Tips & Tricks on How to Maintain and Clean Your Refrigerator

Clint Bird

Written By Clint Bird

Published 02/28/22
How to Maintain and Clean Your Refrigerator

Your refrigerator is the workhorse appliance of your home, but it’s easy to take it for granted. If you’ve ever experienced a refrigerator breakdown—or even a prolonged power outage—you know too well how disruptive it is to our modern lifestyle.

An appliance breakdown doesn’t need to be inevitable. Some basic maintenance can keep your fridge working reliably and efficiently for a decade or more. The CDC reports that foodborne illnesses affect about 1 in 6 Americans each year, underscoring the importance of proper storage and cleaning of the refrigerator to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. Let’s review some simple but important refrigerator maintenance tips.

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Simple Refrigerator Maintenance Tips

Refrigerator maintenance does not require substantial technical expertise. Some mindfulness and a willingness to get your hands dirty is often all that is required to keep your fridge clean and cold. 

1. Regularly perform a thorough internal clean-up.

It’s easy for the fridge to get a little disorganized. There are the nearly empty condiment bottles, the leftovers from last week’s dinner, the expired carton of milk… We’ve all been there, but it’s a good idea to stay on top of those messes—or prevent them from forming in the first place. 

A cluttered fridge can impair the functionality of your appliance. When you have an overstuffed refrigerator, there’s a tendency for items to get pushed toward the back where they block vents and impede airflow. This can force your fridge to work harder to maintain a cold temperature. Over time, that extra stress on the internal components can mean a diminished appliance lifespan.

You can wait for an obvious refrigerator clean-out sign—such as unwelcome odors or moldy produce—but it’s wiser to follow a structured schedule. Take thirty minutes every three or four weeks to take stock of the items in your fridge. Discard unwanted and expired items, eliminate clutter, wipe down shelves and other surfaces, and ensure the vents are unobstructed.  

Don’t forget to clean the door gaskets and seals—and while you’re at it, check that they’re in good condition and forming an adequate seal when the door is closed.

2. Check your temperature settings.

Keeping an eye on your refrigerator’s thermostat is another easy maintenance tip. A lower temperature usually means your refrigerator’s compressors and evaporators are working harder. A fridge that is too cold can also cause frost and ice to build up, which invites more problems.

It’s not uncommon to accidentally hit the thermostat when moving an item into or out of the fridge. Check your fridge’s thermostat every couple of weeks to ensure it’s set at the correct temperature. You can refer to your user’s manual for the appropriate setting, but the FDA recommends a fridge temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. A couple degrees lower than that is usually fine. Your freezer should be colder than you might think. Thirty-two degrees may sound intuitive, but you actually want your freezer to be around zero degrees. 

3. Replace your filter and clean your water lines.

Maintenance of your refrigerator isn’t limited to monthly cleanings. It’s also important to keep in mind the maintenance of refrigerator components, such as water filters. Old filters can accumulate bacteria and minerals, and they can impede waterflow. Most manufacturers recommend changing water filters every six months.

And do refrigerator water lines need to be cleaned? They sure do. Bacteria and mold in refrigerator water line junctions—and within the line itself—is a real possibility. You can flush your water lines and ice maker by pouring distilled white vinegar into the reservoir. Let the vinegar stand for 15 minutes, then rinse with cold water. You may need to discard the next couple batches of ice—they’re harmless but may taste of vinegar.

4. Clean your refrigerator coils.

Evaporator and condenser coils are key to a refrigerator’s efficiency. These coils are located behind the fridge, where they can easily become covered in dust and hair. This debris functions as a kind of insulation, pushing the coils to work harder. This translates to higher energy bills and a greater chance of an appliance malfunction.

Clean the coils every couple of months. Pull the fridge away from the wall and unplug the appliance. Some fridge models have the coils exposed to open air, but others hide the coils behind a removeable panel. If you’re unsure of where or how to find the coils on your refrigerator, consult your appliance’s documentation or reach out to the manufacturer.

Use the suction hose attachment on a vacuum to remove any accumulated dust. You can also use a clean rag or coil brush. Before setting the fridge back into place, vacuum the floor and any visible grates or vents. Note that your fridge shouldn’t be flush against the wall. Give a couple inches of clearance for appropriate airflow.

5. Mitigate odors.

You can avoid unwanted odors by staying on top of your cleaning routine, but you can also keep your fridge smelling fresh by leaving an opened container or baking soda inside. Also be mindful of potent food items. Keep halved onions and pungent cheeses in tightly sealed containers.

6. Remove frost accumulation.

Frost in your freezer spells trouble. Aside from limiting storage space, frost can cause foul odors and off-tasting food. And if you’re struggling with a fridge not cooling enough, the problem could be—that’s right—a buildup of frost. The icy accumulation can block vents and prohibit the airflow required for adequate cooling.

Many modern refrigerators have an automatic defrost setting. If your fridge does not, you can manually defrost by removing all food items, unplugging your appliance, and leaving the freezer door open until the ice melts. Be sure to set down several towels to absorb the meltwater. 

Keep Things Cool with a Home Warranty

Meticulous maintenance lessens the possibility of a fridge malfunction, but it doesn’t remove it entirely. A home warranty from Liberty Home Guard will cover all mechanical components and parts of your fridge. If a malfunction does arise, repair will be a breeze—and a steal.

Use our website for a free quote or call (866)-448-1427.


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