A moldy fridge in a restaurant

How to Clean a Moldy Fridge: Your Complete Guide

Posted by | 31-07-2023

In 2022, the worldwide market for refrigerators was a formidable USD 68.72 billion. This figure is set to rise even further, with projections indicating an increase from USD 71.55 billion in 2023 to a staggering USD 103.96 billion by 2030. This represents a substantial compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.48% throughout this forecast period, spotlighting this global industry's dynamism and strong growth potential.

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Finding mold in your fridge can be a worrying sight. Moldy refrigerators are not only unpleasant but also pose potential health risks. This complete guide will explain the dangers of refrigerator mold, why it happens, what types of food contribute to its growth, and a step-by-step guide on how to get rid of it and prevent its return.

How Dangerous Is the Mold in My Refrigerator?

Yes, mold in your refrigerator can be dangerous. Different types of molds can produce allergens and irritants. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. These reactions can be immediate or delayed, including symptoms like sneezing, redness of the eyes, skin rash, and even difficulty breathing.

Molds are fungi that thrive in moist, warm conditions and can quickly spread via airborne spores. Some varieties, such as Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium, are commonly found in homes and kitchens.

Exposure to these molds can lead to a variety of health problems. For instance, people with allergies or respiratory conditions like asthma can experience worsened symptoms when exposed to mold. This can result in coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, mold exposure can even lead to serious lung infections.

Furthermore, some molds produce mycotoxins - toxic compounds that can be harmful or even fatal if ingested or inhaled. One notorious mycotoxin producer is the mold Stachybotrys chartarum, commonly known as "black mold." Exposure to mycotoxins can cause symptoms ranging from chronic fatigue and headaches to neurological disorders and immunosuppression.

Moreover, even if you don't ingest or inhale the mold, it can still contaminate your food and cooking surfaces. This cross-contamination can lead to foodborne illnesses, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Why Is My Refrigerator Moldy?

Several reasons can contribute to mold forming in your refrigerator. Moisture from food and condensation can form on the surfaces of your fridge, creating a damp environment for molds to thrive. The refrigerator's temperature is another factor that can impact mold growth; colder temperatures support mold growth.

Spoiled Food

One of the most common reasons for a moldy refrigerator is spoiled food. When left unchecked, these foods can foster the growth of mold. Refrigerator mold usually begins with spoiled or decaying food. It might seem simple to just discard a couple of rotten items. However, mold can proliferate through airborne spores and infect various areas like shelves, doors, and even the rubber components of door seals that are part of your fridge. Therefore, merely getting rid of that moldy cheese doesn't necessarily mean that you have completely eliminated the risk of mold or contamination.


A cluttered fridge can also make it more difficult for air to circulate inside the appliance. When air can't move freely, condensation builds up in pockets, leading to mold growth. This is why it's important to clean your fridge regularly and organize food items inside the refrigerator to ensure adequate airflow.

Appliance Issues

Your refrigerator might not maintain the right temperature, or there could be an issue with the sealing. Both of these can lead to an environment conducive to mold growth. If you suspect your fridge isn't functioning properly, or if the mold problem persists even after cleaning, it's best to call a professional appliance repair service.

Power Outages

A prolonged power outage can lead to increased temperatures in your fridge, causing food to spoil and mold to form. Also, if your refrigerator isn't properly stocked with food, a power outage could cause the inside temperature to become too warm, leading to mold growth. It's best to keep your fridge adequately stocked with food and check that the door seal is airtight in order to ensure that the temperature remains consistent during an outage.

High Humidity Levels

High humidity levels can contribute to mold growth in your fridge. This often happens in warmer climates, during the humid summer months, or in poorly ventilated kitchens. You can use a dehumidifier or an exhaust fan to reduce the humidity in the air.

Lack of Regular Cleaning

Not regularly cleaning your refrigerator can accumulate food spills and stains, providing a perfect breeding ground for mold. It's important to regularly clean and disinfect the shelves, door seals, and other surfaces in your refrigerator every few months.

What Kinds of Food Contribute to Mold Growth?

Food with high moisture content, like fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and bread, can easily become breeding grounds for mold if they are not stored properly or are kept beyond their shelf-life.

Mold growth in the kitchen, particularly in the refrigerator, generally originates from the mold that forms on our food. A large variety of produce items, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains, are susceptible to mold growth. This is largely due to their organic nature and high moisture content, which creates an ideal environment for mold spores to germinate and thrive.

