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Conquering your fear of the refrigerator

January 27, 1998

Conquering your fear of the refrigerator

If thoughts of cleaning the refrigerator give you chills, you're not alone.

The prospect can be scary, because the closed door can hide just about anything, says Carolyn Verweyst, manager of marketing communications at Whirlpool Home Appliances.

"No one takes responsibility for the refrigerator, even though everyone uses it," Verweyst says.

Eighteen percent of respondents in a Whirlpool survey said they clean their refrigerator twice a year, 5 percent said they clean it once a year and 3.5 percent said they never clean the appliance at all.

The subject is so popular that Whirlpool Home Appliances has had a Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day for the past four years. The November event is intended to help consumers face their fears of cleaning the appliance and make room for Thanksgiving leftovers, Verweyst says.

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For about a week the company operates a hotline to offer information to callers about cleaning out their refrigerators, and it's surprising to learn what people find inside, Verweyst says.

"Every year it gets funnier and funnier," Verweyst says.

The strangest thing Verweyst ever has heard anyone have in a freezer is a bear's head and skin. Her friend's husband had been hunting and wanted to get the bear stuffed, but he didn't have the money yet.

Others have used the appliance to freeze fishing bait, to winterize seeds in hopes they would bloom quickly, or to keep cigars fresh.

Some have reported finding car keys or the remote control to the television in the appliance, Verweyst says.

Read what some readers have found. . .



 How long will it keep?

Whirlpool HomeLife Network recommends the following dates for keeping leftovers:

Poultry - 1 to 2 days in refrigerator, 2 to 3 months in freezer

Ground beef - 1 to 2 days in refrigerator, 3 to 4 months in freezer

Fish - 1 day in refrigerator, 6 months in freezer

Hot dogs - 3 to 5 days in refrigerator, 1 to 2 months in freezer

Pizza - 1 to 2 days in refrigerator, 2 to 3 months in freezer

Cold cuts - 1 to 2 days in refrigerator, 1 to 2 months in freezer

Margarine - follow use-by date for refrigerator storage, 1 year in freezer

Bread - 2 to 3 days in refrigerator, 3 to 6 months in freezer

Spaghetti sauce - up to 5 days in refrigerator, 2 to 3 months in freezer

Ground coffee - 3 to 6 months in both refrigerator and freezer.

Whirlpool didn't offer any guidelines on chocolate Easter bunnies.



This is a task you can tackle

To make the task of cleaning the refrigerator more palatable, Carolyn Verweyst, manager of marketing communications at Whirlpool Home Appliances, suggests doing a little at a time.

Wipe off the shelves every week or so, and don't forget to clean the outsides of the jars and bottles, she says.

Here are some additional tips from Whirlpool:

* Turn off the refrigerator and unplug it.

* Take out all removable parts and wash with warm water and mild soap or detergent. Rinse and dry.

* Wash walls with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda to one quart of warm water. Rinse and dry.

* Read product labels carefully to determine if a cleaner or deodorizer is safe to use in a refrigerator, then follow instructions.

* Wash the gasket and door liner with warm water and mild soap or detergent. Rinse and dry.

* For refrigerators with removable drain plugs, remove plug and use a meat basting syringe to force warm water mixed with baking soda through the drain.

* Remove drip pan and wash with warm, soapy water.

* Vacuum condenser coils two to six times a year (more often in homes with pets).

Here are some ways to absorb odors:

* Pour a box of baking soda in a jellyroll pan and place on refrigerator shelf.

* Buy activated charcoal, spread onto jellyroll pan and place on shelf inside refrigerator.

* Place freshly ground coffee in cereal bowls inside the refrigerator for several days. A slight coffee odor may remain, but it will disappear after the inside of the refrigerator is washed.

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