The same delicious treats that fill your stomach may be filling your refrigerator with germs and bacteria if messy spills and leaks are not properly cleaned up. Foods that are past their prime or containers that have not been sealed tightly can end up leaving unwanted stains and unhealthy bacteria lingering in your fridge. The solution? Include these four easy fridge freshening steps in your list of spring-cleaning to-dos.

Step 1. Start by emptying all the food from the fridge, including old leftovers and recipe surplus ingredients. Place perishable items in a cooler to keep them fresh while you work. Decide what items need to stay and what items need to be discarded, keeping in mind that open jars and bottles of condiments should be tossed after six months. So should any item that is past its expiration date.

Step 2. Use a mixture of hot soap and water or anti-bacterial wipes to wash down the inside of the fridge from top to bottom. Make sure to thoroughly clean the inside of drawers and compartments. It’s also a good idea to wipe down the exterior making sure to eliminate germs lingering on handles and removing dust from the top of the appliance.

Step 3. Once the inside of your fridge is clean and dry, help keep it that way by lining the shelves and drawers. Super-absorbent refrigerator liners, such as Duck brand Fridge Fresh Liner, form a barrier that soaks up and traps messy leaks and spills, protecting your fridge interior. Plus the Fridge Fresh Liner will reduce the time you spend cleaning the fridge the next time around.

Step 4. You’re ready to begin loading food back into the refrigerator. Take the time to wipe down jelly jars, ketchup bottles and other condiments that may have developed a sticky film or build-ups around lids and bottle tops. Sort items by size and frequency of use, putting smaller often-needed items in easy access door shelves.

Make sure to repeat this “deep cleaning” process at least twice each year, and develop a healthy habit of regularly cleaning out perishables and replacing fridge liners. When the seasons change is also a good time to pull the refrigerator away from the wall and sweep up dust and debris.

Cleaning out the fridge may not be at the top of your spring cleaning chore list, but it is a necessary and important part of keeping your kitchen, and the food you eat, sanitary.

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