Even the cleanest of homes sometimes has a dirty little secret – the refrigerator. Leftovers, hidden spills and uneaten fruits and veggies pile up, causing crowded, unattractive conditions. Far worse than the visual effects of a messy fridge are the various bacteria, viruses and parasites which multiply in droves, sometimes in unseen ways.
About one-quarter of foodborne illnesses can be stopped before they start, simply by being more vigilant about fridge cleanliness. Refrigerator maintenance is relatively quick and easy, plus it'll help you make space and avoid turning the appliance into a giant game of Tetris. First, regularly review the contents of your fridge and get rid of leftovers and foods that have passed their expiration or "use by" dates. If you aren't sure whether something's still good or not, err on the side of caution and toss it in the trash. Most foods will start to smell or look bad once they're past their prime, but others will still appear perfectly fine, so use your best judgement.
Although refrigerator spills are easy to ignore, experts advise that they be cleaned up promptly and thoroughly. While you're at it, wipe down shelves and drawers every week or two with soap and water or a mild bleach solution. Whenever possible, sanitize the handle to the refrigerator door. Much like bathroom doorknobs, it is the most frequently handled part of the fridge, therefore subject to bonus germs of all types [sources: Zelman, Home Food Safety].