Use a homemade vinegar-based cleansing solution to clean a refrigerator and limit your exposure to harsh, synthetic chemicals.
Use this checklist when you go to the store and purchase your items.
Empty the refrigerator. Remove all food items and place them in picnic coolers stocked with ice or cold packs. Layer frozen foods around refrigerated foods to help keep them cool. Use a secondary refrigerator in the garage or basement if possible. Schedule the refrigerator cleaning the day before stocking up on groceries when your food supply is at its lowest.
Unplug the refrigerator and allow the refrigerator to warm to room temperature and the freezer to defrost. Place a towel in the bottom drawer or shelf of the freezer to absorb melting frost. Place a second towel on the floor near the refrigerator to absorb any unexpected water runoff.
Prepare the homemade cleanser. Measure 1 cup of white vinegar into a 1-quart spray bottle. Squeeze the fresh juice of a lemon or lime into the bottle. Fill the bottle with cold water, and gently shake it to combine the ingredients. The citrus juice helps cut through greasy stains, such as spilled butter or oils. Vinegar removes stale refrigerator odors.
Disassemble the interior of the refrigerator. Remove egg trays, vegetable drawers and fruit drawers. Slide shelves forward or fully remove them if possible. Carefully remove refrigerator door shelves by lifting them up and pulling them toward you.
Place all interior components of the refrigerator near the sink. Fill the sink with hot, soapy water, and use a stiff bristle brush to scrub the parts, removing any dried-on spills or sticky residue. Rinse each piece with warm water. Spray the pieces with the homemade cleanser to kill any remaining bacteria and eliminate odors. Towel-dry each piece and set them aside to finish air drying.
Wipe the entire interior of the refrigerator. Use a spray cleanser to moisten the surface, then wipe the cleanser away using a soft cotton cloth. Clean the spongy seal around the refrigerator doors, the door handles, the exterior of the refrigerator and the top of the appliance. If the refrigerator has a removable base plate, remove it and vacuum the dust.
Plug in the refrigerator and let it cool. Wait at least 30 minutes so the freezer reaches its optimum temperature. While the unit cools, replace all interior components. When the appliance feels cool, replace all food in the freezer and refrigerator sections. Plan to clean a refrigerator three to four times each year to keep the unit running efficiently and odors to a minimum.