Time it takes: 20 to 30 minutes.
Why it matters: Lots of dust on the coils can cause a refrigerator to run inefficiently. And dust under the refrigerator can mix with moisture from the air to gum up the finish on your floor.
Step 1: Pull out the refrigerator by grasping both sides and gently wiggling it toward you; some are on wheels, so this may be easier than you think. When you can, reach behind and pull the plug (your food will survive for the short time it takes to clean). If you have an ice maker, shut off the water supply first, just in case the hose comes loose.
Step 2: To dislodge dust around the condenser coils (the wriggly apparatus in back), use a long, thin tool known as a refrigerator-coil brush (Rubbermaid, $9, acehardware.com), then gently vacuum with a brush attachment. Some refrigerators have their condenser coils behind a removable grille in the front. If yours does, snap off or unscrew the grille and clean the coils, as above.
Step 3: Wipe down the wall, the back of the refrigerator, and the sides with a damp cotton cloth and a little dish soap. Then vacuum and clean the floor. A solution of 1⁄3 cup white vinegar and ½ gallon warm water is a safe bet for most surfaces, except tile and stone. For those, use plain hot water or a tile or stone cleaner like StoneTech Professional Stone & Tile Cleaner ($10 a quart, stonetechdirect.com).
Step 4: After the floor is completely dry, plug in the refrigerator and slide it into place. If you’ve turned off the water, switch it back on.
Try to do this: Twice a year.