Refrigerator and Food Safety Tips
- Maintenance for Refrigerator Tips
- Food Safety Guidelines
- Refrigerator Cleaning Tips
- Ice Makers & Water Leaks
Have a Question? Check out our Refrigerator Repair FAQ
Also check our Refrigerator Maintenance Tips Blog for some really helpful information about removing refrigerator odors and suggestions on how to clean your condenser coil.
Our Refrigerator Maintenance Tips Save Energy
If your refrigerator has a black condenser coil mounted behind the unit, make certain there is a clearance of at least 2 inches from the rear wall to the coil at its closest point, 4 inches from the cabinet above, and 1 inch on both sides of the unit. These types of coils rarely if ever need to be regularly cleaned of dust.
If your refrigerator has no exposed black coil, it will be located behind the machine compartment cover. The location of the machine compartment depends on your model, see your owner’s manual for the location. Check at least once per year, and clean as necessary with the unit turned off or unplugged. If you have more than one pet, or one pet that sheds profusely, increase frequency. See our blog post with information on how to clean your refrigerator condenser.
Believe it or not, one of the worst things we do to our refrigerator is open the doors. It is a good practice to open and close the doors quickly, so not much cold air can escape, just like our parents told us. If you don’t store a lot of food, you can add bulk by placing rinsed out milk jugs 3/4 filled with water in the freezer or the fresh food sections.
Don’t overload the refrigerator with too much food inside. If items fall out when you open a door, it’s possible you may have overloaded it.
Keep your refrigerator away from heat sources, such as direct sunlight, space heaters, heating vents and stoves, ovens or ranges.
If your water pressure at the door dispenser is slow, or ice cubes are smaller than normal, check and change your water filter if its older than six months.
If your refrigerator leaks water, you should turn off the water supply to the refrigerator only.
If you have glass shelves, make certain no food is resting against the walls, which can cause the food items to freeze, in addition to altering proper air flow to lower shelves.
Food Safety Guidelines
Freezer or Refrigerator not cooling? Be sure to check our blogpost “Normal Refrigerator Temperatures” for a list of foods to discard or keep when temperatures rise in the refrigerator or freezer.
Food that is properly cooked and frozen is safe. Food that is properly handled and stored in the freezer near 0° F (-18° C) will remain safe. While freezing does not kill most bacteria, it does stop bacteria from growing. Though food will be safe indefinitely at 0° F, unless otherwise indicated, quality will decrease the longer the food is in the freezer.
Refrigerate or freeze perishables right away. According to the US FDA: Stick to the “two-hour rule” for leaving items needing refrigeration out at room temperature. Never allow meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or other foods, including leftovers, that require refrigeration to sit at room temperature (72° F) for more than two hours.
Keep the refrigerator temperature below 40° F (4° C). The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C). Thermometers placed at the center of each compartment are the best way of knowing these temperatures and are generally inexpensive.
Food temperature danger zone is between 40° F to 140° F. We refrigerate food at 40° and below for short term storage, so just a few degrees warmer puts your food at risk.
According to the US FDA: If you lose power you should cover your food to catch drippings.
Be alert for spoiled food. Anything that looks or smells suspicious should be thrown out. The safest practice is to discard food that is moldy, and has passed its expiration date.
Refrigerator Cleaning Tips
Before cleaning, it is recommended you unplug refrigerator to prevent serious injury from electrocution. Now is a good time to sweep behind the fridge since its pulled out too.
According to the USFDA: Clean the refrigerator regularly and wipe spills immediately. This helps reduce the growth of bacteria and prevents drips from thawing meat that can allow bacteria from one food to spread to another. Clean the fridge out frequently with a mild soap and water solution. Bleach is not recommended.
Whether you clean out the refrigerator one shelf at a time or all at once, discard any spoiled, expired or out of date food items. Check if any food has fallen behind shelves, bins or baskets. You can temporarily move items to another shelf, on a counter, or in a cooler if you anticipate taking longer than 30 minutes.
Use hot water and a mild non-fragrant soap. Do not use an abrasive cleanser, bleach, or any other cleaner that has a very strong odor which can permeate throughout the appliance, and thereby your food items. To help reduce foul-smelling odors, place a dish of activated charcoal on the top refrigerator shelf.
Start with the main shelves, they’re usually removable, if not, wash and dry in place with the soapy water. Remove drawers and bins entirely, and clean them, as well as the rails they slide into. Clean shelves and bins on the door. Clean and dry the interior walls, ceilings and floors
It’s a good idea to wipe down the rubber door gasket and the corresponding cabinet face. Clean and disinfect any mold that may be growing in the crevices.
Vacuum out dust from the condenser coil according to your manual, using an appliance brush available at most hardware stores. The condenser is located underneath and in the back on most freestanding models. On built-in models the condenser coil is usually located above the appliance, behind a machine compartment cover. Do this once a year, twice if you have hairy pets.
Once you are finished cleaning, plug refrigerator back into the power outlet. Keep in mind it may take 4 to 24 hours for the appliance to get back down to normal operating temperatures.
Ice Makers and Water Leaks
If your ice maker is leaking water, turning the ice maker function off will not prevent a water leak.
If your ice maker or refrigerator is leaking water, turn the water supply off, clockwise until it stops. There is no need to turn the main house supply off unless you cannot locate or access the supply shut off.
Take clear pictures of any visible water, or any water damage, to floors, walls and ceilings below.
Dry up water using absorbent towels, high speed fans or other safe methods. Make sure to dry all the moisture out of the floor to further prevent any damage.
If there is any ice build up around the ice maker or elsewhere in the freezer, do not use any sharp objects like a screwdriver or a knife to remove it. The safest way to remove ice is to melt it slowly.