Wait, I Can’t Use Cleaning Products on My Fridge?

Apparently I've been cleaning my delicate refrigerator wrong my whole life

Not surprisingly, I’ve been hitting all my highly touched surfaces with frequent doses of bleach and disinfectant. Considering I open it several times a day simply to stare at its contents, my fridge is among the affected. I’m learning, though, that I’m not actually supposed to do that if I want my fridge to look nice? 

My fridge is already a hunk of trash garbage that belongs to my landlord, so whatever. But had I actually spent real dollar bills on my refrigerator, I would care about this kind of thing. 

As my colleague Cooper Fleishman recently shared with me, some refrigerators actually feature a warning sticker stating not to wash the fridge exterior with any kind of cleaner besides dish soap, warm water and a gentle cloth. The websites for several refrigerator brands offer similar advice. For example, the GE Appliance site says, “All refrigerators can be cleaned with a mild solution of soap and warm water with a clean, soft cloth or microfiber cloth.” The site lists specific items to avoid cleaning the fridge with, including stainless steel cleaners, scouring pads and any product containing bleach, ammonia or vinegar. It even says you should avoid paper towels. 

You mean to tell me fucking steel can’t handle a paper towel? Okay, fine, whatever. 

Anyhoo, all of this is because most cleaners are ultra abrasive — even just breathing in bleach vapor can scratch up your lungs. Some materials can handle the abrasiveness, some can’t. With your fridge, the consequence of using an abrasive cleaner is mostly just scratch marks — though, on white, plastic-y fridge exteriors, repeated use of bleach cleaners like Lysol could lead to cracks. 

In other words, the fridge will probably still be functional, it’ll just be ugly. 

Regardless of color, most refrigerators are primarily made of steel or other metals, and then painted or coated in some form of plastic. All of these materials can be scratched by bleach. The interior of your fridge could similarly become scratched, but most shelves and drawers are replaceable. Personally, I’d rather have a clean, ugly fridge than an unscratched one coated in old lettuce juice. 

In any case, both the interior and exterior of the fridge can be properly cleaned with soap and water. Soap will still remove germs, so long as you’re able to rinse or wipe the soap away. Bleach-based sprays like Lysol are certainly an easier solution, but soap is similarly effective and, again, won’t fuck up your fridge.

Despite everything I’ve said here, most of the writing on fridge cleaning still recommends using bleach, vinegar and/or stainless steel cleaners along with paper towels. It’s even what the Home Depot site says to do. Who are you gonna listen to, a gal who technically doesn’t even own a fridge, or the store trying to sell you one?