Breathing Dust Bunnies

WP_20160617_20_05_22_ProSpring arrives and I think about giving the house a seriously good cleaning. Summer arrives and I think about it a little more.

I am vacuuming my kitchen floor, noticing that the edges of the wood floor peeking from the refrigerator shadow are getting a bit grimy. If I step back the length of a tall man, I can peek an inch under the fridge. Here the grime thickens and coagulates, catching and holding insects, small toys that have rolled under and had their momentum stopped instantaneously, as well as all manner of dirt, debris, and food particles.

I silently debate. Stop now and properly clean under the fridge, which has most definitely tiptoed past its annual underneath cleaning, maybe even two or three cleanings, or pretend that none of that gross stuff resides under my fridge and hope that no one will ever notice.

I chose the former and dream about the reward I will earn by completing this not so pleasant task that hovers significantly below scrubbing toilets on my scale of cleaning tasks. Maybe this year sainthood will be offered, or at the least, a pay raise added to my already tidy sum of zero I am currently pulling in as the one and only house-cleaner for the clan.

Now here is a tip I am sharing for absolutely free. If the floor under the refrigerator looks like it is decked out for Halloween because of all the debris littered cobwebs contained under its bowels, then the coils are also guaranteed to be just as dirty (hopefully minus the small toys). And in case you didn’t read the fine print on the refrigerator manual, (or if you actually did because your husband would have a pop quiz when he came home, like mine does) the dirty refrigerator coils need to be cleaned annually. Or in plain English—clean your fridge coils once a year for maximum performance (the refrigerator’s performance, not yours.)

So how do the coils get dirty? Air is drawn across the condenser coils during the cooling process. This movement of air collects dust and household debris.

Why clean the coils?  Dirty refrigerator coils reduce the refrigerator’s ability to maintain optimal temperatures or operate at maximum energy efficiency.

Hopefully you passed the pop quiz, but if not, don’t worry. Just remember that refrigerator coils are guaranteed to get dirty, gross, and grimy. No exceptions. Which pretty much is a downer, and leads to the unpleasant task of wrestling with the refrigerator and cleaning things you hoped never to clean again.

So what are your options? Clean the coils yourself, hire someone, bribe someone, ignore the coils, buy a new refrigerator when it gasps it’s last, or give up cold food.

I decided on option one.

The coils on most refrigerators are in the back of the unit or on the bottom, accessible behind the bottom grille. Some refrigerators have coils inside the compressor and therefore should never need cleaning. Believe me, this is an important tidbit I am tucking into my brain and remembering when I need to buy a new fridge.

First task is to unplug the refrigerator. Unfortunately, this involves pulling it away from the wall. Good luck on wrestling that monster forward, but if you get angry enough and mutter enough choice words, it eventually starts inching forward.

If you don’t want nightmares, don’t glance anywhere near floor height when you unplug the unit. Since this takes intense willpower, you will probably succumb and notice what has been hiding under your monster’s bottom. Small toys, pens, large scraps of food, small bits of food, dried and gelatinous liquid that was spilled months ago, a layer of dirt and grime that could win a prize in a science fair, ticket stubs, money, dice, rubber bands, pieces of paper and plastic, Styrofoam peanuts, dried bug carcasses, and enough dust bunnies to knit grandma a sweater.

After wearing my fingers an inch shorter by scrapping and scrubbing my extra dirty floor to a semblance of clean, I attacked the coils. I wrenched the front grill off below the doors, attached the smallest and thinnest vacuum attachment I had, and began sucking up the handfuls of dust and dirt from the first four inches of coils that I could reach.

Due to some sort of curse by the refrigerator fairy, the coils for my unit are approximately 2 inches off the floor. This seems like a fine enough location for them, until one needs to clean them. I have to lie on the floor, the side of my face pressed against the kitchen floor, so I can even see the first three inches of the coils.

While in this position, concentrating on ridding the coils of all grime and dust, I just hope and pray that my husband doesn’t sneak in behind me and scare me. This has happened in the past. Let’s just say, finding oneself standing on the kitchen counter or impaling oneself on a vacuum handle is not pleasant. It takes days for my husband to quit breaking out in spontaneous laughter. Or to quit muttering, “I seriously didn’t think you could jump so high.”

As my vacuum attachment can only reach the first 4 inches, I take a yardstick, cover it with an old black dress sock of my husband, and use it to dust the top and bottom of the coils that run north and south into the bowels of my unit. With each jab underneath, I have to vacuum the now white and dusty sock. Dust bunnies are clinging to that sock like a sweater on Velcro. I have also collected enough dust bunnies to knit grandpa a matching sweater.

Exhausted from pressing my face and body atop the floor, peering into the underneath of the refrigerator, and fishing out dust and dirt that is multiplying faster than flies on watermelon, I call it quits.

In the end, my floor and refrigerator coils are clean for another year.

I am sweaty, dirty, and need a good vacuum myself.

WP_20160401_15_37_07_Pro with textWoman wrestles monster refrigerator, woman barely wins.

And yet, I also have a sense of accomplishment. The kind that comes from tackling and completing something hard. It is a good feeling. A feeling I need to remember next week, in a month, or in three years when I am faced with another sticky, unpleasant task I in no way want to complete. It may be a struggle to start and finish an unpleasant task, but the end emotion and product feels like a celebration.

No, I wasn’t awarded sainthood, but I did get a pay raise. A whole sticky 32 cents pried from the sticky no-man’s land beneath the refrigerator.


Remember that sense of accomplishment that comes from completing hard things, especially when life presents you with unpleasant tasks you need to accomplish. What unpleasant things are you currently facing? Please share in the comment section.

3 Replies to “Breathing Dust Bunnies”

  1. I cleaned some refrigerator coils the other day, and I found about fist-sized lumps of dirt/fuzz in them. They are easy to forget to clean!

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