To properly use a refrigerator, you need to maintain the right temperature, organize the food items, clean it regularly, and avoid overloading it. These steps will help you keep your food fresh, prevent spoilage, save energy, and extend the lifespan of your appliance. In this article, we will explain how to do each of these steps in detail and provide some tips and tricks to make the most of your refrigerator.
Maintain the Right Temperature
The first step to properly use a refrigerator is to set the right temperature for both the fridge and the freezer compartments. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the ideal temperature for the fridge is 40°F or below, and the ideal temperature for the freezer is 0°F or below. These temperatures will slow down the growth of bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that can cause foodborne illnesses.
To check the temperature of your refrigerator, you can use a refrigerator thermometer, which is a special device that can withstand cold temperatures and has a large display. You can place the thermometer in the middle of the fridge or freezer, where the temperature is most stable, and check it regularly. If the temperature is too high or too low, you can adjust the thermostat knob or dial on your refrigerator. Some newer models have digital controls that allow you to set the exact temperature.
Some factors that can affect the temperature of your refrigerator include:
- The ambient temperature of the room where the refrigerator is located. If the room is too hot or too cold, the refrigerator will have to work harder to maintain the desired temperature. You should avoid placing your refrigerator near heat sources, such as ovens, stoves, dishwashers, or direct sunlight. You should also leave some space between the refrigerator and the wall or other objects to allow proper air circulation.
- The frequency and duration of opening and closing the refrigerator door. Every time you open the door, warm air enters the refrigerator and cold air escapes. This makes the refrigerator work harder to cool down the inside. You should avoid opening the door too often or for too long. You should also close the door tightly and make sure the door seal is in good condition. If the door seal is damaged or dirty, it can cause air leaks and increase the energy consumption of your refrigerator.
- The amount and type of food you store in the refrigerator. Different foods have different thermal properties, meaning they absorb or release heat at different rates. For example, liquids and foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables, tend to release more heat than solid and dry foods, such as cheese and bread. You should avoid storing too much food or too many warm or hot foods in the refrigerator, as they can raise the temperature and cause condensation. You should also let the food cool down to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator, unless it is perishable and needs to be refrigerated right away.
Organize the Food Items
The second step to properly use a refrigerator is to organize the food items according to their type, size, and expiration date. This will help you find what you need quickly, avoid wasting food, and prevent cross-contamination. Here are some general guidelines on how to organize your refrigerator:
- Store raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs on the lowest shelf or in a separate drawer, away from ready-to-eat foods. This will prevent the juices from dripping onto other foods and spreading bacteria. You should also wrap or cover these foods tightly to avoid odor and moisture transfer.
- Store dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter, on the upper or middle shelves, where the temperature is more consistent. You should also keep these foods in their original containers or in airtight containers to preserve their freshness and flavor.
- Store fruits and vegetables in the crisper drawers, where the humidity is higher and the temperature is lower. This will help them retain their moisture and crispness. You should also separate fruits and vegetables, as some fruits produce ethylene gas, which can cause vegetables to ripen and spoil faster. You can use the humidity control feature on some crisper drawers to adjust the airflow and moisture level for different types of produce.
- Store leftovers, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods on the upper or middle shelves, where they are easily visible and accessible. You should also label and date these foods and use them within three to four days, or freeze them for longer storage. You should also store these foods in shallow, clear, and airtight containers to prevent drying out and spoiling.
- Store condiments, sauces, dressings, and other items that do not need to be refrigerated or have a long shelf life on the door shelves, where the temperature is warmer and more variable. You should also check the expiration dates of these items and discard them if they are past their prime.
Clean It Regularly
The third step to properly use a refrigerator is to clean it regularly to remove dirt, dust, spills, stains, mold, and odors. This will improve the hygiene, appearance, and performance of your refrigerator. Here are some tips on how to clean your refrigerator:
- Unplug the refrigerator or turn off the power before cleaning. This will prevent electric shocks and save energy.
- Remove all the food items and store them in a cooler or another refrigerator while you clean. This will prevent them from spoiling or warming up.
- Remove all the shelves, drawers, and other removable parts and wash them with warm, soapy water. You can also use a mild detergent, baking soda, or vinegar to remove stubborn stains and odors. Rinse and dry them thoroughly before putting them back.
- Wipe the inside of the refrigerator with a damp cloth or sponge dipped in warm, soapy water. You can also use a mild disinfectant, baking soda, or vinegar to sanitize and deodorize the interior. Pay special attention to the corners, crevices, and door seal, where dirt and bacteria can accumulate. Rinse and dry the interior with a clean cloth or paper towel.
- Wipe the outside of the refrigerator with a damp cloth or sponge dipped in warm, soapy water. You can also use a mild cleaner, polish, or stainless steel cleaner to remove fingerprints, smudges, and scratches from the exterior. Rinse and dry the exterior with a clean cloth or paper towel.
- Vacuum or brush the condenser coils, which are located at the back or bottom of the refrigerator. These coils are responsible for cooling the refrigerant and releasing heat. If they are dirty or dusty, they can reduce the efficiency and lifespan of your refrigerator. You should clean the coils at least once or twice a year, or more often if you have pets or live in a dusty environment.
- Plug the refrigerator or turn on the power and check the temperature. Adjust the thermostat if needed and wait for the refrigerator to reach the desired temperature before putting the food items back.
Avoid Overloading It
The fourth and final step to properly use a refrigerator is to avoid overloading it with too much food or too many items. This will ensure proper air circulation, cooling, and ventilation inside the refrigerator. Here are some reasons why you should avoid overloading your refrigerator:
- Overloading your refrigerator can block the vents and fans that distribute cold air throughout the refrigerator. This can cause uneven cooling, temperature fluctuations, and hot spots, which can affect the quality and safety of your food. You should leave some space between the food items and the walls of the refrigerator to allow air to flow freely.
- Overloading your refrigerator can make it harder to find what you need and increase the chances of forgetting or overlooking some items. This can lead to food waste, spoilage, and odor. You should keep your refrigerator organized and check the contents regularly. You should also use the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method, which means using the oldest items first and placing the newest items at the back.
- Overloading your refrigerator can make it work harder and consume more energy. This can increase your electricity bill and reduce the lifespan of your refrigerator. You should only store the amount of food that you need and use within a reasonable time. You should also plan your meals and shopping ahead and avoid buying or cooking more than you can eat.
Using a refrigerator properly is not difficult, but it requires some attention and care. By following the four steps we discussed in this article, you can make the most of your refrigerator and enjoy fresh, safe, and delicious food. Remember to maintain the right temperature, organize the food items, clean it regularly, and avoid overloading it. These steps will help you save money, energy, and time, and also protect your health and the environment.