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Refrigerators and Freezers

The most important thing for any refrigerator is to keep the condenser coils clean. Air passing over these coils is what cools the refrigerator, and if they are dirty, the unit has to work harder to do its job.

These coils are usually located at the bottom of the refrigerator behind a removable grille. On some older models, they may be located on the back.

To clean the coils, first unplug the refrigerator. Remove the grille by grabbing both ends and pulling gently. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush or crevice attachment to get as far into and under the unit as possible (being careful not to force access, which can bend condenser tubing and the thin metal coil fins).

While the grille is off, also remove the refrigerator drain pan and wash it.

Use the power-saver switch (usually located inside your refrigerator). It controls small electric heaters that keep the outside of the cabinet from sweating. Only turn the switch on when it's humid and you see moisture beads. When both the weather and your refrigerator are dry, turn this function off to save energy costs. The power-saver switch also helps prevent rust and nasty mold buildups.

The chilly environment of a refrigerator is kept that way primarily by a gasket at the perimeter of the door. It helps maintain a good airtight seal. It is also a prime candidate for mold. To remove mold from around the gasket, clean it with a solution of liquid chlorine bleach and water (4 tablespoons in a quart of hot water), and scrub well with an old toothbrush. Afterwards, wipe all residue off completely with warm water and a mild liquid dish detergent.

Replace the rubber gasket's oils you've removed by applying a light coat of lemon oil, mineral oil, or any type of body lotion with lanolin in it to keep the gasket soft and supple (just like with your skin). Always wipe off any food or liquid spills, drips, and runs from around the door and gaskets. If you don't, they dry and become sticky, possibly ripping away the gasket when you open the door.

Temperature wise, keep the food compartment set between 34 and 40 degrees, and the freezer compartment at about 0 degrees. Generally, refrigerator controls should always be set midway initially, and then only adjusted up or down as needed.

Most people know that an open box of baking soda will keep the refrigerator or freezer smelling fresh. Did you know that you can also use a small bowl with a few tablespoons of instant freeze-dried coffee crystals in it? And believe it or not, granulated cat litter also works. An added bonus: The litter eliminates food odors in ice cubes. Kill two birds with one stone by pouring the contents of a box of baking soda into the garbage disposal and filling the baking soda box with cat litter. The baking soda will freshen the garbage disposal while the box of cat litter will keep the fridge odor free.

To clean the interior, first turn off the refrigerator and remove all the food. Wash removable shelves and bins in the sink with liquid dish detergent and warm water. Wipe down the interior walls with our All-Purpose, Handy Dandy Cleaner or a solution of warm water and baking soda.