Just in time for Thanksgiving, it's National Clean out Your Refrigerator Day
November 15th, 2011
10:00 AM ET
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Who said springtime was the only season for cleaning?

Get out your trash bags (and plastic gloves and gas masks), because today is National Clean out Your Refrigerator Day.

It's high time to remove the Chinese food cartons that have turned into science experiments and start making room for the Thanksgiving leftovers that will soon be occupying space in your fridge.

The origins of National Clean out Your Refrigerator Day are not entirely clear; one Web site pins it on a Whirlpool Appliance Ad campaign from years ago, while other sites say it's to make space for Thanksgiving provisions.

I decided I definitely wanted to participate - and said a prayer that those responsible for cleaning the office fridge would also want to get involved.

Sadly, there wasn’t a whole lot in my refrigerator to clean out. There wasn’t much in there at all, just a jug of milk, a jar of peanut butter, several sticks of margarine, two cans of frosting, and half of an onion.

True, it’s been a while since I actually filled my refrigerator with food that would warrant purging on this most sacred of days. But, should I ever stop living like I’m in college and actually fill my fridge with food, what exactly do I need to know about cleaning it out?

I consulted my friend and registered dietician Lindsay Elshalzly, who was recently certified as a ServSafe food handler. She said it’s always good to consult the expiration dates on food labels, but sometimes foods are safe well beyond that date. And, sometimes they expire before. How’s that for vague?

“When in doubt, throw it out,” she said, adding, “The truth is, bacteria can grow on food whether or not it’s in the fridge.” The colder temperatures simply slow the process.

To keep food safe, Elshalzly said a refrigerator should be kept at 40 degrees or below. “The danger zone for food is between 41 and 135 degrees. That’s when bacteria have the greatest chance for multiplying and contaminating food."

So what about the Thanksgiving leftovers the “refrigerator clean out” are intended to make room for?

The USDA recommends storing cooked leftovers in airtight containers and using them within three to four days.

Elshalzly concurs. So after everyone has gone back for seconds, make sure to chill the leftovers as soon as possible to avoid contamination.

“You don’t want to leave food sitting out all day,” Elshalzly said.

And thanks to today’s clean out, your fridge will have plenty of space for stuffing.

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Dizzyd

    Good article. Too bad there's always someone who has to take even the most innocent article and turn it into a forum for juvenile name-calling (no matter your age).

    November 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • p4321

      It's high time to remove the Chinese food cartons that have turned into science experiments and start making room for the Thanksgiving leftovers that will soon be occupying space in your fridge.

      Whirpool refigerator : http://www.whirlpoolrefrigeratordiscount.com/buying-whirlpool-refrigerator-2.html

      March 11, 2014 at 9:19 am |
  2. cali girl

    Not cooking anyway. Going to another place and taking it there to cook.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  3. mgcady

    And I plan to do it tomorrow (as part of moving into a new place).

    November 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  4. Meg

    This day is way to late. Those of us that when days without power after the freak October snow storm in New England already did this, because we had to.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:39 am |
  5. bub

    dang, I did it yesterday. If I had known in advance I would have waited.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  6. Doc

    If I clean out my fringe, I may destroy a cure for cancer. All my science projects have a spore of there own. They all have grown on me.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  7. Kleentx

    I clean out my fridge regularly. My parents, on the other hand, are food hoarders. Yes, in case you didn't know about that syndrome yet (because there's no reality show for it yet), it does exist. All 6 of the kids in my family have been out of our parents' home for over 25 years now and they still buy in bulk. They also bring home everything left on their table in a restaurant (yes, I wrote "table"). They have multiple loaves of bread, 25lb. sack of flour, multiple chickens, lbs. of ground beef, steaks, etc. in the freezer. My parents are ages 75 and 85 – it's not like their going to eat all the food they have.
    Last month, my oldest sister visited them for a week and cleaned out most of the leftovers in the fridge while they were at a Dr. appt. They are still complaining that she threw away "all" their food. If they can't eat their restaurant leftovers the next day, they freeze them for later.
    Reality show producers need to contact me for their next new show – FOOD HOARDERS!

