How to Clean a Commercial Refrigerator with Vinegar: Your Comprehensive Guide

How to Clean a Commercial Refrigerator with Vinegar: Your Complete Guide

Posted by | 12-09-2023

The commercial refrigeration equipment industry has witnessed significant momentum in recent times. In 2021, the global market size stood at an impressive USD 36.90 billion. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. As per projections, the industry is poised to soar to a staggering USD 63.41 billion by 2030. This robust growth, translating to a 6.2% CAGR, is expected to unfold from 2022 through 2030, highlighting this sector's escalating demand and dynamic evolution.

Market Size of Commercial Refrigerator Equipment

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In the bustling world of the food industry, commercial refrigerators play a pivotal role in keeping perishables fresh. But these refrigerators collect dirt, grime, and sometimes even mold over time. Regular cleaning is not just essential for hygiene but also the efficiency and longevity of the appliance. Enter vinegar—a natural, potent, versatile cleaning agent that stands tall among commercial cleaners. 

Benefits of Cleaning with Vinegar

Before we follow How to Clean a Commercial Refrigerator with Vinegar, let’s check on the benefits of using vinegar. Commercial refrigerators, given their pivotal role in preserving food quality, require meticulous care. Vinegar emerges as a front-runner in the quest for a perfect cleaning solution. Not only does it ensure thorough cleaning, but it also brings a host of benefits that many other cleaning agents can't match. 

Natural and non-toxic

In a world increasingly filled with artificial and chemical-laden products, vinegar stands out as a beacon of nature. Cleaning commercial refrigerators with vinegar ensures you're not introducing harmful substances where food and beverages are stored. This natural cleaner poses no threat to food safety, making it an excellent choice for environments where health is paramount.

Antibacterial properties

One of the crucial challenges of maintaining commercial refrigerators is ensuring they are free from harmful bacteria and germs. Vinegar, with its acidic nature, acts as a potent antibacterial agent. When applied, it removes stubborn grime and stains and significantly reduces the number of harmful bacteria, ensuring a safer storage environment for food and beverages.


There's an urgent need to adopt sustainable practices in all sectors, including cleaning. Vinegar, being biodegradable, ensures that the wastewater from your cleaning process doesn't contribute to environmental degradation. Businesses choose vinegar to send a strong message about their commitment to environmental responsibility.


Managing a commercial establishment comes with numerous overhead costs, and finding areas to save can be a game-changer. Vinegar, compared to many commercial cleaning solutions, is significantly more affordable. This means businesses can maintain high cleanliness standards without burning a hole in their pockets.

Easily available

In the fast-paced environment of a commercial kitchen or store, unexpected spills and messes are the norm. Waiting for specialized cleaning agents can disrupt the workflow. Vinegar, a common household item, is easily available in most stores. Its ubiquity ensures that businesses can quickly address cleaning needs without any significant downtime.

Person cleaning a  refrigerator of a store

Step 1: Exterior Cleaning

When it comes to maintaining the look and hygiene of a commercial refrigerator or cooler, the exterior demands as much attention as the interior. A clean exterior reflects professionalism and indicates the meticulous care taken with the food stored inside. Here's a detailed guide on effectively cleaning your commercial refrigerator's exterior using the wonders of vinegar.

1. Preparing the Vinegar Solution

Every effective cleaning session starts with the right solution. White vinegar, often dubbed the pantry's cleaning star, is adept at removing dirt and grime. If you're considering a slight twist, apple cider vinegar blended with water can be an effective alternative. Depending on your preference, mix this solution in a spray bottle for direct application or dampen a cloth for a more controlled cleaning experience.

2. Application on the Fridge Exterior

Once your solution is ready, the next step is the application. While spraying can ensure an even coating, dampening a cloth provides precision, especially for spot cleaning. However, focus on more than just the easily visible sides; often overlooked, the top of the fridge can accumulate significant grime and needs equal attention.

3. The Waiting Game and Subsequent Wipe Down

After application, patience is the key. Letting the solution sit for 10-15 minutes ensures the vinegar penetrates and loosens the grime. Following this, a thorough wipe-down is crucial. Move beyond the flat surfaces: door handles, edges, and seals often harbor dirt and need meticulous cleaning. If one round doesn't do the trick, don't hesitate to repeat the process for those stubborn spots.

4. Special Care for Stainless Steel Fridges

Stainless steel fridges, with their sleek finish, require additional care. When wiping, always move toward the grain to avoid streaks or scratches. After cleaning with vinegar, a little-known secret to making it shine is polishing with olive oil. Buffed in the grain direction, a few drops on a cloth can bring out a dazzling shine. Regular maintenance, once a week or as needed, ensures your fridge remains a gleaming centerpiece of your commercial space.

