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How to Clean a Reach-in Refrigerator

on May 01, 2024

Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in commercial refrigeration equipment, such as reach-in refrigerators, is paramount for ensuring food safety and optimal performance. In this guide, we explore the importance of regular cleaning practices and provide step-by-step instructions on how to effectively clean and disinfect a reach-in refrigerator.

From understanding the significance of reach-in refrigerators in various retail settings to detailing the cleaning process using vinegar and other safe methods, this comprehensive guide equips you with the knowledge needed to maintain your commercial fridge for peak performance and longevity.


What is a Reach-in Refrigerator?

A reach-in refrigerator is a type of commercial or industrial refrigerator commonly used in foodservice establishments such as restaurants, cafes, bakeries, grocery stores, and convenience stores. It is designed for easy access to stored food items, allowing kitchen staff to reach in and retrieve ingredients quickly during food preparation.

In our previous discussion within the REACH-IN REFRIGERATOR BUYERS' GUIDE, we explored the significance of these specialized units in various retail settings, from grocery stores to bakeries.


Why it is important to regularly clean a reach-in refrigerator?

  1. Cleaning the refrigerator helps prevent the buildup of bacteria, mold, and other contaminants that can lead to foodborne illnesses if transferred to food items. Disinfecting the interior is crucial.
  2. Cleaning the condenser coils, fan blades, and other components helps maintain proper airflow and prevents the refrigerator from working harder, which can reduce its lifespan and increase energy consumption.
  3. Regularly cleaning and removing expired or spilled food items helps eliminate odors that can permeate and taint other food items in the refrigerator.
  4. Proper cleaning and maintenance, including addressing issues like ice buildup, can help prevent more serious problems and extend the overall lifespan of the reach-in refrigerator.
  5. Regular cleaning of commercial refrigeration units is often required by local health and safety inspectors to ensure food safety standards are met.

In summary, the key reasons to clean a commercial fridge are to maintain food safety, optimal performance, cleanliness, and compliance with regulations, all of which help protect the quality of stored food and the longevity of the refrigeration equipment.


Commercial reach-in fridge cleaning: step by step

To clean a reach-in refrigerator, follow these steps:

  1. Unplug the unit: Before starting the cleaning process, it's crucial to unplug the refrigerator from the power source. This step eliminates the risk of electrical shocks while handling water and cleaning solutions inside the appliance.
  2. Empty the refrigerator: Removing all food items and shelves allows for a thorough cleaning of the interior. By taking everything out, you can access every nook and cranny, ensuring that no area is missed during the cleaning process. Discarding expired, moldy, or discolored items is essential for maintaining food safety and preventing contamination.
  3. Thoroughly wipe down the interior: Using warm, soapy water and microfiber cloths is effective for cleaning the interior surfaces of the refrigerator. Microfiber cloths are highly absorbent and trap dirt and grime, providing a deeper clean. Scrubbing away any built-up grime or stains ensures that the refrigerator is not only clean but also hygienic.
  4. Rinse the interior: After cleaning with soapy water, rinsing the interior with clean water removes any remaining soap residue. This step is crucial to prevent any soapy taste or odor from transferring to food items stored in the refrigerator.
  5. Disinfect the interior: Disinfecting the interior surfaces with a food-safe sanitizer or a vinegar-water solution helps kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and mold spores. This step is particularly important for maintaining food safety and preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses.
  6. Clean the exterior: The exterior of the refrigerator, including the door, top, and surrounding floor, also needs attention. Using a damp cloth and a non-abrasive cleaner helps remove fingerprints, stains, and spills, keeping the appliance looking clean and presentable.
  7. Clean the door gaskets: The door gaskets, which seal the refrigerator door, can accumulate dirt and grime over time. Cleaning them with a soft cloth and soapy water ensures that they remain clean and pliable, maintaining a tight seal to prevent cold air from escaping and energy loss.
  8. Dry all surfaces completely: Thoroughly drying all surfaces, both interior and exterior, is essential to prevent the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria. Moisture left behind can create an environment conducive to microbial growth, compromising food safety and cleanliness.
  9. Replace the refrigerator's water filter: If your refrigerator has a water filter, replacing it during the cleaning process helps maintain water quality and freshness. Over time, water filters can become clogged with contaminants, reducing their effectiveness in purifying water.

By following these steps meticulously, you not only ensure that your reach-in refrigerator is clean and sanitized but also uphold food safety standards, prolong the lifespan of the appliance, and optimize its performance.


What cleaning products should be avoided when cleaning a commercial fridge?

Certain cleaning products should be avoided when cleaning a reach-in refrigerator to prevent damage: harsh chemicals and scouring pads can harm plastic interiors and cause metal surfaces to discolor, and hot water should be replaced with warm water to clean the interior.

Abrasive cleaners are also cautioned against, as they can scratch stainless steel and plastic surfaces. Emphasizing the importance of non-abrasive, food-safe cleaning methods, recommended products include warm, soapy water, a baking soda mixture, food-safe sanitizers or vinegar-water solutions for disinfecting, and stainless steel cleaners for the exterior.



By adhering to these guidelines and avoiding harsh chemicals, abrasives, and hot water, one can effectively clean a reach-in refrigerator without causing damage to its surfaces.


How to clean refrigerator with vinegar

To clean a refrigerator using vinegar, start by unplugging it for safety, then remove all food items, shelves, and drawers. Create a cleaning solution by mixing white vinegar with warm water in a spray bottle. Liberally spray this solution onto the interior surfaces and wipe them down with a microfiber cloth or sponge, tackling tough stains with undiluted vinegar if needed. Rinse the interior with a damp cloth, wash removable shelves and drawers with soapy water, and optionally use baking soda for odor absorption. Wipe down the exterior with the vinegar solution, ensuring all surfaces are dry before plugging the refrigerator back in and returning food items. Following these steps effectively cleans and disinfects the refrigerator using vinegar.


In conclusion, regular cleaning and maintenance of reach-in refrigerators are essential for upholding food safety standards, preserving the quality of stored food items, and prolonging the lifespan of the equipment. By following the recommended cleaning procedures outlined in this guide and avoiding harsh chemicals, abrasives, and hot water, you can effectively clean and disinfect your reach-in refrigerator without causing damage to its surfaces.

Whether using vinegar or other food-safe cleaning products, prioritizing cleanliness and hygiene in commercial refrigeration equipment ensures the safety and satisfaction of customers while optimizing the performance of your establishment's kitchen operations.

At Vancouver Restaurant Supply, we understand the importance of maintaining your equipment!