Despite their large size, refrigerators have become so commonplace they easily become invisible. While maintenance-free for the most part, some things like temperature setting do need attention. For the safest food, your refrigerator should stay between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Home Food Safety, one out of three consumers incorrectly considers the refrigerator dial accurate.
Everyone should have a refrigerator thermometer to monitor temperature. Buy the best quality thermometer that you can afford. To check the temperature of your refrigerator, put a glass of water in the middle of the refrigerator and put the thermometer in it. Wait 8 hours before checking temperature. If it does not read in the safe range, adjust the temperature control and measure again. When the refrigerator is running at a satisfactory temperature, remove the glass of water, put the thermometer in the middle of the refrigerator and check from time to time.
Food kept between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for longer than two hours should be considered risky. Bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply readily in this range. Refrigeration at the proper temperature will not kill bacteria, but will slow growth considerably. Even food that is kept in the safe range in a refrigerator has a shelf life of three to four days.
A clean refrigerator will operate more efficiently. At least once a month, remove the contents and throw away expired or spoiled items. Air will move more easily in an uncluttered refrigerator, keeping the temperature even throughout. Use mild soap or baking soda and water to clean the inside, door liner and gaskets. Vacuum the condenser coils for efficient operation.
During a power outage, a refrigerator may get warmer than the recommended temperature. If you don't open the door, food will remain safe for about four hours. For longer power outages, remove food and place it in a cooler with ice. When the power comes back on, check the thermometer inside the refrigerator to see if it is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If so, discard the food.