    November 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      that't actually a common phenomenon for those who lived through the Great Depression and the food scarcity. The obverse are those who will only open one can of tuna for a while family because of the same reason.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
      • sockpuppet

        "whole family"

        November 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  8. KJ

    In the past 3 months, I've had 2 episodes of power loss for about a weeks worth of time thanks to inclement weather...

    My fridge has no need to be cleaned out again.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • cl&p


      November 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
      • meandean39


        November 16, 2011 at 6:36 am |
  9. us1776

    American's don't need a National Clean out your Refrigerator Day.

    Americans are so fat b/c they inhale their refrigerators daily.


    November 15, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Truth@us1776

      Well aren't we just a little bucket of sunshine today...

      You must be a joy to be married to.

      November 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Weeds

      How do they get it lit?

      November 15, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  10. foodfresh

    In the photo I count at least 2, maybe 3 bread products. This appears to be a stock image, and not real, but for anyone who does this – don't! The 40 or so degrees of the refrigerator is the temperature guaranteed to stale bread fastest. The best way to keep bread fresh is to put it in the freezer as soon as you get it home from the store – in a freezer bag. Pop off the pieces you need (sometimes a dull knife wedge is required) about 30 minutes before you want to eat them, and wrap in slightly damp paper towels. Sounds like a pain, but you'll have the freshest bread every time.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • I don't think so

      What a great idea. My mouth simply waters at the idea of nice fresh frozen bread. Of course I could always thaw it out, but then it'd be soggy. Oops.

      November 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
      • foodfresh

        I guess you've never done it then..

        November 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
      • Jye

        You've obviously never frozen bread then, as when it thaws, it isn't soggy. I freeze loaves of bread all the time, and when I need them, I thaw them out... fresh as when they went into the freezer.

        November 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Wait ... what?

      Thanks for the tip, foodfresh. That's going right up there with dunking my frozen turkey into the bubbling fryer.

      November 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
      • Jye

        Again, you've obviously never done it, or you wouldn't make such an idiot out of yourself.

        November 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
      • Wait ... what?@jye

        Name calling on something like this? Wow. With that at!tude, you must be about 13 y.o. A little early in the day for you to be out of school isn't it?
        I've been freezing loaves of bread since before you were born. What I find as neither helpful nor necessary is separating slices off a frozen loaf. You are right, the bread will not go soggy after freezing. But by the same token, I have never had bread go stale by keeping it or thawing it out in the fridge.

        November 15, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
      • Jye

        If you take such offense to the word "idiot" to describe someone who would dunk a frozen turkey into a boiling fryer, then so be it. I didn't call you an idiot to be immature, as it well describes someone who would do that. And since you have no idea how old I am, you also have no way to qualify your other statement. I freeze and thaw an entire loaf in the fridge as well, so we can agree on that. Get your panties out of a bunch, it's only bread.

        November 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
      • Wait ... what?

        That's the sarcasm train zooming right over your head. Sorry you missed it.

        November 15, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
      • Jye

        Yes, truly, your idiocy has been confirmed. That is all. Have a nice life trolling the comments section of unimportant issues.

        November 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
      • foodfresh

        Thanks Jye, and to Wait ... what?: See, the thing about your brilliant sarcasm is that it displays an almost disturbing combination of ignorance, irrelevance, and lack of humor. If you've been freezing bread all that time, what was the point of the original comment? If it was that the practice of separating the slices with a knife is dangerous, maybe you missed "dull knife" in my explanation.

        November 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
      • DC

        Instead of "idiot" why not call them liberals then.

        November 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      While I agree that it's a good way to save your bread, both of you claim it's the freshest bread every time. I beg to differ. Fresh bread is the freshest bread. Once ANYTHING has been froen, it loses at least some level of it's original quality.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
      • Jye

        Minor technicality. I can point out the same flaw in your statement because according to your own words, even water loses some of its original quality after it's been frozen into ice... SMH. Trolls... they'll never learn.

        November 16, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  11. Informer

    Strange because I was already going to do this today...

    November 15, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  12. booktopiareviews

    sadly, this was already my chore for the day. at least I won't be alone, lol

    November 15, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  13. The Coffee Woman

    Rest in piece, George.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:38 am |
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