Woman looking for refrigerator cleaning options

Step 2: Interior Cleaning & Disinfecting

A commercial refrigerator's interior cleanliness is paramount to ensure the safe storage of food. Proper cleaning not only maintains the quality of the food but also enhances the appliance's lifespan. Using vinegar as your cleaning agent enhances safety and efficacy. Here's how to systematically approach the interior cleaning and disinfecting process:

1. Initial Preparation and Safety Measures

Before diving into cleaning, preparation is essential. Begin by relocating your food, ensuring its freshness is preserved in coolers or alternative storage. While many might suggest unplugging the fridge, unplugging isn't necessary in most cleaning scenarios, especially with vinegar. It's always ‘safety first’, and unplugging is usually reserved for deep cleaning or maintenance checks.

2. Applying the Vinegar Solution Inside

Creating the right cleaning solution can make all the difference. A balanced blend of vinegar and water serves as a potent yet safe cleanser. When applying, make sure you cover all areas, from the walls to the insides of the doors. After spraying, it's essential to let the solution sit. This waiting period, often just a few minutes, lets vinegar work its magic, breaking down the grime effectively.

3. The Thorough Wipe Down

Post the waiting period, it's wiping time. Always start from the top and work your way down; this method ensures you're not double-cleaning any drips. For those tricky hidden corners, employ a soft toothbrush; it's perfect for reaching those hard-to-access spots. If some grime or spills prove particularly stubborn, don't hesitate to repeat the vinegar application and wiping process.

4. Handling Removable Parts: Shelves and Drawers

Removable parts often require a bit more elbow grease. A hot, soapy solution works wonders here. Ensure each item is hand-washed, scrubbed if necessary, and rinsed well. Remember to avoid sudden temperature changes for glass items, as they might crack. Once clean, consider going the extra mile by sanitizing your food and drink containers before placing them back.

5. Reassembling the Clean Refrigerator

Once everything is spotless, reassembly should be systematic. Shelves and drawers should go in first, ensuring they're positioned correctly. After that, you can start returning your food items. To make this process smoother, consider using a step-by-step image guide or visual aids, especially if you're training staff or sharing this process with a team.

6. Deodorizing the Refrigerator

Even after cleaning, sometimes odors linger. To combat this, place a bowl filled with vinegar inside the fridge. This simple technique acts as a natural odor neutralizer. Keep an eye on the bowl, refreshing and replacing the vinegar every few days or until the refrigerator smells fresh. With this, you ensure a pristine and odor-free environment inside your commercial refrigerator.

Person cleaning a refrigerator with vinegar

Step 3: Refrigerator Handling

Handling a commercial refrigerator requires specific techniques to ensure its functioning optimally. Proper cleaning and regular maintenance can enhance its lifespan and maintain the quality of stored food. Let's delve into the procedures and best practices for handling and cleaning these large appliances:

1. Pre-Cleaning Measures for Optimal Safety

Before you begin the cleaning spree, it's essential to prioritize safety. Start by preparing your frozen items using the cooler and ice technique. This method ensures that your frozen goods remain chilled while cleaning. Next, consider unplugging and defrosting the refrigerator. While this step might only sometimes be necessary, it's a good practice, especially if ice buildup is significant. However, keep the fridge door shut during this period to retain the cold inside.

2. Cleaning Removable Refrigerator Organizers

A clutter-free space can enhance the efficiency of your cleaning process. Therefore, detach any removable shelves, drawers, or organizers. Once removed, indulge in a simple cleaning ritual, which involves hand-washing them with hot, soapy water. This ensures that every nook and corner is free from dirt and grime.

3. The Vinegar Touch Inside the Commercial Refrigerator

Vinegar is truly the magic ingredient when it comes to cleaning refrigerators. Start by preparing the perfect blend of equal parts water and vinegar. Once ready, ensure a comprehensive spray inside the refrigerator. Every inch, including hidden corners, should be coated with the solution. Olive oil can be an unlikely hero for stubborn spills, especially those that have hardened over time. Dabbing a bit of it can help break them down, making them easier to wipe off.

4. The Scrubbing and Wiping Stage

Now comes the phase of intensive cleaning. Once you've sprayed the vinegar solution, it's essential to exhibit patience. Letting the solution sit can amplify its effectiveness, especially on stubborn spots. Using an old toothbrush can work wonders for areas that are challenging to reach or particularly stubborn. It's a fantastic tool to scrub off the challenging bits, ensuring a thorough cleaning.

