The holidays are fast approaching! In today's On the Menu segment, Katie Francisco, registered dietitian from Mercy Health, talks about National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.

It's the perfect timing to get yourself and your kitchen ready for next week's Thanksgiving Day celebration.

Why clean your refrigerator?

  • To protect yourself and your loved ones from food-borne illness
  • To help your refrigerator work more efficiently
  • To reduce waste and potentially save money (best accomplished if done consistently)

What should be cleaned?

Both the inside and outside of your refrigerator should be cleaned thoroughly.


  • Start with dusting the top surface with a product approved by the manufacturer
  • Vacuum the coils and clean under and behind the fridge to help it run most efficiently
  • Next clean the front and handles


  • Depending on how much food is in your fridge and how dirty it is, you may want to use a cooler to keep food cold while cleaning
  • First check expiration dates, throw away everything that is past its "best by" date
  • Next focus on any opened packages that have been there longer than one week; these also should be discarded
  • Check all leftovers. Have they been there for more than 3-5 days? Do they have mold or weird smells? When in doubt, throw it out!
  • *Hint -Try to label all leftovers with a date so you know exactly how old they are
  • Remove all removable shelves and drawers; wash in the sink with hot, soapy water
  • Finally, wipe down the walls, any non-removable shelves, the door and the seals around the doors
  • Let everything air dry before re-assembling
  • Place a box of baking soda in your newly cleaned fridge to keep odors under control

Frequently asked questions

  1. How long is it safe to keep leftovers? Most food is safe for 3-4 days in the fridge; freezing leftovers allows you to keep foods for 2-6 months!
  2. How many times can leftovers be re-heated? Best Practice is to re-heat only once - heating only portions that you plan to eat and checking that the food reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. Re-heating multiple times decreases food quality, but can be safe if food is heated to the proper temperature each time and cooled quickly.
  3. What is the maximum amount of time food can be left at room temperature? Room temperature is in the temperature "danger zone" of 40-140 degrees. This is the optimal temperature for bacteria to grow. High bacteria levels in food is what causes food-borne illness. Food should be at room temperature or "in the danger zone" no longer than two hours.
  4. Who is most at risk for food-borne illness? The people most at risk for getting sick from improperly handled foods are the elderly, pregnant woman, infants and those with compromised immune systems (like people with cancer or people taking immunosuppressant medications).


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