Refrigerators are our modern shelf portraits

By Sarah Rainey

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Six eggs, ham, a half-eaten pavlova, orange juice, an iceberg lettuce, a tub of hummus and four large dessert spoons. They say you can tell a lot about a person from what's in their fridge - though the presence of cutlery in mine may leave you baffled. Cold spoons work wonders for the dark morning circles under my eyes.

These are nowhere near the strangest items you find in fridges. A consumer survey of 4000 households across Europe has found that refrigerating non-food items is more common than we think. A quarter of Europeans keep medicines in their fridge; 6 per cent use it to store glue; 3 per cent, nail varnish; and 1 per cent, tins of paint and batteries.

Fridges are like a mirror of their owner's personality. Some are scrupulous about cleanliness; others have long-forgotten chutneys, pickles and sauces secreted on the top shelf (I confess to being guilty of the latter). A poll in 2011 found that one in 10 Britons store insects and similar pets in the fridge, a third keep make-up, and 2 per cent their false teeth.

Toiletries are the most familiar. In fact, when household refrigerators were first invented in the 19th century, they were used to store lotions and potions, not food. Nowadays, chemists recommend chilling certain medicines to protect the active ingredients, and thousands of us swear by the soothing effects of cold plasters, eye masks and sun cream. Daisy Bell, of Wolverhampton, stores her nail polish in the fridge. "It makes the varnish easier to apply when it's cold and stops it from clogging up." Manchester-based Sarah Clayton keeps hair-styling products in hers. "I was advised that the coconut oil wouldn't go off as quickly. Now I keep lip balm in there, too."

Bed linen and cashmere, sealed in vacuum bags, can benefit from being stored in the fridge; advocates claim the cold kills off moths and bugs. "My husband asked me to put our pillows in the fridge the other day," says Sophie Thorne of London. "I couldn't fit them in, but it helps you sleep better in hot weather."

Others use the fridge for safekeeping: one friend's grandmother kept her jewellery in there, sealed in Tupperware boxes, to hide it from burglars. UK food critic Giles Coren admits to keeping his car keys in the fridge as he was "always losing them". Candles, batteries and camera film all have a longer shelf life if kept at a low temperature. A colleague stores his cellphone there to stop the sun frazzling the software and running down the battery.

Others' fridge habits are indisputably unsavoury. Tom Wild, a paralegal and amateur angler, used to chill maggots to stop them turning into pupae. "It caused some consternation. I kept them in a double-bagged box on the bottom shelf. In the end, they were relegated to a shady corner of the garage."

More unusual still is the practice of chilling live pets. Clare Pidsley stores tortoise Tilly in the fridge during hibernation - at the suggestion of the Tortoise Trust. "It's to regulate and monitor the temperature. [She's] in our second fridge in the garage, not in the kitchen with the lettuce."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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