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Refrigerator Rundown: Maintenance checklist for homeowners

Close-up of turquoise fridge with vintage handle and refrigerator maintenance checklist

On July 18th, Americans will celebrate National Ice Cream Day. That means it’s time to show a little love for the appliance that keeps your frozen treats within spoon’s reach—your toppings aren’t the only thing that needs to be prepared.

Unlike many other appliances, your refrigerator and freezer are working 24 hours a day. Without proper maintenance, your fridge runs less efficiently and consumes more power. A lack of maintenance may even shorten the life of your fridge.

The good news is that 15 minutes of your time can help keep your fridge in top shape, if you follow this simple checklist. If you’ve been putting off refrigerator maintenance, or don’t know where to start, read on – and think of the ice cream!

Step 1: Unplug your fridge

Unplugging is a critical safety step. Unplugging the fridge will help you access the front and back panels safely – which is important because a lot of dirt and dust accumulates behind them. If you have an icemaker or water dispenser, just be careful not to disconnect the water lines as you unplug.

Step 2: Remove the front cover from the bottom of your fridge

Sometimes called the kick plate, this is a little grill under your fridge doors that you’ll need to remove so you can clean behind it. Some models are clipped into place and can be removed without tools. Others need to be unscrewed.

Step 3: Vacuum your fridge’s coils

Coils push heat out of the refrigerator to keep your food cool. If dust and dirt build up around the coils, your fridge can’t push heat out efficiently. That makes your fridge’s job harder, so it uses more power, which costs you money.

Use your vacuum’s hose attachment to clean the coils under the front cover. If there’s a lot of dirt, or dust is stuck to the coils, try wiping the coils down with a condenser brush or dry microfiber cloth.

Step 4: Remove the back cover and clean around the coils

Repeat the same process behind the fridge. Remove the back cover, then clean around the coils and cooling fan to allow better airflow.

Step 5: Clean your fridge gaskets

The gasket is the elastic-looking door seal on the inside of the fridge. The seal ensures the cold air stays in, and the warm air stays out. Gaskets have creases in them where scraps of food and other nasties can accumulate. Fortunately, they can be cleaned with some vinegar and a toothbrush that helps you get into the folds.

If it’s been a while and you want to give your gaskets a deep clean, you can remove them, fill your sink with hot, soapy water and give them a scrub with a damp cloth. (Some gaskets may need to be unscrewed first.) Gaskets are replaceable, so if yours look torn or looks dirty beyond the point of no return, consider buying new ones.

Step 6: Check the vents

It’s smart to check the vents in both your fridge and freezer to ensure air can circulate freely. Freezers in particular can start to ice up if the air can’t move around. Again, that forces the fridge to work harder, which cuts into its efficiency and lifespan. 

Step 7: Check the temperature

The FDA recommends your fridge is set below 40 degrees, and your freezer is at 0 degrees, to reduce the chance of food spoilage.

Step 8: Plug in your fridge again

Don’t waste all your hard work and lose that precious ice cream!

Basic maintenance can help you save on energy costs and extend the life of your fridge, but even the best-maintained fridges break down. When they do, APHW is here to help. For more information, call 866.794.0875 or visit APHW.COM  to take a closer look at the appliances and home systems we cover.

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