Posts Tagged: bon ami

Kitchen Letters #7: Attack of the Mucky Refrigerator

Good morning visionaries,

I awoke Sunday morning and realized enough was enough.  Soon we will be departing our current abode, we call her San Gabriel, and we shall be moving on to our new digs. Before that can happen though, the intensive cleaning MUST commence!  Do not misunderstand. I, as a general rule, help in keeping our home in shipshape–organizing and cleaning is a happily greeted past-time for me–but for some reason, of all the places in the house I neglected for awhile, the refrigerator was one of them.  I’m not pleased at this fact, especially considering my self-proclaimed chef status, but the facts are the facts. The photos that follow may appall you, and I’m not pleased with them either, but the after is one arresting refrigerator–if that’s even possible!  Thus, rather than harping on what is, I shall move forward and help all of you keep from getting into my sticky–all puns intended–situation.

Here are some rules and checks for maintaining or sprucing up your refrigerator.


RULE 1:  Work with what you’ve got.

  • Some of you may be in my shoes; you don’t own the refrigerator you’re currently or soon to be using.  Don’t let this discourage you from tip-top care, or making what space you do have work for you!



RULE 2:  Start Early, stay cool & fuel up!

  • Before I start any project I know will be an absolute undertaking, I like to make sure I’m cool and not remotely hungry.  Thus, I started early in the morning–my early may be different from yours, so go with what feels right to your schedule–to stay cool and knock out the project.  I also prepared a delicious smoothy to help make my mind and body happy.


This scrubby came in extra handy for the elbow grease areas!

This scrubby came in extra handy for the elbow grease areas!

RULE 3:  Get your supplies ready before you start.

  • In the past, if I’ve ever haphazardly begun a project without having all materials ready, that remiss behavior leads to stress, mistakes and worst of all, time wasted.  And who in this world has time to waste?  I say, have all of your materials readily available in one easily accessible location.  Also, think about what you’ll  need.  I must admit, I thought I’d use some supplies that I didn’t need and didn’t think of some supplies that I could have used.  But luckily, they were all on hand!
  • I suggest rubber gloves to protect your mits and microfiber cloths to wipe surfaces, not smear.  Although they are wasteful, there are situations where I like to have sanitizing wipes on hand.  Right now I’m using these.  I had bon ami on hand because I use it to clean many surfaces, but I didn’t end up needing it this time.  I still suggest having it out for problematic areas.  I also suggest making a chemical free cleaning spray made from:  1 part white vinegar, 4 or 5 big drops of dish soap, and 1 part water, and whatever–if any–essential oil you choose to use.  I keep mine scent free, but everyone is different.  I reuse an old spray bottle to keep things simple.
  • Also, something to keep in mind, I don’t consume animal products–and my husband rarely keeps any at home–so there are some extreme sanitation processes I don’t have to go through in my refrigerator or on our counter-tops.  If you do consume animal products, I would look into the correct and most useful sanitizing tools and processes.

I think those little barnacles are the remains of fennel greens and I’m not sure what the crusty thing is there in the middle. AVERT YOUR EYES!


This was my ever so neglected veggie drawer.  There are so many monsters in there!  Look away!

This was my ever so neglected veggie drawer. There are so many monsters in there! Look away!

RULE 4:  Observe your area–in the fridge–and take special note of problematic spots.

  • Before jumping in, I suggest taking a look through the fridge to see where you’ll need to focus your cleaning powers.  This will help you gauge how long this endeavor will be and whether or not you’ll need to let some shelves or drawers soak in some hot, soapy water for a bit, to break down any food monsters.


RULE 5:  Take special note of your edible inventory.

  • I didn’t take actual notes, but I did try to get a mental picture of what I had on hand.  Some produce is in abundance right now, and some produce is newer than others.  We’re overflowing, so I go by fifo (first in first out) rules.  Remember earlier I talked about limitations?  Well, I only have two produce drawers, which leads to improvising!  Try it out, I’m sure you’ll do just fine.

RULE 6:  Start from the bottom and work your way to the top.

  • I’m sure in many ways, this doesn’t make sense, but in our situation, when it came to shelves both internal and on the door, it made the most sense to clean what was down lower and work my way up.  The lower areas were the most problematic and most neglected, as that’s not where the eye lands.  Try it out and see if that method works for you.

RULE 7:  Start small.

