Whether your refrigerator is shiny and new or has a few (or many) years on it, it’s smart to think about maintaining this crucial appliance. And if you’re like 1 in 4 American households, you have two refrigerators that may need upkeep.
Truth is, the biggest mistake people usually make when it comes to refrigerator maintenance is not doing it at all.
“Maintaining your refrigerator helps you catch small problems promptly while they can still be easily repaired,” says Chris Thornton, senior manager of product training for Samsung. “This will extend your fridge’s life and keep you from having to replace it sooner than you should have to.”
So how can you help your fridge last its expected 14- to 17-year life span? Simply follow these easy steps. (Your ice cream will thank you.)
Keep the inside clean
When: Generally speaking, spills should be cleaned up ASAP. Otherwise, wipe down shelves weekly. And do a hardcore purge and deep cleaning each season.
Why: The longer spilled food sits, the more likely it is to create a stubborn stain. Also harmful bacteria like salmonella could grow.
How to do it: “For a deep clean, turn off the fridge and empty it, including removing crisper drawers and detachable shelves,” says Doug Rogers, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company. Then wipe down the entire interior with a soapy cloth.
For a no-rinse cleaning formula, he suggests dissolving 2 tablespoons baking soda into a quart of hot water. Have more stubborn stains? Make a paste with baking soda and a small amount of water, and allow that to sit on stains while you finish cleaning the rest of the fridge.
Removable shelves and bins can be washed in warm, soapy water in your sink. Make sure to dry them well before you reinsert them.
Wipe down the outside
When: Homeowner’s choice! Expert opinions vary from “daily” to “when it needs it.”
Why: Because who wants to stare at a fridge door that’s stained with grape jelly and fingerprints? Plus, 26% of fridge door handles are covered with growing bacteria. Eek!
How to do it: If your refrigerator isn’t stainless steel, “dampen a cloth with soapy water and wipe down the top, doors, and sides,” Rogers says. For stainless-steel appliances, use stainless-steel spray. Harsher cleaners will damage the finish.
Whatever the finish, give extra attention to the handles where grimy fingerprints linger—not to mention that colony of germs.
Why: If not, you’ll smell the reason why.
How to do it: A daily deodorization doesn’t have to be time-consuming, and your nose will thank you. Start by absorbing odors passively by placing baking soda in an open container at the back of the fridge, and then change it out once a month.
“To absorb especially strong odors, spread fresh coffee grounds or activated charcoal on a tray,” says Rogers.
And in addition to wiping up spills as they happen, keep your containers clean.
“Before you stick the ketchup bottle and salad dressing container back in the fridge, wipe the lids clean,” says Rogers.
Check expiration dates, and toss out old food before it starts smelling funky. Store leftovers in airtight containers, and when you defrost meat or fish, do so on a plate in case the thawing food leaks.
Clean the coils
When: Every six months to a year—or more frequently if you have dogs or cats who shed a lot.
Why: On the back or across the bottom of your appliance, you’ll find a series of condenser coils. A motor and pump push a refrigerant through them to cool the contents of your refrigerator.
“Over time, these coils collect dirt, hair, grease, grime, and other debris that reduces refrigeration efficiency,” explains Rogers. “This eventually causes the appliance to overheat and break down.”
How to do it: To access the coils, remove the grill from the bottom or back of your fridge, depending on how it’s designed. Then, simply—and gently— vacuum the coils with the brush attachment to remove any buildup. Here’s more on how to clean refrigerator coils.
Clean the door gasket
When: If it looks dirty.
Why: “A grimy gasket can create air leaks in the door seal, causing your fridge to run longer and wear out sooner,” Rogers says. “Over time, the gasket may become so grimy that it glues the door shut, causing the gasket to tear when you yank the door open.”
How to do it: Your gaskets can easily be cleaned with a sponge or cloth using warm water and no more than a very mild detergent. While you’re at it, take this opportunity to check your door gasket for signs of wear, adds Thornton.
“Loose areas, cracks, or holes in the gasket can lead to inconsistent fridge temperature and also a higher electricity bill due to the loss of cool air,” explains Thornton. “A damaged seal can also lead to total loss of cooling as it will allow ice to form in the rear of the unit and stop the fan from circulating cold air.”
If you find something suspicious with your gasket, check your warranty to see if a repair is covered. If not, call an appliance expert to fix it.
Replace the water filter
When: Every six months.
Why: To keep your drinking water and ice cubes fresh.
How to do it: Generally speaking, first you’ll locate and remove the old filter, and replace it with a new one. Next, run a few gallons of water through to clear impurities from the packaging and check for leaks. Since the filter’s location and your steps for removal/installation will depend on the type of fridge you have, you’ll need to follow the instructions in your owner’s manual.
Note that it’s crucial to buy the type of filter recommended by your fridge’s manufacturer.
“Using third-party or cheap filters can cause damage to your unit or generate leaks, and most likely does not perform to the same quality standard,” Thornton says.
Defrost the freezer
When: When the walls of your freezer start closing in.
Why: “Removing ice from the walls of your freezer helps it run more efficiently and also reclaims precious freezer space,” says Rogers.
How to do it: Fortunately, many new freezers come with a self-defrost feature that does the work for you. But if you have an older appliance, you’ll need to do this task yourself.
First, prep your fridge by emptying it. Then, unplug it and open the freezer door.
“Pile old towels inside and beneath the freezer to soak up excess water as the ice melts overnight,” Rogers advises.
As long as any perishable food is safely stored in a cooler or another freezer, there’s no need to speed up the process. But if time is of the essence, you can place a pot of boiling water in your freezer. The steam will help loosen thick chunks of ice more quickly. (Tip: Add a sliced lemon and a half-cup vinegar to deodorize in the process.)
Make sure to set the pot on a trivet or towel so it doesn’t come in direct contact with your cold freezer floor, and reheat the water every 15 minutes to keep the momentum going.
Resist the urge to pick at any loose ice with a knife.
“This can potentially poke a hole through the freezer wall or lead to a serious injury,” Rogers notes. “If you need to scrape away melting ice, use a plastic spatula instead.”
Pack the freezer
When: All the time.
Why: “Freezers work best and are the most energy-efficient when they are full,” says Thornton.
How to do it: You don’t necessarily have to confine your shopping to the frozen food section of Costco. If your freezer’s got a void, “there are many items you can use to fill the space, including plastic bags or water jugs,” Thornton says.
Simply fill them up with water—leaving room at the top, since water expands when it freezes—and pop them in to save money on your electric bill.
**Post from Realtor.com by Stephanie Booth 9/24/2021