The Office Courtesy Series: Office Refrigerator Etiquette

Refrigerators are wonderful inventions, allowing us to store perishable food for weeks at a time. They’re especially ideal to have at work—we can make lunch at home, store it in the fridge at the office, and save money that would otherwise be spent on restaurant food.

However, these useful ice boxes have a downside. They can become really disgusting quickly, and no one notices or seems to care. In fact, most Americans only clean their fridges once or twice a year, and the majority doesn’t know how to properly pack a fridge. For instance, many people might not know that milk or eggs shouldn’t be stored in the door because it’s the warmest part of the fridge.

An unclean office fridge is unsanitary and all too common.

An unclean refrigerator is also a health issue. For example, if meat contains E. Coli, the bacteria in the drippings can fall on fruits and vegetables, which we often eat raw. This, frankly, sounds rather awful!

It gets worse with a communal office refrigerator; no one at the office feels especially obligated to clean up a mess, since it’s not their fridge.

“People throw stuff in the fridge and then it’s there for a long time and starts to smell bad,” says Barbara Kentworthy, employee of MyDoorSign. “The worst problem is that people have to be shamed into doing it (cleaning the fridge) until it really starts smelling bad. Then the same two people who can’t stand it end up cleaning it out—they get stuck with it a lot.”

So, how do we stop this vicious cycle?

Try the simple approach:

Signs are a permanent visual reminder to keep the fridge clean at work.

Put up this office refrigerator courtesy sign. View here.

Set a list of rules that everyone can agree on:

The drip tray of a fridge is a breeding ground for germs.

“I’m always sending out emails reminding people. People have to be embarrassed into cleaning it,” Barbara says. Keeping the office refrigerator clean is a group effort, and the fridge won’t clean itself. Let’s not resort to public (or private) shaming.

–by Ruthie Portes

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