How to Care for Your Refrigerator

Your hardworking fridge needs routine attention. Here’s what you should do to keep it happy and healthy.

Refrigerator Maintenance How To Maintain Home Refrigerator
Image: Liz Foreman/HouseLogic

Refrigerators are hardworking appliances that run 24/7 and deserve some TLC. But other than clearing out smelly food, how much time did you devote to refrigerator maintenance last year?

If you want your fridge to live its full life -- typically 13 years -- show it some love and perform these simple maintenance tasks.

Related: When is the Best Time to Buy Appliances?

Monthly Maintenance

Empty Ice: Ice can absorb freezer odors and form solid blocks in the bottom of bins. To keep ice loose and smelling sweet, empty ice bins monthly and start fresh; put an open box of odor-sucking baking soda in the freezer.

Every Three Months Maintenance

Inspect door gasket: Dirty and flimsy gaskets prevent refrigerator doors from closing tightly and put stress on motors. Clean grimy gaskets with soapy water and dry completely. If seals are loose, their embedded magnets should be either replaced or re-magnetized.

If you’re handy, re-magnetizing is a DIY job -- just run a powerful magnet along each side of the gasket, in the same direction, about 50 times.

Clean condenser coils: Condenser coils in the back of your fridge cool and condense refrigerant, releasing heat. If they’re clogged with dust and pet hair, they stress the compressor and waste energy.

Every three months, vacuum the condenser coils and fan using a brush attachment. Then, clean back coils and sides with a refrigerator coil brush ($7) that can slip into hard-to-reach places. Families with shedding pets should clean the coils monthly.

Level it: Fridges that aren’t completely level -- side-to-side and back-to-front -- won’t close properly, straining motors and causing condensation inside. To check, place a level on the top of the machine. Then rotate your machine’s adjustable feet until the fridge is level.

Related: When to Replace Your Appliances

Every Six Months Maintenance

Replace water filter: To ensure clean water and ice, and to prevent clogs and leaks, replace the water filter. Check your owner’s manual for the location of the filter and directions on how to pull it out. After you’ve popped in a new filter, run a couple of gallons of water through it to remove any carbon residue in the filter. 

Clean the drain hole and drip pan that remove condensation: Clear away food and mineral deposits, then scrub drain pan. (Check your owner’s manual for instructions.)

Related: How to Organize Your Refrigerator

Day-to-Day Maintenance

Cover food to prevent odors from migrating throughout the fridge and freezer.

Keep an open box of baking soda ($1) in the fridge to absorb odor-causing acids.

Maintain an adequate amount of clearance on all sides of the appliance (except for those that are zero-clearance or front-vented).

Doug Trattner
Douglas Trattner

Douglas Trattner has covered home improvement for, DIYNetworks, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He lives in a 1925 Colonial.