However, it's important to distinguish between harmful mold growth and natural mold that forms on certain foods. Some foods, like salami and certain cheeses, naturally develop mold as part of their aging or curing process. For instance, the distinctive blue veins in blue cheese are actually mold, and the white rind on Brie is a type of mold known as Penicillium camemberti.

This mold is completely safe to eat, and in some cases, it's integral to the food's flavor and texture. In other instances, such as with hard cheeses or firm fruits and vegetables, if mold appears, it can be cut off, with a good margin around it, to ensure all mold spores are removed, and the rest of the food can be safely consumed.

Notably, these naturally occurring or intentionally introduced molds on foods are less likely to contribute to unwanted mold growth in your refrigerator or kitchen. They are generally not the aggressive, spore-spreading types of mold that lead to contamination. This is because the conditions for their growth are carefully controlled, and they are not typically the varieties of mold that thrive in a typical kitchen or refrigerator environment.

Still, it's crucial to be vigilant and ensure that moldy foods are appropriately handled to prevent unwanted mold growth, keeping your kitchen clean and safe.

How to Clean a Moldy Fridge: A Step-by-Step Guide

Cleaning your refrigerator to remove mold might seem daunting, but the process is simpler. Moreover, you can use readily available household items to thoroughly cleanse your fridge. Here's a step-by-step guide to making your refrigerator mold-free.

1. Remove Shelves and Drawers

Start by removing all your shelves and removable drawers if your refrigerator has them. This makes them easier to clean and allows you to reach the hidden corners of your fridge.

2. Apply Vinegar

Spray these items down with vinegar. Do not dilute the vinegar; its full strength is necessary to effectively kill the mold.

3. Let Vinegar Take Effect

Leave the shelves and drawers to sit for a minute. This gives the vinegar time to act on the mold.

4. Spray Inside the Fridge

Next, spray the fridge inside, targeting the seals inside the refrigerator door, the crevices inside the hinges, and any additional shelving units, particularly those inside the door. Pay extra attention to smaller surface areas where mold might still be hiding.

5. Scrub and Wipe

Using a damp rag, scrub all these surfaces. After scrubbing, wipe again with a clean, damp cloth. This helps ensure that all mold spores have been removed.

6. Dry All Surfaces

Dry all surfaces to ensure no moisture is left behind, which could encourage mold growth. If required, repeat the cleaning, wiping, and drying process.

7. Dispose of Paper Towels and Wash Cloths

Discard all the paper towels used in the cleaning process. Wash all damp rags and cloths used to clean the refrigerator in hot water with detergent.

Additional Tips for Removing Mold from the Fridge

Here are some additional tips and tricks to keep your refrigerator mold-free:

Cleaning the Rubber Seal: If mold persists inside the door's rubber seal, you can remove it using a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach mixed with one part of water. This will effectively kill and remove the stubborn mold.

Extra Cleaning Agents: Besides vinegar, you can use one part baking soda or lemon for extra thorough cleaning. These natural agents effectively remove mold and help eliminate any lingering odors.

Using Mold Killer and Disinfectant: If you do not have vinegar, you can also use a commercial mold killer and disinfectant. Follow the instructions on the product to ensure safe and effective use.

Expert Advice: How to Keep Refrigerator Mold at Bay

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some tips to keep mold from taking over your refrigerator:

Regular Cleaning

As we know, regularly cleaning your fridge is the best way to prevent mold growth. Make it a habit to clean your refrigerator regularly. Wipe up spills immediately, check for spoiled food weekly, and do a deep clean every few months.

Proper Food Storage

Learn the correct ways to store different types of food to prevent excess moisture and reduce the risk of mold.

Maintain Right Temperature

Ensure your fridge maintains the right temperature, usually between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ensure Good Sealing

Check the seals on your fridge regularly to ensure they are tight and prevent any moisture seeping in.

Handle Power Outages Properly

In the event of a power outage, keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible to maintain the temperature and prevent food spoilage.

Final Words on How to Clean a Moldy Fridge

Mold in your refrigerator is unwelcome but can be managed with regular cleaning and proper food storage. Use this guide to tackle the problem promptly and effectively, ensuring a clean and healthy kitchen environment.

While maintaining a clean fridge is crucial, why not make your life easier with a refrigerator designed to help you with this task? Refrigerators from Ancaster Food Equipment are designed with your health in mind. Not only do they come with mold-resistant seals, but their design also includes easily removable shelves and compartments for effortless cleaning.

Advanced humidity control technology keeps moisture levels in check, reducing the chance of mold growth. Make your kitchen cleaner and healthier with Ancaster refrigerators - a smart choice for a smarter kitchen.

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