Stainless steel appliances and white goods often develop rusty patches on the outside. It isn't pretty, but it's something many people live with until they're ready to buy shiny new replacements. Rust on the inside of a refrigerator, however, is less expected and can seem pretty scary. Before you panic and rush to throw your old fridge out, try a few simple tactics for cleaning away the rust – and making sure it doesn't return.
Rust inside a fridge is often a result of condensation. The protective coating on the inside of the refrigerator wears off, leaving the underlying metal exposed to the moisture inside your fridge. In time, the metal develops rusty patches. Wire shelving inside a fridge is also susceptible to rust when the protective coating wears away.
Don't panic and throw away all your fresh veggies. Rust is simply iron oxide and isn't harmful to your health. Nor will it be absorbed by the food in your fridge. Still, it looks ugly and isn't exactly the first thing you want to see when you open your fridge. And, if not treated quickly, it spreads fast and could weaken your fridge.
On the Surface
Surface rust, which tends to be paler in color and develops due to condensation inside the fridge, is easier to deal with. Simply rub with white vinegar – the rust should dissolve.
If there are darker rust spots, especially on the inside of the fridge doors, this is likely to mean the appliance is rusting from the inside out. You can treat the rust and remove the worst with a thick paste of lemon juice and salt. Apply to the rust with a cloth and rub. The acidity of the lemon should remove the rust, while the salt acts as an abrasive to loosen it. Alternatively, dampen the affected areas and add a little washing-up liquid. Leave this to work for an hour, then scrub with a soft brush.
Preventing Further Rust
Once the rusty patches are gone, take some steps to keep them from returning. Rust is always an ongoing battle. Giving your fridge a regular cleaning can help, as any spillages and patches of liquid will contribute to condensation and – in turn – the development of rust. You can use anti-rust paint on the inside of your fridge. This will cover any rough patches where you cleaned away the rust and help prevent it from coming back. You'll need to empty and unplug your fridge. Make sure the area to be painted is clean and dry before brushing or spraying the paint on. Let the paint dry for at least 24 hours before turning the fridge back on.