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Once the hopeful signs of spring begin to show up on a regular basis, rather than the odd day of sunshine between snow storms, we all begin to prepare, mentally and physically, for all the joys of what, for us, is one of the most wonderful seasons of all. Not too hot, not too cold, and filled with new life and new sights that are wonderful to behold.
Buoyed by all of these things, many of us do begin to think about doing some spring cleaning. However, as we wash the drapes, shampoo the carpets and begin setting out lighter summer linens there is one important task most of us tend to overlook (or deliberately delay) and that is to give our fridge and freezer a spring clean as well.
This is especially important of course if you are planning to sell your Waterloo Region home and are staging it to do so. As most home sales do include appliances a clean, fresh refrigerator is a must especially as any would be a buyer is likely to take a peek inside when viewing your home.
There are far more important reasons than just getting a neater looking kitchen when it comes to cleaning your fridge, though. Even though you may head there every day all kinds of nasty things are often lurking unseen that, if left alone, can lead to all kinds of problems, including some rather unpleasant foodborne illnesses and even nasty moulds.
Begin with the Basics
Most of us have enough sense to throw out foods that have passed their expiry date that are stored in the refrigerator, but have you checked the condiments in the door recently? That jar of expensive mustard that you save for special occasions, or the giant bottle of ketchup that seems almost never-ending you bought because it was such a bargain?
The expiry dates on condiments can be misleading. For example, when you buy a jar of mayonnaise or mustard in the store it may have an expiry date that is over a year away. That, however, refers only to its unopened state. Open condiments of any kind should be stored for a maximum of two months, so anything that is older than that should go straight in the garbage.
Food in the freezer is trickier. Some foods really can be safely frozen for months and months, but unless you are careful some packages may lurk for a year or more before you realize they are even there, and at that point, they are no longer to be considered safe to consume.
When spring cleaning, if you are unsure of how long something you find in the freezer has actually been there, err on the side of caution and throw it out. Then, make a note that in future, anything you do place in the freezer will be labeled with a simple piece of tape with the date it was placed there on it. Then, referring to the guide that is displayed in almost every freezer, make sure that nothing stays there beyond its shelf life.
With all of the good food removed from the fridge and stored in a cool box, it is then time to give the interior a good cleaning. You do not need a special cleaner, water and a mild dish detergent will be fine. Pay special attention to things like the door seals, which can collect crumbs and dirt very easily. Rinse everything with plain water and blot dry before replacing the food to avoid contaminating it with the smell (or taste) of the dish-washing liquid.
Over time fridges can develop a rather nasty odor that can be hard to get rid of. If this is the case, before you replace the good food leave a tray containing active charcoal (available in drug stores) or unscented clay cat litter on the bottom shelf for two hours.
Both of these things absorb odors very, very quickly. Once they have done their job, to maintain that nice fresh smell open a box of household baking soda and store it near the back of one of the shelves. Get into the habit of replacing it once a month and your fridge should stay nice and odor free from that point on.