It’s easy to take appliances for granted and wait for them to break before you bother to notice how well they’re running, but regular preventive maintenance will help extend their lifespans and improve efficiency. Your refrigerator and freezer are some of the hardest working appliances in your home since they continue running all day every day to keep your food fresh and cool. By performing regular refrigerator preventive maintenance, you can’t guarantee that your fridge will not break down, but it will be less likely to have problems.

Here are some easy tips to help you maintain your fridge and freezer, keeping them clean and running smoothly:

  1. Check the door seals. The seals on the doors of your fridge and freezer make sure that the cold air stays inside. If warm outside air is seeping into the unit, it has to work harder to keep the internal temperatures low. Make sure that the seals are clean using an old toothbrush and a mixture of baking soda and water. You can also rub petroleum jelly on the seal to prolong its life. Every time you open and close the door, the seal loses some of its elasticity. If it is cracked or not adhering, you might have to replace it. You can try the “dollar bill test”: close the door with a dollar bill half in and half out. If it slips out easily while the door is closed, the seals need to be replaced.
  2. Make sure it’s level. If the fridge or freezer isn’t level, the doors may not seal correctly and eventually warp out of place. Use a carpenter’s level on top of the unit to measure. If it is not level, you can adjust the appliance’s feet using a hand wrench.
  3. Defrost. Many modern appliances have a self-defrosting mechanism that keeps the unit clear of icy buildup. If you have to do it manually (ice over ½ inch in thickness needs to be removed), you should turn off the unit and allow it to defrost naturally. You can help it defrost faster by turning on a fan facing the affected area. Do not use sharp implements to speed up the process, because you could damage the appliance.
  4. Check the drip pan and drain hole. Condensation that builds up in the refrigerator drains through a drip hole and into a water pan. Most of the moisture should evaporate naturally, but it’s good to check the pan regularly to make sure that it’s not filling up. The owner’s manual for your unit will explain how to reach the drainage area and clean it out. It usually requires removing the front grille. Clean out the pan and drain hole completely.
  5. Change the water filter. If your refrigerator has an icemaker, it probably has a water filter that needs to be replaced. You should replace the filter every 6 months, or however often the owner’s manual recommends. Keep in mind that water that is pulled through a dirty filter is often filthier than it was before it was “filtered”!
  6. Clean the condenser coils. The condenser coils are what allow a fridge or freezer to control its temperature, so it’s crucial to keep them clean to ensure that the unit is running efficiently and doesn’t overheat. Over time, dust, hair, and other grime builds up on the coils. With the appliance unplugged, clean the coils using a vacuum cleaner every three months. Your owner’s manual should again help you locate and clean this area.
  7. General cleaning. It’s important to keep the inside and outside of your appliances clean, since buildup can affect the quality of food and other items you keep within them. Remove all stored items, then use a clean cloth to wipe down the inside, making sure reach every area by removing the shelves and drawers. You can use vinegar to keep mildew from growing.
  8. Set the right temperature. A refrigerator should normally be set between 37-40 degrees Fahrenheit. A freezer should be set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Keep it full. Refrigerators need “thermal mass” (stuff inside) to help maintain low temperatures. Cold food and liquids absorb warm air when the door is opened. If you keep your fridge nearly empty, store some water jugs in it.

These may seem like a lot of steps to take to keep your fridge and freezer maintained, but they won’t take very long to accomplish if done regularly. The benefits you’ll get from keeping your appliances clean and taken care of will save you money over the long run by improving energy efficiency and helping prevent problems. Contact us for more information about Refrigerator Preventive Maintenance if you have any more questions.