, the refrigerator is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the kitchen.
The refrigerator keeps our foods safe. They should be set to maintain a temperature between 34° and 40°F to preserve our foods. Setting the refrigerator temperature too low will cause your refrigerator to work overtime and could freeze some of your foods. Many of today’s advanced refrigerators have built-in thermostats that measure their internal temperature. If your fridge does not have a built-in thermostat, you should keep an appliance thermometer inside in a visible place to monitor the temperature.
Keeping a healthy, safe refrigerator just takes a little diligence. Determine what foods need to be discarded and which can be returned to the refrigerator once it has been cleaned. All food items should be removed and placed in ice chests to main food safety. When it comes to foods, just because it does not replicate a science experiment does not mean it is still safe to eat. Throw out perishable foods beyond their safe storage date that can no longer be eaten. A general rule of thumb for refrigerator storage is three to four days for cooked foods, leftovers like meatloaf, pizza or casseroles. One to two days for poultry and ground meat and up to five days for whole cuts of meat, such as a roast. The FoodKeeper app is a free app, for both Apple and Android, which has storage information on more than 400 foods and beverages. It will tell you how long those foods can safely be stored in your refrigerator and takes the guess work out of it for you.
Clean up spills immediately. Clean surfaces, such as the shelves, drawers and sides thoroughly with warm, soapy water; then rinse. It isn’t necessary to use solvent cleaning agents or abrasives. These could allow chemical fumes or tastes into your food and ice cubes and make them unsafe to eat. Sanitize your refrigerator with a diluted bleach solution, one tablespoon unscented bleach to one gallon of water. To keep your refrigerator smelling fresh and to help eliminate odors, place an opened box of baking soda on a shelf.
We can’t forget about cleaning the exterior including wiping down handles and dispenser controls daily with a disinfecting wipe to remove bacteria from lots of hands. How long has it been since you cleaned the dust and lint from the back of the unit? Clean the condenser coil several times a year with a brush or vacuum cleaner to remove dirt, lint or other accumulations to ensure efficiency and maintain proper temperature.
Keeping our refrigerator clean is something that needs to be done year round, not just in the spring. It is one of the most used appliances in our home.
For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.
By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
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