Those rogue specks of dried-on salad leaves, the pasta leftovers that are now more “fester” than “fettuccine” and that unidentified sticky patch you’ve been averting your eyes from for far too long can only mean one thing: fridge-clean time. Enough is enough – it’s time to banish the crumbs, mop up the mess and rescue forgotten food from the icy depths. 

While a quick weekly wipe can keep a lot of mess under control, product specialist Colin Jones from Appliances Online (appliancesonline.com.au) recommends a deep clean every three to four months. “Cleaning up spills when they occur can help reduce staining, ensuring your appliance looks good as new all year round,” he says. “A regular deep clean can also help maximise performance, as overfilling can compromise the air circulation, causing warm spots within the fridge.”

Here’s how to go from ick to spick (and span) in the time-savviest way possible. 

1. Get emptying

First step: purge your fridge of past-its-best and expired food (if your nose doesn’t guide you, common sense and use-by dates certainly should) and bin, recycle or compost it. Also, don’t forget to open containers to check for mould or empties. Everything else can either be lined up on the kitchen counter while you clean, or transferred into a portable cooler, especially perishable items. Once the food’s out, it’s off with all the removable shelves, door inserts, drawers and racks.

2. Get scrubbing

Wash removable pieces in the sink with clean, warm, soapy water. For particularly unwieldy inserts or, if space is at a minimum, this might be a job better suited to the bathtub, laundry sink or garden hose. Rinse, then leave to dry.  

3. Get de-sticking and de-icking

Now it’s time to turn your attention to the fridge interior. Armed with a multipurpose cleaner or product of choice, spray and wipe every part of the inside, including the walls, rubber seals, shelf seams and door panels (an old toothbrush is great for nooks and crannies) using a dishcloth, rags or a sponge. Got any caked-on splodges? Pop some marigolds on and wet a cloth with some really hot water, then squeeze out any excess and hold on to the patch of yuck. All that lovely moisture and heat will loosen any stubborn spills, making them much easier to mop up. Just steer clear of the bleach. “Avoid using harsh cleaners and chemicals as any leftover residue can contaminate your food,” says Colin.

4. Get refilling

Pop all the interior parts back in their rightful places, then start restocking. Don’t forget to wipe down any particularly sticky jars so you’re not allowing in any repeat offenders.

5. Get wiping

With everything in its rightful place, the last thing to do is clean the fridge exterior. “For stainless-steel fridges, use a cleaner specifically designed for that particular finish on any stains and blemishes,” says Colin. “For all other finishes, a damp cloth with a tiny bit of dishwashing liquid should rid the exterior of any smudges and grime.” It always pays to do a patch test, too, on an inconspicuous part of the fridge. Lastly, don’t forget the often-neglected top of the appliance – just be prepared for a nightmare-inducing amount of dust and filth.

6. Finally, get yourself a cuppa

Go on, you deserve it.