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Simple refrigerator and freezer maintenance guide

refrigerator maintenance


Your refrigerator is the lifeline of your home. Family life often centers around the kitchen and the meals prepared there. Your fridge and freezer keep your family’s perishable and frozen food fresh. If your refrigerator breaks down, you could end up losing all those expensive groceries stored inside. Even worse, you might have to shell out big bucks for high-cost appliance repairs or even be forced to replace your broken appliance altogether. In a worst-case scenario, a broken ice maker, water dispenser or condenser could cause additional problems like damaged flooring and even mold. 

The good news is that many of the refrigerator and freezer problems people experience are preventable with some fairly simple refrigerator maintenance. This article is all about how to maintain your refrigerator and freezer to keep them running smoothly and extend their lifespan.


The importance of maintaining your refrigerator and freezer

Refrigerators are expensive. Replacing your refrigerator could set you back anywhere from $430 for a base model to over $10,000 for a higher-end model. That doesn’t include installation, which could be an additional $200

If your refrigerator and freezer break down and you don’t have a home warranty — like the affordable Appliances Plan offered by Cinch Home Services — your out-of-pocket repair costs could reach into the hundreds or more, especially if you need to replace an expensive part like the compressor. 

Given these high costs, it’s easy to see why it makes sense to learn how to maintain your refrigerator and freezer to keep them running smoothly and even expand their use beyond the typical 10- to 15-year lifespan.


Maintenance tips for your refrigerator and freezer


You don’t have to be overly handy around the house to keep your refrigerator and freezer running smoothly. You can learn to perform the following refrigerator maintenance tasks even if you don’t consider yourself much of a do-it-yourself (DIY) expert. 

Clean the refrigerator and freezer condenser coils

To help keep your refrigerator running at maximum efficiency, you will need to keep its coils clean. When pet hair, dust and dirt seep into the refrigerator coils, they can clog them up. This prevents the coils from doing their job, which is to release heat. The result? Your compressor starts running on overload, which runs up your electric bill and even shortens the lifespan of your refrigerator. 

You will usually find the condenser coils either at the bottom of your refrigerator behind the base grille or on the back. On occasion, the coils could be at the top of the fridge. 

Before you begin, unplug the unit. Then, to get to the coils, remove the grille (if the coils are at the bottom or top) or pull the unit out from the wall (if the coils are on the back). Using a stiff brush, vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment or coil brush, remove the pet hair, dust and debris from the coils, taking care to run the brush both over and under the coils. Once you are finished, replace the grille and move the refrigerator back into place, plugging it back in. 

It is a good idea to clean your coils a couple of times a year. If you have shedding pets, you might want to clean them even more frequently. 

Clean the condenser fan (if you have one)

While your unit is unplugged and you are cleaning your coils, you will also want to clean the condenser fan. Only refrigerators and freezers that have coils on the bottom or top have condenser fans. The purpose of this fan is to circulate air to help keep the coils cool. Use a hard brush or vacuum cleaner to remove all dirt and debris from the fan. 

Clean and check the door gasket

The purpose of your refrigerator door gasket — that flexible strip of elastic attached to the outer edge of your appliance — is to form an air-tight seal around your unit so that the warm outside air does not penetrate the cold air inside. Keeping the door seals clean — by removing any sticky goo from fingerprints or dripping syrups and other substances — will go a long way in preserving the life of your refrigerator. 

Wipe the gasket down regularly with soap and warm water. Bonus tip: You can prevent wear by wiping it down with a little baby powder on a cloth. Some people use a little petroleum jelly for the same purpose. 

Replace the water dispenser filter (if you have one)

If your refrigerator comes with a built-in water dispenser and/or ice maker, you need to make a point of replacing the water filter in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations found in the owner’s manual. Failure to change the filter regularly not only will make your water taste bad but can also cause scaling and the buildup of deposits, slowing down your dispenser’s flow.

Clean any freezer vents

Frost-free refrigerators contain vents that keep air circulating throughout the freezer compartment. If these vents are obstructed, the air won’t circulate properly, and the freezer will not operate efficiently. 

The best way to prevent problems is to keep your freezer at less than full capacity to allow air to circulate. You should also make a point to inspect the vent and clean out any food or packaging materials that might get caught in the freezer’s evaporator fan, located at the back of the freezer compartment. 

Regularly clean out food or debris

Make it a habit of thoroughly cleaning the inside of your refrigerator on a regular basis. Throwing out old food and wiping down the shelves, crispers, walls, and inside the doors of the refrigerator and freezer will go a long way in preventing unpleasant odors and even mold. Regularly cleaning the fridge and freezer also keeps you and your family healthier, as you will be disposing of out-of-date and spoiled food items that can cause you to become sick. 

Deodorize with baking soda

A tried-and-true tip for preventing your refrigerator from smelling bad is to store an opened box of baking soda in the refrigerator and freezer compartments. As a general rule, replace the boxes every three months. If your refrigerator starts to smell before the three-month period, go ahead and replace the boxes more often. 

Keep things inside to help maintain temperature

While it may seem counterintuitive, the more items you have in your refrigerator, the easier it will be for your fridge to stay at the desired temperature. 

Here is why: Every time you open your refrigerator door, the warm air from your kitchen enters the unit. The more food you have in your refrigerator, the less cold air there is that can be exchanged with the warm air from outside. So, to keep the cool air inside, keep that fridge filled up for maximum efficiency. 

Adjust the thermostat accordingly

To maintain food safety and extend the life of your unit, keep it set to the right temperatures: at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for your refrigerator and to 0 degrees Fahrenheit for your freezer.

Running your refrigerator and freezer at these low temperatures allows them to run at peak efficiency. Note that your unit may have two temperature controls — one in the refrigerator compartment and the other in the freezer. Make sure you properly set both. You might also consider getting an appliance thermometer to ensure that your temperature readings are accurate.


Protect your refrigerator from unexpected repairs with Cinch

Even if you follow all of these refrigerator maintenance tips, you may still need to call a refrigerator repair technician due to normal wear and tear. That’s where having a home protection plan from Cinch can make the process of repairs and replacements more painless. Whether you’re just interested in getting coverage for your major appliances or want comprehensive coverage for both your major appliances and built-in systems, Cinch has a home warranty for you. Get a free personalized quote today and find out just how affordable peace of mind can be.


Avoid costly repairs and extend the life of your refrigerator and freezer with these simple DIY refrigerator maintenance tips.