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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
From today's WSJ:

Why Won't Anyone Clean Me?
Most Americans Tidy Their Refrigerators Only Once or Twice a Year; Manufacturers Try New Ways to Combat the MessArticle

Now, appliance makers like Whirlpool, Viking Range Corp. and Sub-Zero Inc. are tackling the messy fridge problem with a host of new features including souped-up shelves, bacteria-killing devices and better lighting. General Electric Co., for example, says it is rolling out new refrigerators in May with 10 lighting sources inside instead of its usual three—so food that might be forgotten in a corner and spoil will be easier to spot. The new GE models sell for $1,599 or $1,799 for stainless steel.

Manufacturers aiming to create a cleaner, tidier fridge are likely facing an uphill battle: Currently, most Americans don't clean their fridges until something triggers them to act, such as a spill or a pungent odor. They also don't devote much effort to the task, even when they come home with bags of new groceries. In Whirlpool's 2005 refrigerator habits survey of 2,571 consumers, 33% said they don't spend any time cleaning the refrigerator before grocery shopping. In order to make room for items just purchased, 27% reported shoving everything in and not worrying about organization.

Whirlpool hopes that increasing the amount of storage space might help. The company's new shelves—to be released later this year—are 25% roomier than previous models. And the microscopic etching creates surface tension, causing liquids to bubble up around the perimeter instead of spilling over, it says. Currently, shelves in Whirlpool's refrigerators have a plastic rim to help contain spills. Unfortunately, the rims have "the side effect of crud getting stuck in there," says Carolyn Kelley, brand manager of Whirlpool refrigeration. The new shelves—available on new Whirlpool models that cost from $1,199 to $1,499—would eliminate that problem because they don't require a rim to stop leaks.

But having more room won't necessarily limit clutter. People often don't store things properly anyway. Four years ago, in an effort to understand how people organize their fridges, Sub-Zero bought a week's worth of groceries and asked a group of 12 customers to put away the items in refrigerators at the company's research facilities in Madison, Wis.

What ensued was chaos. People put meat and soda cans in the crisper drawers, which have a temperature and humidity meant for veggies. They put their milk in shelves on the door. While the door shelves seem to be a perfect fit for a carton of milk, Sub-Zero says the area is the worst place to store dairy products because it's the warmest part of the fridge.

And most folks had no clue what to do with the special cheese compartment. "What we found is that most people don't know what they are doing when they pack the refrigerator," says Paul Leuthe, the company's corporate marketing manager.

Sub-Zero decided education was the next step. The company started including with its latest built-in models an instructional card that shows the various regions of the refrigerator, from "coldest" to "cool," and gives tips on how long certain foods should be stored. It also indicates which foods should be allowed to ripen on the counter before being placed into the refrigerator (pears and avocados are examples).

Anatomy of a Fridge

Photo Illustration by Jeff Mangiat

Messy...

Milk and eggs are on a shelf on the door. This is the warmest part of the refrigerator and shouldn't house highly-perishable items.Raw meat is on the top shelf and isn't securely wrapped. Dripping meat can contaminate the food below.Apples and carrots are next to each other. Apples produce ethylene, a substance that can cause some foods (including carrots) to spoil sooner.Spills abound, creating a breeding ground for bacteria.Neat...

Only condiments (salad dressing, ketchup etc.) and other items that don't perish quickly are on the door's shelves.Vegetables are wrapped in plastic and placed in the crisper drawers. This is one of the coldest parts of the fridge and the humidity is set to keep vegetables fresh.The fridge isn't too tightly packed, allowing for good air flow, which helps keep food cold.Since people tend to throw out appliance manuals without reading them, Sub-Zero placed the card in a prominent spot in the fridge: the inside of the door. "It's not in your face, but it's pretty conspicuous," Mr. Leuthe says.

Indeed, when consumers are told how to organize their fridges, they tend to tidy up. In a 2005 study, Pennsylvania State University researchers inspected fridges in the homes of 28 consumers in Centre County and Huntingdon County, Pa. They found temperatures were on average about three degrees higher than the recommended 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Fridges were also packed so tightly that air flow, which is necessary to keep food cold, was impeded. And then there was the "ick" factor: In one home, researchers found that a study participant's dog was licking the bottom shelf when the door was open.

During that first visit, researchers told study participants about harmful bacteria that could exist in the fridge and gave tips on how to keep it clean. When the researchers returned to the same homes a month later, they found that things had improved markedly. People had spread out their items, and air flow had improved. People also said they intended to clean their fridges more often.

But the hassle factor can override even the strongest good intentions. "It's a pain" to clean the refrigerator, says Catherine Cutter, associate professor and food safety extension specialist at Penn State. "It is a daunting task to get in there, clean and sanitize."

And the task is too easy to avoid, says Debra Johnson, training manager at Merry Maids LP, a cleaning service headquartered in Memphis, Tenn. The mess is "out of sight, out of mind when the door is closed."

