The 3 Cheap Accessories I Use to Avoid Cleaning My Fridge
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The 3 Cheap Accessories I Use to Avoid Cleaning My Fridge

Jun 27, 2023

There's only one good way to clean a refrigerator, and it sucks: You take everything out, you scrub everything down, and then you put it all back together again. But with just three cheap accessories, you won't have to do that ever again. (Or at least, not very often.)

Some flexible fridge mats, a roll of non-sticky shelf liners, and some tea towels can help you keep the three grossest parts of your fridge fairly clean. Here's how:

I have a collection of condiments from around the globe in the doors of my fridge, and they all appear to leak—even when I rarely use them. Liners in darker colors hide the mess, and they’re easier to spot clean, too.

Amelia Hensley, a mechanical engineer and cleaning expert at GE Appliances, said that the coolest feature of her home Café French door fridge is the dishwasher-safe plastic mats that sit under the condiments she keeps in the door. "This is my favorite thing about my door bins," she said, "because those tend to get disgusting."

Café fridges are expensive. But their mats are really easy to reproduce at home with nonadhesive plastic shelf liners, like these ones from Stockroom Plus. They’re the same sophisticated steely color, nearly as sturdy, and come in a 12-by-20-foot roll. I measured my own fridge doors, cut a piece to size, then popped them in under my leaky jars of jelly and chili oil.

If you already have another brand of shelf liners, just make sure they’re not the kind with adhesive backing, said Hensley. You want to be able to easily remove the mats to clean them, and the moisture in your fridge eventually makes the sticky kind buckle.

If you have a fridge with wire shelving, as I do, then you know the worst fridge messes come from leaks that drizzle their way down from one shelf to another. But a couple of thin, washable mats (I have ones from MayNest) on the shelves will keep spills on their own level.

The mats come in multiple colors and are precut in sizes that fit most shelves, but you can easily trim them down where needed. (I also like to overlap a few different colors for some extra rainbow joy when I open the fridge door.)

Like the Stockroom Plus shelf liners, these have a gridded, grippy side that keeps containers in place in your fridge. But because they’re thinner and more flexible, they’re easier to keep flat on shelves where you’re often sliding or pulling things around.

No matter how hard you try to keep things under wraps in your crisper drawers, produce always ends up smashed and rotten at the bottom. "There's always some kind of something that is inedible in there," said Hensley.

But if you line your crisper drawers with something easily swappable, you won't ever have to take out those clunky, unwieldy drawers to clean them.

Hensley likes to line the bottom of her crisper with thin cotton flour sack towels, which dry quickly and are generally considered safe for wrapping around food you’re planning to eat. (They’re our pick for food prep in our guide to the best kitchen towels.)

If you’re looking for even less labor, you can also use paper towels, said Hensley. In my own fridge, I use a mix of paper towels, flour sack towels, or sometimes just clean brown paper lunch bags, depending on if I am crisping already washed and dried lettuce (flour sack towel), dusty winter beets (paper bag), or easily squashed, permanently staining berries (paper towels).

This article was edited by Amy Koplin, Brittney Ho, and Sofia Sokolove.

Amelia Hensley, mechanical engineer and cleaning expert at GE Appliances, Zoom interview, April 14, 2023

Rachel Wharton

Rachel Wharton is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter covering ovens, stoves, fridges and other essential kitchen appliances. She has more than 15 years of experience reporting on food issues and a master's degree in food studies, and has helped write more than a dozen books on that topic (including her own, American Food: A Not-So-Serious History). One of her first real gigs was reviewing kitchen gadgets in less than 50 words for the New York Daily News.

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