There are a few places in the house that require an all-out deep-clean every month. Depending on how often you cook or meal prep, the refrigerator is likely among them. We know when it’s time to toss things like meat or mystery leftovers, but what about things like ketchup or jalapeño paste? (Does anyone even refrigerate their ketchup anymore?)
While the answer generally lies within our collective common sense, there are a few things I didn’t know about how long I can store mustard, or if shelf-stable salsa even needs to be refrigerated after it’s opened. Here’s how to store your condiments, as well as how long to keep them before they’re no good.
Step 1: Take everything out.
This means everything—and not just from your fridge, but your pantry, as well as anywhere else condiments and spices may live. If you have any duplicates that you can marry—I, for one, have four different salt shakers somehow—go for it. If anything looks particularly gross, just get rid of it.
Step 2: Take Stock
According to an exhaustive chart published by Ohio State University, items that can be stored at room temperature—either before or after opening—should be in a cool, dark place. Most pantries should work, but be sure to avoid warmer cabinets near your stove. And as it turns out, shelf-stable items like mustard, mayo, ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and salsa can be refrigerated for up to a year, but only for quality rather than safety.
And for items that aren’t labeled shelf-stable, the USDA recommends keeping an eye on them much sooner than you’d think: Any chutneys or jams be tossed after two months, horseradish can last about four months, and you should consume that pickle jar within three months. Still, use your best judgment: If your mayo smells weird after three months, get rid of it. Toss anything moldy, moist, or separated—unless it’s all-natural almond butter and it’s *supposed* to look like that.
Step 3: Clean + Organize
Here’s where you’ll likely need a bit of help from your arsenal of cleaning products: Wipe down pantry and refrigerator shelves with All-Purpose Cleaner until all the gunk is gone.
Then, my favorite trick: Arrange a few ceramic trays in strategic places: If your salt and pepper shakers dispense from the bottom, it’s a good idea to keep them on a tray, or something that is easily wipeable. I like to put my olive oil and vinegar on one to catch any drips, too. Trust, when you’re done with this silly little task, you’ll feel worlds more organized. (It might even inspire you to cook—for pleasure!)