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Gertie's Dirt: Cleaning the refrigerator

The holiday cook-a-thon starts this month with Thanksgiving and continues through the New Year. Now is a great time to get your kitchen appliances cleaned up and ready for all the action. This week and next week we will discuss cleaning and maintenance of some of the most used items in your kitchen.

The Refrigerator:

• Unplug the fridge. Remove each item and toss out the leftovers and outdated condiments.

• With warm water and a microfiber cloth, wipe or wash any sticky containers that you plan to keep, then place them in a cooler if you are worried about spoilage.

• Wash the shelves and bins with a microfiber cloth and a solution of baking soda and water. Replace the water filter, if you have a dispenser and use a permanent marker to write the date on it. Replace the box of

baking soda, too.

• Return the clean food items.

• Remove and wash the refrigerator's grill. Behind this grill some refrigerators have a drip pan, so don't forget to remove, clean and replace that, too.

If you can, pull the refrigerator out and vacuum under it, be sure to remove the dust on the coils or condenser and fan. If you can't move the fridge, pull an old sock over a broomstick and run it under the appliance. Dust bunnies may have taken up residence there and need to be swept away.

Lastly, wash the outside of the refrigerator with a moist microfiber cloth and dry it to a shine. Don't forget to wash the handles! If you have a stainless steel exterior, mild soap and water work fine most of the time. Wipe in the direction of the polish lines. If you have fingerprints that won't budge, try a vinegar and water solution sprayed on your cloth. Use a circular motion on the fingerprints or try a stainless steel cleaner.

Keeping your food at the proper temperature is one of the best ways to slow the growth of bacteria. According to the FDA, your refrigerator should be set so the temperature is between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Your freezer should be close to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Don't be tempted to "over pack."Cool air must circulate around the food to keep it chilled. I know the door has a place just right for milk, but it is best to place it on a shelf. Use the door spots for condiments.

Your refrigerator is now beautifully clean and well organized! Stand back and admire!

Stay tuned next week when we discuss the Stove.

Donna Bellino is a nurse and owner of Gertie's Cleaning and Home Service. I care for you, your health and your home. Gertie's: Naturally Clean!