I just got a new house and inherited a very moldy and mildewy refrigerator. My first though it to get some cleaning spray with bleach and just go to town, but I'm worried the bleach might damage the fridge in some way. It's close enough to an outside door that I could take it outside and hose it out as well. I'm wondering if others have had a similar situation and got good results with a particular set of cleaning products.
Here's my 0.02:
For starters, check with the refrigerator manufacturer for official cleaning instructions. Some have explicit cleaning instructions/restrictions.
Try basic cleaning first (a good how-to is available here: http://www.ehow.com/how_92_clean-refrigerator.html).
Assuming that doesn't do the trick, you can try bleach but be careful. Another good how-to is available here: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2489239/how_to_clean_a_moldy_refrigerator.html
There's a lot of good advice here on cleaning the inside of the fridge. One thing I'd like to add:
Don't forget to periodically clean the fridge's coils. The coils are typically found underneath or on the back of the fridge, and are meant to dissipate the heat. The coils will, over time, get blocked with dust etc. and the fridge runs less efficiently as a result of such buildup. Keep the coils free of dust and you'll save money and extend the life of the fridge. Use a vacuum with appropriate connectors, and be careful when moving the fridge, vacuuming the coils, etc.
Here's a good reference: How to Save Energy--Clean Your Fridge Coils
I've cleaned minor mold and mildew with Windex, but if it's that bad, do you really want to store your food in it?
Any harsh chemical cleaner may have a bad effect on any rubber/plastic seal, too, though using occasionally and not letting it sit minimizes the effect.
Just use vinegar and water.
I've used bleach in the past but you have to rinse it out VERY well. Depending on where the fridge is (and if you can manage to get some friends to help you) you could take it out on the lawn or driveway, scrub the daylights out of it with bleach and water and then hose down the inside with the garden hose ... that way the mess is outside and you can spray to your hearts content without dirtying up the kitchen (or room where it's located).
When I moved into our "new" condo almost 2 years ago I ran into a similar issue - the fridge was a disgusting mess, full of mildew, mold and various food stains. It was beyond disgusting, but we were able to salvage it - using my steam cleaner to clean/sanitize the interior. My Steam Cleaner
Apparently the one I own has been discontinued, but something similar to this will work excellent. Far better than using chemicals to clean - and it removes pretty much everything nasty you find in a dirty old reefer.
Since I purchasing the steam cleaner - I've pretty much eliminated the need to use chemicals for the majority of my hard surface cleaning.
After doing everything else to clean the hard surfaces, you might want to look to see if you can get a gasket replacement kit for your model of fridge -- sometimes, it's easier to replace softer parts than to try to clean them.
(particularly if they're aged / cracked / torn / etc.)
oh ... and don't use mouthwash. That was my brother's solution to trying to use to disinfect (after hosing out and scrubbing) a fridge in similar condition that I acquired ... everything tasted vaguely minty for months afterwards.
Generally speaking, baking soda is recommended for cleaning and deodorizing the fridge. You do not want to use harsh cleaners as they tend to leave their odor inside and they may harm the plastic and rubber. My friend uses laundry detergent but it is hard to rinse the suds out completely, so stick with the baking soda. Leave it outside with the doors open for a day or so then closed with baking soda boxes inside and wiped on the walls. Then rinse. Ta da!!! It sounds too simple but it does work.