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15 Tips for a Squeaky Clean Fridge

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ThinkStock

Just in time for Thanksgiving dinner preparations, November 15 marks official Clean Your Refrigerator Day. While not a national holiday, it should be one, because let’s face it—your fridge is gross. It’s okay, everyone’s fridge is a little bit gross, and no matter how bad things are inside your icebox, they can always be cleaned.

And what better way to clean out the inside of where all your delicious food rests before your consumption than with a few wacky and offbeat tips you might not have cooked up on your own? Let’s chow down and get cracking. 

1. Pre-Clean Dirty Culprits

Sure, it might seem like a no-brainer for most of us to clean up things after they spill or leak in the fridge (think bad milk cartons, sticky condiment bottles, poorly designed takeout boxes), but what if you cleaned those things before they had a chance to mess your fridge shelves? That’s right—pre-cleaning is sometimes actually the best way to clean. Give everything that could turn on you a good wipe-down before sticking it in the fridge, from jam jars to ketchup bottles to oily dressing containers. 

2. Keep Things That Go Bad Easily Where You Can See Them

Not all messy stuff can be fixed with a pre-clean; some stuff just has to bust out its grossness in its own good time. That’s right, it’s time for another pre-cleaning tip, but trust us, it will all be worth it once you’re up to your ears in actual cleaning elbow grease. It’s inevitable that some items in your fridge are going to cause a mess at some point in time—rotting veggies, bad meat, all that smelly stuff—so keep them where you can see them, so it won’t come as a horrible surprise when your kale or hamburger or strawberries go bad and you don’t discover the horror until weeks later. Don’t be afraid of that crisper drawer, it’s easy to peek into for a reason.

3. Put Dates on Stuff

If it’s not obvious by now, the weirdest way to clean your fridge is to pre-clean it, or at least get it primed for best cleaning practices. The biggest villain in the fridge will always be the spoiled stuff that is there way past its prime—hello leaks, spills, and bad smells. But what if your pre-wipes and sightline tricks don’t work? Date things. Date everything! Stick a marker next to your fridge and use it to mark down the date an item enters your icebox so that when you’re wondering just how long that dried-out pizza has been there, you have an answer. (You can also use masking tape and a pen if you don’t want to write directly on things.) And then you have no excuse for not tossing it post-haste. 

4. Use that Baking Soda...

Chances are you’re familiar with the concept of leaving an opened box of baking soda inside your fridge to trap bad smells, but do you know how to accelerate that process if something smelly gets by that handy box? It’s easy enough—just spread out some of your baking soda on a baking sheet or dinner plate and place in the middle of your fridge. It can stay put until the odor is gone.

5. ...And Kick It Up With Coffee

Does your bad-smelling fridge need more than baking soda can provide? (We’re not judging.) Add some fresh coffee grounds to your baking soda tray and let them work their magic. There will be a coffee scent for a bit, but that too will fade away, just like whatever gross thing is plaguing your fridge.

6. Clean the Edges

While it’s not as obvious as cleaning shelves and bins, cleaning the edges of your fridge (where the doors seal up against the icebox) is infinitely more satisfying. It’s also really gross, mainly because most people don’t even think about the gunk that collects there (Got pets? Get ready to find plenty of pet hair lodged in there). Give the edges a wipe every few weeks to keep it at bay—use hot water and a touch of white vinegar on a rag to really make that thing pop. Then wash that rag. Maybe a lot. 

6. Power Off

If it’s finally time to get down to business with actual, hardcore, hands-on fridge cleaning, there’s one little thing you might want to do that you’ve most likely never thought of. Turn the fridge off. Unplug it. Why? Your power consumption will thank you, because you’re going to have that thing open for a quite a long time once actual cleaning commences.

7. Throw Out

You can do it. Check those dates, be honest about what is still good and what you’re going to eat, and toss out anything that doesn’t make the cut (or seems too gross to actually eat at any point in the future). Work your way from top to bottom, fridge first, then pop that freezer open and go to work there. (Close it quick! Remember your fridge isn’t running!) 

8. Keep It Cold

You’ll surely still have some food that’s fit to eat after the clean out, right? Keep it snug in an icy cooler or, if you’re cooler-less or just prone to the makeshift, throw some ice into a big mixing bowl or salad bowl and let your still-good items chill out on top. 

9. Remove Your Drawers

That’s right—take those drawers right out. Give them a loving scrub with a classic mix of warm water and soap (sometimes the best tips are the most obvious). Really need to get them clean? White vinegar again. With this one, go one-half water and one-half white vinegar. Your drawers are going to sparkle. 

