The Ultimate Cleaning Schedule for Refrigerator Maintenance and Care
Refrigerators are one of the most expensive and frequently used appliances in your home. As with anything that get plenty of use and is rarely replaced, it needs to be well-maintained.
Refrigerator maintenance can be broken into 4 categories. To increase the longevity of your fridge, here are monthly, bi-annual, annual and long term maintenance tips that are commonly recommended by manufacturers and service professionals.
Monthly Refrigerator Maintenance
Choose one day a month and spend as little as an hour performing a few cleaning tasks and checking on the appliance.
Throw Out Old Food
It is easy for old food to accumulate in your refrigerator. The best way to avoid accidentally growing bacteria is to purge any old or expired food. Check expiration dates and look at any packaged items to see what might look bad. Check through leftovers and toss anything older than a month. If you don’t remember putting it in the fridge, it’s best to toss it.
Empty and Clean the Shelves
Take everything out of your refrigerator and place it close together on the counter to slow the warming process. The cleaning process is quick so there is no need for a cooler. Use an all-surface cleaner or a vinegar-based mix (vinegar keeps mildew from growing) to clean up any residue or buildup. Clean the walls of the fridge, the top and bottom of every shelf, and inside the drawers.
Ensure the Vents are is Open
Inside the fridge, vents lead into the freezer. You want to ensure nothing is blocking those vents. This is where the cold air comes from, so these spaces need adequate airflow. Blocking these vents can cause your refrigerator to work harder and may lead to inaccurate temperature control and premature wear on the fan motors.
Bi-Annual Refrigerator Maintenance
Twice a year, give your refrigerator a thorough cleaning and maintain key pieces of the appliance.
Change the Water Filter
If your refrigerator makes ice or has a water dispenser, it has a water filter, which should be changed approximately every three to nine months. The timeline varies based on how much water or ice you use but a good rule of thumb is to change it out every six months. If you notice the filter is very dirty during your six-month cleaning, feel free to increase the frequency of this task.
Deep Clean the Fridge and Freezer
During a deep clean, scrape and wipe up any old spills and sweep out crumbs. Then, thoroughly wipe down all reachable surfaces using a mixture of 2 parts vinegar and 1 part baking soda. This process can take a bit more time compared with monthly cleanings, so you might need to store items in a cooler as you work.
Clean the Drip Pan
Cooling condensers create condensation, which is water that beads on the outside of the coils, similar to water on a soda can. To avoid creating a puddle, refrigerators are designed with an open-air drip pan underneath. The drip pan is found behind the floor-level grate, which is removable with tabs or screws.
The drip pan receives a small amount of water constantly and it evaporates before the pool becomes a problem. However, dust and other things gather in the moist pan, so it should be washed every few months. Remove the grate and pull out the drip pan, then clean it with soap and vinegar before returning it.
Annual Refrigerator Maintenance
To keep your refrigerator in good condition from one year to the next, annual refrigerator maintenance is required.
Clean the Condenser Coils
The condenser coils allow a refrigerator to control its temperature, so it’s crucial to keep them clean to ensure that the unit is running efficiently and doesn’t overheat. Since the coils are also damp with cold condensation, it causes dust to stick to them. With the appliance unplugged, clean the coils using a vacuum cleaner. If debris has caked on, coil cleaning spray can help remove this dirt and is found at home improvement stores.
Inspect and Grease the Door Gasket
Your door gasket is a rectangular rubber ring that helps the door seal closed. If it is dirty, damaged, or overly dry, it won’t seal properly and cold will escape. Annually inspect your door gasket all the way around and wipe it down to keep it clean. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the gasket to help it seal more firmly throughout the next year. If the seal is cracked or not adhering, it may be time to replace it.
Level the Feet
Keeping your fridge level will improve food storage and cooling efficiency, and prevents the door from swinging open or closing on its own or becoming warped. Grab a bubble level and test the top of the fridge on all four sides. If the fridge is not level, screw the feet of the unit in or out until it is level.
If your freezer or refrigerator builds up frost, clear it out. Many modern appliances have a self-defrosting mechanism that keeps the unit clear of icy buildup. If you have to do it manually, which would be required if ice over ½ inch in thickness needs to be removed, turn off the unit and allow it to defrost naturally. You can help it defrost faster by blow a hair dryer on the affected area or by using pitchers of warm water. Do not use sharp implements like screwdrivers to speed up the process, because you could damage the appliances plastic surfaces very easily.
Wipe down the defrosted walls with vinegar and try to adjust your fridge settings (or fix your defrost system) to avoid frost buildup in the future. A refrigerator should be set between 37-40 degrees Fahrenheit while a freezer should be set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Refrigerator Maintenance Tasks to Complete Every 5 Years
Refrigerators can last a long time, with a majority of them lasting up to 15 years. Some refrigerator maintenance tasks are only required when an appliance has been in use for several years. Every five years of fridge ownership, perform these three 5-year maintenance tasks to improve household safety, water cleanliness, and fridge efficiency. If you inherit a fridge with a new house, start this maintenance task during the first year of ownership.
Clean the Water Lines
Flush out your refrigerator’s water lines. The tubes that lead to the fridge from the wall and the internal tubing through the water filter, ice maker, and water dispenser should all be cleaned with a mild non-toxic solution, like vinegar. This kills any mold living in the damp lines and will reveal any impending clogs. It also helps to ensure water quality in ice and cold drinking water.
Inspection of Wiring
Hire an appliance technician to open the back panels of the fridge and inspect the wiring. Over time, the wire casing or the copper itself can decay, which creates electrical hazards. The periodic inspection of your fridge components will ensure that there are no electrical catastrophes (or slow costly power waste) lurking in the future.
Replace the Fans
The fans in a fridge system are the component that is most likely to break and cause problems. The fans are necessary to channel cold air over the coils and then circulate cold through the fridge and freezer. If even just one fan goes out, your entire cold maintenance system could be thrown off. During your wiring inspection, have the technician inspect your fans and have them replaced if they are performing poorly.
Modern refrigerators are far more energy efficient than their predecessors. This also means that they require more maintenance. However with a proper maintenance calendar your fridge will stay energy-efficient, cold, and fresh for many years to come.
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