So you just bought a commercial reach-in refrigerator or freezer. Both of these appliances are major investments, and Central Restaurant Products wants you to get the most out of your money. That’s why it’s important to make sure you properly clean and maintain the units so they operate at peak performance for years to come.

Allowing dirt and debris to accumulate on your reach-in refrigerator can lead to unsanitary kitchen conditions and even cross-contamination, and it can also hamper the refrigerator’s ability to properly cool the food inside. Similarly, when you skip routine maintenance, you could unwittingly be speeding up the wear and tear or breakdown of your unright refrigerator’s component parts. By following the simple steps for commercial refrigerator cleaning and maintenance outlined below, you’ll be sure to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Refrigerator cleaning

How to Clean a Refrigerator in 5 Simple Steps

1. Unplug the refrigerator: Electricity and soapy water never mix, so make sure to yank the plug before cleaning the refrigerator to avoid any risk of electrocution. Since the fridge door will be open during the process, this step will prevent wasting any energy, too.

2. Clear all food from the shelves: Give yourself some space to work by removing all of the food product from inside your commercial refrigerator. Place the food on a clean counter or worktable, or store it inside a cooler if the ingredients are highly perishable. This is also a good time to toss out any food that’s expired or looks like it’s on the brink of spoiling. Make sure to recycle your food waste!

3. Clean the interior: Once the refrigerator is unplugged and empty, it’s time to thoroughly clean the interior. First, collect the proper cleaning supplies. You’ll need a sponge or soft cleaning towel, as well as a bucket with warm, soapy water or a solution of baking soda and water in a 1:7 ratio. If you discover any mold or mildew growth, opt for a diluted bleach-and-water mixture. Working from top to bottom to avoid dripping on already-clean surfaces, wipe every shelf with your cleaning solution. Rinse off any stray suds, then dry the surfaces with a clean cloth. Don’t forget the ceiling, walls, and floor of the refrigerator, nor the door gaskets. For the most thorough refrigerator cleaning possible, get into tight corners and cracks with a toothbrush or toothpick, too.

Refrigerator Cleaning Tips:

Use a cleaning solution that’s food-safe and non-toxic to avoid contaminating product. Avoid any cleaner that contains ammonia or butyl, as well as any acids, dyes, harsh caustics, or fragrances.

Always refer to your product manual for specific advice and instructions.

Restaurant Cleaning

4. Clean the refrigerator’s condenser coils: Cleaning refrigerator coils can seem like a daunting task, but it’s an important one to master if you want your commercial refrigeration unit to operate efficiently. First you’ll want to access the condenser coils by removing the grill from the compressor. Use a stiff bristled brush to gently remove any dirt and debris from the coils, making sure not to bend the fins. For help removing stuck-on dirt and grime, try a can of compressed air or a vacuum with a coil-cleaning attachment. Using that same vacuum, make sure to suck up all loose dirt in the area before reinstalling the grill.

5. Wipe down the exterior: Clear dirt, dust, and smudges off the exterior of the refrigerator last. Stainless steel exteriors require some special care. Make sure to use a commercial stainless steel cleaner, rubbing alcohol, or other solution that doesn’t include bleach or any corrosive materials. Take care to rub in the direction of the steel grain to avoid streaking, as well. In addition to cleaning the refrigerator itself, remember to mop underneath the fridge to eliminate any stray crumbs or dust. To avoid cross contamination and keep your kitchen spick and span, this final step should also be conducted at the end of every shift.

Tips for Commercial Refrigerator Maintenance

Of course, routine cleaning isn’t the only measure required to ensure the longevity of your refrigerator. It’s also important to have your appliance serviced by a professional who can help maintain the unit’s complex parts. During these service calls, a refrigeration expert can thoroughly inspect the unit and diagnose any potential problems before they become major performance issues. Here are just a handful of the tasks that a commercial refrigerator expert should perform during a regularly scheduled maintenance session.

Refrigerator maintenance
  • Clean the drain lines 
  • Check refrigerant and oil levels 
  • Inspect all electrical connections 
  • Ensure the compressor is operating optimally 
  • Check the fan motor and fan blades 
  • Test the thermometer for accuracy

You don’t need to be a trained professional to monitor your refrigerator’s overall health, however. There are plenty of simple tasks you can undertake between these annual service appointments to help improve the performance and efficiency of your appliance. Here are a few of them:

Check the gaskets: In addition to routinely cleaning the door gaskets, it’s important to inspect them every so often to check for splits, cracks, or other signs of excessive wear. If you find any tears, replace the gasket according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. This will prevent warm air from seeping in through the cracks and dropping the refrigerator’s interior temperature.

Inspect door hinges and latches: Similar to the gaskets, these parts can allow warm air to infiltrate the refrigerator if they’re not properly maintained. Make sure that the hinges and latches are aligned and show no signs of breakage.

Check the air filters: Air filters tend to attract dust, dirt, and grease, all of which can build up and prevent the refrigerator from ventilating correctly. If you find any moderate dust or debris, clean it off with a vacuum. A gentle degreaser can be applied to the filter to clean any stuck-on gunk. However, if the air filter appears exceptionally dirty, it’s probably time to replace it.

Empty the drain pan: Check your drain pan for water buildup monthly. If you find that any moisture or sludge has accumlated, remove the pan and clean it with warm, soapy water. While you’re at it, this is a good time to clean the exterior of the drain lines, as well. This simple act can prevent your commercial refrigerator from clogging up or emitting any unpleasant odors.

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