Ms. Johnson has seen all levels of refrigerator nastiness. "It could be things that have been left in there that look like a science project because it's covered with so much mold," she says. Broken eggs can be a pain to clean, too. The yolk hardens and can be tough to scrub off.

Ms. Johnson recommends that people explore the depths of their fridges once a week for food that needs to be tossed. She suggests cleaning one shelf at a time so that the task is less overwhelming. People should also be sure to clean what is often the dirtiest part of the fridge: underneath the bottom drawers where spilled liquid usually ends up. "It's going somewhere," she says. "It doesn't just evaporate."

A dirty fridge isn't just an aesthetic problem. Spills and food residue can carry health risks, too, says Penn State's Ms. Cutter. Consumers especially have to be careful with leaks from packages of raw meat, which can contaminate other food. If the meat contains E. coli, for example, the bacteria in the drippings could end up on food like fruits and vegetables, which are often eaten raw. Ms. Cutter also advises cleaning places that may harbor bacteria, such as the door handle and the drip tray located under the ice and water dispenser.

At least one manufacturer is rolling out bacteria-killing technology. Last year, Viking Range released a built-in model (priced from $6,600 to $8,800) that contains Sharp Electronics Corp.'s Plasmacluster Ion Air Purifier. The device, located at the top of the fridge, generates positive and negative ions that break down bacteria, mold and mildew, says Sue Bailey, the company's director of major appliance product management. In a test conducted by an outside firm hired by Viking Range, the Plasmacluster killed 99% of the bacteria in the fridge.

Even the most high-tech solutions can be thwarted by consumers who have a hard time throwing away food. Jennifer Smith, a digital marketing director in Bronxville, N.Y., says her husband, who grew up on an organic farm, has tried to salvage everything from moldy cheese to old salad dressing. "He doesn't like to throw things out," Ms. Smith says. "I think we should."

She says, "I have to go behind his back and look at some of the condiments and throw them out." Luckily, he doesn't notice.
 

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{{{{Shudder}}}} I have an old fridge that came with our house that is impossible to clean. Every few months I take all the shelves out and wash them in the sink with hot soapy water. I usually wipe down the shelves once a week with a lysol wipe. One of our crisper drawers stores beer. The other is for veggies and the cheese drawer has cheese in it.

My MIL had the best idea and I never remember to do it. She lines her fridge shelves with wax paper and just changes that out so the shelves stay clean and spills are easy to clean up.

There is nothing worse than that puddle of crystallized meat juice that has dripped to the bottom of the fridge under the drawers.

:puke:
 

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There is nothing worse than that puddle of crystallized meat juice that has dripped to the bottom of the fridge under the drawers.
had that happen...pita to clean up!

Now I will have to clean out my fridge this weekend. The thing I hate most about my fridge is the stupid plastic cover on the bottom(outside). It's been off for months because I hate cleaning it and its a real pain snapping it back on!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Does anyone ever REALLY use those crispers for what they're designated for (Fruit in one; Veggies in the other?). Ours end up with a menagerie of things like plasticwraps of lunchmeat, a half-eaten jar of olives, two lone hotdogs, and a pudding cup.
 

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Does anyone ever REALLY use those crispers for what they're designated for (Fruit in one; Veggies in the other?). Ours end up with a menagerie of things like plasticwraps of lunchmeat, a half-eaten jar of olives, two lone hotdogs, and a pudding cup.
Lunchmeat, half bag of carrots, cheese slices, string cheese and whatever else falls into them...btw: we used to have 2 but the thingy attached to the fridge wall that holds it up broke so I had to remove it. Now the milk jug is about another foot lower.
 

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"And then there was the "ick" factor: In one home, researchers found that a study participant's dog was licking the bottom shelf when the door was open."

Geez, they make that seem like a bad thing.

The real key to keeping it clean is to only have two people and eat out most of the time. Works for us.
 

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The real key to keeping it clean is to only have two people and eat out most of the time. Works for us.
We use to eat out a lot (non-chain restaurants) but to be honest we both got tired of it. Plus we both like to cook and try new recipes so I guess that helps.

As far as meats go, we keep ours in the freezer until the night before. Any put in the fridge is double bagged. I am sure our fridge could use a clean more often though. Dexter makes a good attempt everytime we open the door LOL!
 

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We get a LOT of veggies so we do use both drawers for fruits and veggies. For meat we also only take out meat the day before. Also, I clean the fridge every week before going shopping. That includes taking food over a week old out and tossing and cleaning shelves. What I haven't done in a few weeks is clean out the veggie drawers and sanitize them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
"And then there was the "ick" factor: In one home, researchers found that a study participant's dog was licking the bottom shelf when the door was open."

Geez, they make that seem like a bad thing.

Sounds like a self-cleaning Refrigerator to me!
 

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I bought our fridge based on how easy it would be to clean....and I keep a pretty empty fridge. I go through every week on trash day and get rid of old food that we arent eating.
 
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