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Spring Clean Your Refrigerator

Spring is a time for cleaning, but have you cleaned your fridge yet?

Searcy, Ark. –

It has officially been spring for a few days now, but if you are like me, you haven’t started your spring cleaning.  Since you’re more than likely stuck at home, why not get started? 

You probably think of spring cleaning as a time to thoroughly clean your house.  But do you think about spring cleaning your refrigerator?   

In order to “spring clean” your refrigerator, you need to determine what foods should be thrown out and what to keep.  Do a thorough investigation of the foods and condiments that are in the refrigerator. 

When mold is found on food, you see only the tip of the iceberg.  The poisons mold can form, are found under the surface of the food.  Molds are a group of organisms invisible to the naked eye.  It is only after they grow into colonies of large numbers of organisms that we see them as fuzz on our food. 

Mold requires very little moisture or air to grow, so they can thrive almost anywhere.  They can grow at both room temperature and in the refrigerator.  They are also tolerant of high levels of salt and sugar, so they can be found on bacon, cured ham, jams and jellies. 

Under certain circumstances you may be able to save a food which contains mold. 

Here are some things you can do to save a food if you find a small amount of mold. You need to realize though, that not all foods can be saved and many need to be discarded. 

In the case of dairy products, you can cut off mold found on hard cheeses.  Cut off at least an inch around and below the mold spot. Be careful not to cut into the mold itself.  Wrap the cheese in fresh storage wrap for additional safety.  Soft cheeses, cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream and individual cheese slices should be thrown away if they have mold. 

Hard salami and dry-cured country ham with a small amount of mold can be treated in the same manner as hard cheese.  Less firm meat products need to be discarded.  These include bacon, hot dogs, sliced luncheon meats, meat pies or canned ham. 

Small spots of mold can be cut away from the surface of hard vegetables like cabbage, bell peppers and carrots, but soft fruits and vegetables that have molded should be discarded. 

If you find that some of your jams and jellies have mold, it is best to discard those.  Although it may be possible to remove enough of the sweet spread to reduce the hazards, it is difficult to assure that enough is removed for safety.  For this reason, the best idea is to throw away any sweet spreads that have developed mold. 

As a general rule of thumb, any other products should be discarded if found to be moldy.  These include bread, cake, buns, corn-on the cob, nuts, flour, whole grains, rice, dried beans and peas and peanut butter.  Pay special attention to processed foods with preservatives.  These are at a high risk for mold growth and should be discarded. 

When removing moldy food from the refrigerator, wrap the molded food in plastic wrap or place in a small paper bag before putting it into the trash can.  This prevents contamination of the rest of the room.   

As part of your spring cleaning process you will want to thoroughly clean out the interior of the refrigerator, especially where the moldy foods were found.  Remove any racks and bins and clean them thoroughly with hot, soapy water and rinse.  Then repeat the procedure on the interior of the refrigerator, being sure to clean all surfaces.   

As temperatures warm, cold food storage will become more of a problem.  While the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, White County is always here to help you, we are not doing face to face contact at this time.  If you would like more information concerning food storage times as well as other food safety related information, please do not hesitate to contact us at the at 501-268-5394, or e-mail me directly at 

Tried and True Tip: 

When spring cleaning, be sure to vacuum the coils at the back or bottom of your refrigerator unit.  Built up dust robs a coil of its ability to dissipate heat and makes the compressor work harder, which shortens the compressor’s life. 

The University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. For more information you can contact your local county extension service.  You can also follow Katie on Facebook @ uaex white county fcs . 


By Katie Cullum
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Katie Cullum
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
2400 Old Searcy Landing Road Searcy AR 72143
(501) 268-5394

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  • The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

    The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.