Happy Clean-Out-Your-Refrigerator Day

November 18 is dedicated to refrigerators filled with USO's -- Unidentified Shriveled Objects.

Apparently Whirlpool, in its omnipotent corporate wisdom, realized Americans need more room in their fridges as the holidays draw closer. So several years ago the appliance manufacturer established the third Wednesday in November as National Clean-Out-Your-Refrigerator Day.

Removing biohazards is a good idea any time of year. There's really not much point in wasting coolant power on food that could kill you with a look, but very few of us look forward to a full fridge and freezer cleaning. However, the really nasty part isn't tossing out space oddities: It's sponging up liquids that accumulate in the produce bins. Perhaps avoiding such "juices" is why experts recommend cleaning your fridge once a month. (Notice I said "your" fridge, not "my" fridge. My appliances always sparkle, of course.)

While you're cleaning, it's also a good time to make sure the refrigerator's temperature is between 30 and 40 degrees F and the freezer temp is between 0 and -10 degrees F, so holiday foods won't spoil.

Here's your step-by-step process to a full fridge cleaning.

1. Put on rubber gloves to keep your hands from burning in the hot water and maintain their silky softness.
2. Remove everything from the fridge, tossing empty containers, spoiled food or any condiment that has been in residence for longer than a year. If you haven't used it in a year, you'll probably never use it.
3. Mix up a bucket of HOT water with a disinfecting cleaner. Replace occasionally as the water becomes dirty.
4. Remove the shelves and bins and scrub over the sink.
5. Wash down and disinfect the inside walls and all along the door seal.
6. Wash the outside of jars and containers.
7. Replace the shelves and bins.
8. Return everything to the fridge, properly stored in foil, plastic wrap, plastic bags or airtight containers.
9. Wash the sides and tops of the refrigerator's exterior.
10. Vacuum the coils at the back, if your model has coils. (Dust requires the fridge to suck up more energy.)
11. Clean the floor underneath the fridge, if it moves easily.
12.  Stand back and appreciate your hard work.

If you don't have a self-defrosting freezer, here's the process for defrosting and cleaning it out.

1. Unplug the freezer from the power source.
2. Cover the floor around the fridge with a tarp or newspapers to catch any water, ice or debris.
3. Prop open the freezer door, if necessary, and remove everything from the freezer.
4. Place all frozen foods in the kitchen sink, covered with a blanket to keep them cool.
5. Spray a disinfectant cleaner on all cabinet walls. (Sprays won't cling to the cold walls like water.)
6. While the spray is dissolving grime and foodstuffs, use a cleanser-dipped Q-tip to clean the groove inside the door gasket.
7. Wipe the cleanser from the cabinet walls with paper towels. 
8. For difficult-to-remove food residue, apply a paste of baking soda and water and scour with a soft pad. Don't use a harsh cleaning pad as it will scratch the surface. 
9. Dry all surfaces with paper towels.
10. Spray a couple paper towels with the cleansing spray and wipe down all the storage containers, as you return them to the freezer. 
11. Plug the freezer back into its power source!
12. Clean the outside of the freezer.
13. Leave the freezer door closed for at least one hour, to allow the temperature to return to normal

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