5. Reorganizing a Clean refrigerator

After ensuring that every part of the refrigerator is spotlessly clean, it's time for reassembly. Start by returning the organizers, shelves, and drawers to their right places. Once done, you can restore the cold by plugging the fridge back in. Give it some time to reach its optimal temperature, and then repack your food items methodically. This step is crucial, ensuring the food remains fresh, and the refrigerator operates at peak efficiency.

How to Clean a Commercial Refrigerator with Vinegar: Your Comprehensive Guide

Expert Tips for Regular Maintenance

Like any major appliance, a commercial refrigerator needs regular maintenance to operate at peak efficiency. By adhering to a few simple yet effective maintenance routines, you can extend the lifespan of your refrigerator, maintain its efficiency, and save on energy costs. Here are some key strategies to consider:

Schedule Regular Cleanings

Consistency is key to the longevity of your refrigerator. Establishing a routine cleaning schedule, such as monthly or bi-monthly, can make a significant difference. Regular cleanings prevent the buildup of dirt, grime, and unseen bacteria, ensuring your stored products remain hygienic. Additionally, systematic cleaning can help in the early identification of any potential issues, allowing for timely repairs.

Spot Clean as Needed

While regular cleanings are crucial, addressing spills and stains is equally important. Whether it's a liquid spill or a food item that's left residue, spot cleaning ensures that such issues don't escalate. Immediate cleaning prevents potential bacterial growth and ensures that odors are kept at bay. Always have cleaning materials handy for such instances.

Maintain Airflow

Optimal airflow is crucial for a refrigerator's efficient functioning. Ensure that the refrigerator's vents are not obstructed, and regularly check the condenser and evaporator coils. Dust and grime accumulate on these coils, making the refrigerator work harder and consume more energy. Cleaning them as part of your maintenance routine can enhance the appliance's efficiency.

Monitor Temperature

Ensuring that your refrigerator operates at the recommended temperature is paramount. Not only does it guarantee the freshness of your stored items, but it also ensures energy efficiency. If necessary, monitoring and adjusting the temperature settings can save on energy costs in the long run. Invest in a good quality thermometer to keep a check and ensure it functions within the optimal temperature range.

A restaurant owner cleaning an industrial refrigerator

Easy-to-Clean Commercial Refrigerators (Brand New and Refurbished) of Ancaster Food Equipment

Ancaster Food Equipment, a pioneer in the refurbished refrigerator industry in North America, has been at the forefront of innovation and customer satisfaction for over 30 years. With an unwavering commitment to quality and an in-depth understanding of the industry's evolving needs, the company has continually set benchmarks for excellence. Drawing upon their vast experience and the invaluable insights gained over these decades, Ancaster Food Equipment is proud to introduce its latest venture into the market: the Easy to Clean Refrigerators Collection.

This new line is a testament to the company's dedication to simplifying the user experience while maintaining the highest quality standards. Recognizing the challenges users often face in maintaining cleanliness, this collection emphasizes ease of cleaning without compromising efficiency or durability. 

Each refrigerator in this range is designed with innovative features that minimize maintenance efforts and provide hassle-free usage. For consumers who have trusted Ancaster Food Equipment for years, this new collection promises the same reliability and excellence they have come to expect, but with added convenience.

Whether you're a long-time customer or seeking the best refrigeration solutions, the Easy to Clean Refrigerators Collection by Ancaster Food Equipment is set to redefine your expectations. As the next step in their journey of excellence, this range embodies their vision for a future where technology meets convenience, all underpinned by a legacy of trust and quality.

Final Words: How to Clean a Commercial Refrigerator with Vinegar

In the culinary world, a clean refrigerator is a sign of professionalism. Using natural cleaning agents like vinegar not only ensures cleanliness but also safety for the food. Prioritizing regular maintenance guarantees optimal refrigerator performance, ensuring your commercial appliance's long and efficient life.

Cleaning a commercial refrigerator might seem like a monumental task, but it becomes a manageable and even rewarding chore with the right tools and techniques. Using natural cleaning agents like vinegar showcases a commitment to eco-friendly practices and ensures that the refrigerator remains free from harmful chemicals. 

This guide, steeped in practical knowledge and easy-to-follow steps, demystifies the process, making it accessible even to those new to commercial refrigeration maintenance. Remember, regular cleaning isn't just about aesthetics; it's pivotal for ensuring food safety, maximizing appliance lifespan, and optimizing performance. 

By embracing vinegar as your go-to cleaner, you're choosing to benefit your equipment, the environment, and, most importantly, the consumers who trust you. So, the next time you approach your commercial fridge with a cleaning rag in hand, take a moment to appreciate the elegance of the age-old vinegar solution, turning your routine chore into a nod to sustainable and effective practices.

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