  • Now that you’ve observed your area and started problem spots/areas to soak, tackle the smaller more confined areas, like the inner door(s).  This helps manage the stress of all the bigger items to come and gets the most tedious part of this cleaning labor out of the way FIRST!

RULE 8:  Clean off all of your bottles, jars & containers

  • Why put sticky/grimy back into clean and sparkly?  There’s no sane reason to, so make sure with every container or bag your take out of your refrigerator, you wipe it down thoroughly.

RULE 9:  Expired and old…no more!

  • If you happen to have older items in the fridge, go ahead and rid your space of them.  If there are edibles in jars that are no longer edible, see if you can empty out the jars and re-purpose them.  Compost or toss any items you’ve neglected eating because your fridge was overtaken by a monster and forgive yourself.

RULE 10:  Don’t forget to clean down REALLY low and clean all of the gaskets!

  • You may be surprised to find what gunk ends up in those rubber areas around the perimeter of the door and the very bottom may have become a splatter party, but it’s okay, you got this!

RULE 11:  As my mother would say “put some elbow grease into it”.

  • It’s no surprise that as I’ve emphasized, some of you may have tricky spots to take care of, don’t be afraid to scrub with all you’ve got to loosen those icky areas.  I believe in you!


RULE 12:  The handles, the handles I say!

  • An often overlooked area when cleaning–and not just on the refrigerator–are the handles of anything.  The knob to your front door and the area that surrounds.  The handles in your car.  All of these handles, no matter how clean you think  your hands are, get covered over time in dirt and that dirt can easily be missed if you’ve gotten used to seeing it.  Just think how shimmery white those fridge handles will look once you’ve scrubbed them.

RULE 13: Clean the outside of the doors

  • That is all. :)

RULE 14:  Realistically decide what you have space to hold.

  • I’m a bulk buyer in many ways and I often have to re-evaluate our fridge space and realize I’m making that compressor work harder by jamming my fridge with stuff.  Consider this when you’re shopping.  A helpful email from a reader and more research have led me to an update of the statement above.  It is best to keep your refrigerator at least 3/4 full because either too full or overly barren creates a less than ideal scenario for the energy efficiency of your mechanism.  Here’s a little more info. provided by G.E.  Thanks to the attentive and thoughtful reader for pointing this out! ^_^
The after. ^____^

The after. ^____^

RULE 15:  Consolidate and arrange.

  • Decide if you really need 4 bottles of the same kind of mustard, or three jars of ground flax.  I know we all get in a rush, and sometimes taking a step to clean out a jar or bottle to merge items seems like a LOT of work during a busy afternoon, but it will be worth it later when you cannot find anything in your fridge.  Organize your food items in a way that makes logical sense.  Veggies like higher humidity environments, so fill up those drawers and correctly set the humidity knob if your fortunate to have one–we do not currently.  Place your herbs–like parsley, cilantro, basil–in a small jar with water–almost like you would flowers–and cover them with a mesh bag or plastic bag if that’s all you have on hand.  Put items that need to stay the coldest at the back of the fridge.  Make sure, according to what you are keeping in your fridge, your temperature is set accordingly.  If you’re housing animal products, I would monitor the temperature more closely.  Finally, a personal organizational tip, arrange like with like.  Try not to put a container of leftovers on the same shelf as something outside of that category, like overflow veggies. You will never find the leftovers or you may end up hiding a delicious veg or fruit.  Maybe that last tip sounds extra anal, but trust me, you’ll be happier in the long run!

Some of you may have come across the most recent genius that is Weird Al Yankovic, but I felt that this track in particular spoke to today’s post.  Don’t want to deal with that “fungal, rot, bacterial formation…”  Enjoy!


Monday, I brought a lot of produce into the office to give away, because during the spring/summer season, we’re busting with fresh produce from our CSA box.  This minimized what we had to store and assured us no waste.  It was very fun to share!

Let’s just say by the end, I felt obscured by the whole cleaning event.  Zonked!  It needed to be done.  I’m glad I did it. Happiest of all that it is now over and the refrigerator is happy again and not climbing with icky fridge monsters.  Fridge attack…SUCCESS!



At this moment, I cannot think of a better way to appreciate my eatables more than giving them a happy, clean home to reside in–please excuse the personification. :p  Show me all of your fridge projects under the hash-tag #fridgeattack !  I cannot wait to see.  And remember…bite responsibly.

Healthy and happy fridge cleaning regards,


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