10. Take It Inside

Now is the time to clean your (now naked and empty!) icebox. Feel free to use the white vinegar solution, or turn back to baking soda, the refrigerator’s all-star. There’s no need to break out harsh, chemical-laden cleaning products that could get too close to your food—just mix up two tablespoons of baking soda with one quart of hot water. Use your clean rag pal to get in there with your new favorite cleaning mix. Dry off everything with a clean, dry rag or a couple of paper towels. Put everything back in! (Crucial step!) 

11. Take It Inside, An Alternate Method

Used all your baking soda to soak up smells? You can use salt, water, and lemon for an equally safe (and easy) cleaning solution. Dissolve an entire cup of household salt into a gallon of hot water, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and get to cleaning. 

12. Clean Exteriors

The inside of the fridge is just the tip of the iceberg. For maximum fridge cleanliness, you’ve got to hit the exterior, too. Of course, this is all taking place very close to your foodstuffs so, again, let’s stay away from chemical cleaning agents. Do you happen to have any of that white vinegar mix hanging around? You do? Take it to the front of your fridge by way of another clean rag (heads up—clean rags are your friends) to clean and shine up your doors and sides. Have a stainless steel fridge? Rest assured, you can still use the white vinegar mix on it. 

13. Meet Your Drip Pan

So you’ve cleaned the inside and outside of your fridge, have been vigilant about keeping things fresh and dated and spill-proof—what could possibly be left to do? Meet your drip pan. Not every fridge has one, but if yours does, giving it a clean may actually alter your life (it will at least horrify you the first time you do it).

You can locate the drip pan by removing the grill from bottom of your fridge (down below the door) and using a flashlight to find it. You’ll know it when you see it. It’s made to be pulled out, so get some gloves on, remove it, and clean the heck out of it. For this one, we’ll allow the use of bleach—even white vinegar can’t fix everything.

14. Meet the Coils

Let’s be honest—you’ve never thought about the back of your fridge, have you? The closest most of us have gotten to that particular side of our icebox is that episode of Friends where Joey sees the back of his fridge for the first time and promptly yanks off the coil backing. Don’t do that! Love those coils! (And, by love, we mean gently vacuum them every few months or so.) Your fridge will work better and you’ll feel great pride in being the only person you know who has actually cleaned the back of their fridge. It’s wacky, but it works. 

15. Be Lazy

If working your way through ten-plus steps to a sparkling fridge sounds like madness to you, there are a few ways to wing it (and that’s okay, too). One way to avoid having to wipe down the shelves on a consistent basis is to line your shelves with plastic wrap or cling wrap. Once things get really bad in there, just yank up the wrap and put in a fresh layer. 

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
11 Things You Might Not Know About Johann Sebastian Bach
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images

Johann Sebastian Bach is everywhere. Weddings? Bach. Haunted houses? Bach. Church? Bach. Shredding electric guitar solos? Look, it’s Bach! The Baroque composer produced more than 1100 works, from liturgical organ pieces to secular cantatas for orchestra, and his ideas about musical form and harmony continue to influence generations of music-makers. Here are 11 things you might not know about the man behind the music.

1. PEOPLE DISAGREE ABOUT WHEN TO CELEBRATE HIS BIRTHDAY.

Some people celebrate Bach’s birthday on March 21. Other people light the candles on March 31. The correct date depends on whom you ask. Bach was born in Thuringia in 1685, when the German state was still observing the Julian calendar. Today, we use the Gregorian calendar, which shifted the dates by 11 days. And while most biographies opt for the March 31 date, Bach scholar Christopher Wolff firmly roots for Team 21. “True, his life was actually 11 days longer because Protestant Germany adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700,” he told Classical MPR, “but with the legal stipulation that all dates prior to Dec. 31, 1699, remain valid.”

2. HE WAS THE CENTER OF A MUSICAL DYNASTY.

Bach’s great-grandfather was a piper. His grandfather was a court musician. His father was a violinist, organist, court trumpeter, and kettledrum player. At least two of his uncles were composers. He had five brothers—all named Johann—and the three who lived to adulthood became musicians. J.S. Bach also had 20 children, and, of those who lived past childhood, at least five became professional composers. According to the Nekrolog, an obituary written by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "[S]tarting with Veit Bach, the founding father of this family, all his descendants, down to the seventh generation, have dedicated themselves to the profession of music, with only a few exceptions."

3. BACH TOOK A MUSICAL PILGRIMAGE THAT PUTS EVERY ROAD TRIP TO WOODSTOCK TO SHAME.

In 1705, 20-year-old Bach walked 280 miles—that's right, walked—from the city of Arnstadt to Lübeck in northern Germany to hear a concert by the influential organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude. He stuck around for four months to study with the musician [PDF]. Bach hoped to succeed Buxtehude as the organist of Lübeck's St. Mary's Church, but marriage to one of Buxtehude's daughters was a prerequisite to taking over the job. Bach declined, and walked back home.

4. HE BRAWLED WITH HIS STUDENTS.

One of Bach’s first jobs was as a church organist in Arnstadt. When he signed up for the role, nobody told him he also had to teach a student choir and orchestra, a responsibility Bach hated. Not one to mince words, Bach one day lost patience with a error-prone bassoonist, Johann Geyersbach, and called him a zippelfagottist—that is, a “nanny-goat bassoonist.” Those were fighting words. Days later, Geyersbach attacked Bach with a walking stick. Bach pulled a dagger. The rumble escalated into a full-blown scrum that required the two be pulled apart.

5. BACH SPENT 30 DAYS IN JAIL FOR QUITTING HIS JOB.

When Bach took a job in 1708 as a chamber musician in the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, he once again assumed a slew of responsibilities that he never signed up for. This time, he took it in stride, believing his hard work would lead to his promotion to kapellmeister (music director). But after five years, the top job was handed to the former kapellmeister’s son. Furious, Bach resigned and joined a rival court. As retribution, the duke jailed him for four weeks. Bach spent his time in the slammer writing preludes for organ.

6. THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS WERE A FAILED JOB APPLICATION.

Around 1721, Bach was the head of court music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. Unfortunately, the composer reportedly didn’t get along with the prince’s new wife, and he started looking for a new gig. (Notice a pattern?) Bach polished some manuscripts that had been sitting around and mailed them to a potential employer, Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. That package, which included the Brandenburg Concertos—now considered some of the most important orchestral compositions of the Baroque era—failed to get Bach the job [PDF].

7. HE WROTE ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST COFFEE JINGLES.

Bach apparently loved coffee enough to write a song about it: "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht" ("Be still, stop chattering"). Performed in 1735 at Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, the song is about a coffee-obsessed woman whose father wants her to stop drinking the caffeinated stuff. She rebels and sings this stanza:

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
And, if someone wants to pamper me,
Ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

8. IF BACH CHALLENGED YOU TO A KEYBOARD DUEL, YOU WERE GUARANTEED TO BE EMBARRASSED.

In 1717, Louis Marchand, a harpsichordist from France, was invited to play for Augustus, Elector of Saxony, and performed so well that he was offered a position playing for the court. This annoyed the court’s concertmaster, who found Marchand arrogant and insufferable. To scare the French harpsichordist away, the concertmaster hatched a plan with his friend, J.S. Bach: a keyboard duel. Bach and Marchand would improvise over a number of different styles, and the winner would take home 500 talers. But when Marchand learned just how talented Bach was, he hightailed it out of town.

9. SOME OF HIS MUSIC MAY HAVE BEEN COMPOSED TO HELP INSOMNIA.

Some people are ashamed to admit that classical music, especially the Baroque style, makes them sleepy. Be ashamed no more! According to Bach’s earliest biographer, the Goldberg Variations were composed to help Count Hermann Karl von Keyserling overcome insomnia. (This story, to be fair, is disputed.) Whatever the truth, it hasn’t stopped the Andersson Dance troupe from presenting a fantastic Goldberg-based tour of performances called “Ternary Patterns for Insomnia.” Sleep researchers have also suggested studying the tunes’ effects on sleeplessness [PDF].

10. HE WAS BLINDED BY BOTCHED EYE SURGERY.

When Bach was 65, he had eye surgery. The “couching” procedure, which was performed by a traveling surgeon named John Taylor, involved shoving the cataract deep into the eye with a blunt instrument. Post-op, Taylor gave the composer eye drops that contained pigeon blood, mercury, and pulverized sugar. It didn’t work. Bach went blind and died shortly after. Meanwhile, Taylor moved on to botch more musical surgeries. He would perform the same procedure on the composer George Frideric Handel, who also went blind.

11. NOBODY IS 100 PERCENT CONFIDENT THAT BACH IS BURIED IN HIS GRAVE.

In 1894, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Leipzig wanted to move the composer’s body out of the church graveyard to a more dignified setting. There was one small problem: Bach had been buried in an unmarked grave, as was common for regular folks at the time. According to craniologist Wilhelm His, a dig crew tried its best to find the composer but instead found “heaps of bones, some in many layers lying on top of each other, some mixed in with the remains of coffins, others already smashed by the hacking of the diggers.” The team later claimed to find Bach’s box, but there’s doubt they found the right (de)composer. Today, Bach supposedly resides in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church.

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