Compared to some of your other appliances, your refrigerator may seem pretty low maintenance. It certainly has some moving parts, but they don’t require a lot of attention. However, that doesn’t mean you can completely ignore the needs of your refrigerator when it comes to cleaning and maintenance. In fact, being lax when it comes to common cleaning and maintenance situations for your refrigerator can hurt it in unexpected ways. So what are some situations you want to avoid?
Not Changing Your Water Filter
If you have a water-producing refrigerator, it strongly behooves you to change the water filter according to directions of your specific refrigerator. In most cases, your refrigerator will recommend changing the water filter every six months, but if you use the water functions a lot, you may want to do it even sooner.
Even if you do not use water dispensing features often, you will still want to change the water filter at least every year for the ice maker at least. You will also want to consider at least running water through the line of the water dispenser to make sure everything is kept fresh.
The issue with not changing your water filter is that it means your water features can become contaminated over time. It is not just that the water filter becomes less effective over time, which it does, but it can actually become contaminated by the things that it filters out over time. It usually doesn’t have any serious health concerns, but it does cause the water to taste foul, even when used in ice.
Not Cleaning Up Spills
A little splash of soy sauce, a container that leaked a little, that one mystery stain — your refrigerator manifests a lot of spills over time. As an appliance that is filled with food, it is just something that will happen. However, that doesn’t mean you should just ignore them.
The issue is not so much that leaving spills results in an unsightly refrigerator — though that is an issue of it own. The real problem is that those food particles will become contamination. They are food for bacteria and mold. Even viruses and parasites could thrive in it. The spill goes from unsightly to health hazard. It is also important to remember that just because the interior is cold doesn’t mean that bacteria won’t grow. In fact, some strains prefer colder temperatures.
Ideally, you want to make cleaning the spills and other dirt out of your refrigerator a bi-monthly affair. Spraying the interior down with white vinegar twice per month and wiping it out is a great way to keep it sanitized without introducing bleach into the area where you store your fresh food.
Not Cleaning Your Condenser Coils
The condenser coils, located on either the back or bottom of your refrigerator, are crucial to the cooling function. These coils are essentially how your refrigerator dissipates the heat that it is removing from inside the unit. However, like anything, over time the condenser coils will become caked in dust and pet hair. The issue with this is not that it looks unsightly — mostly because you don’t look at the coils often. Instead, the issue is that dust serves as a natural insulator. This means your refrigerator needs to work harder to dissipate heat.
At first, dirty condenser coils aren’t a big deal. Your refrigerator may work harder and you may have a minor raise in energy bills. However, over time, the issue becomes compounded. If you fail to clean the coils, it leads to premature wear on the appliance.
In general, you should make it a priority to clean your condenser coils when you change your water filter in very much a “since your are back there anyway” sort of situation. Every six months is a good schedule for it, but the coils should be cleaned off at least at very least every year. This will stop them from getting too dirty and affecting the function of your appliance over time.
Overloading the Refrigerator
It is true that having a full refrigerator is good for energy efficiency, but there is such a thing as too full. If you are wedging food inside every nook and cranny, then air cannot properly circulate. It can make some spots far too cold and other spots way too warm. This means that some food freezes and other food may spoil. It is important to never put food in front of the vents and make sure there is enough space so air can circulate.
It is equally important to make sure that your freezer isn’t too full either. This is due to the same potential issue, but a full freezer can actually affect your fresh food section as well. What many don’t know is that in some models, the cold air is produced only for the freezer section. That air is then pumped into the refrigerator section. As such, if the vents are blocked on one or both sides, then it can affect function. As such, you need to keep the vents clear in your freezer as well or risk a warm fresh food section.
Not Checking For Leaking Gaskets
The plastic edge of your refrigerator is pretty easy to ignore, but it plays an important role. That plastic seal, or gasket, is in charge of keeping the cold air in and warm air out when the refrigerator is closed. Unfortunately, over time this plastic can become dirty, brittle, or broken. It can also have food particles smushed in the grooves which can affect its ability to seal.
You need to check this seal frequently for damage or food. It is also a good idea to keep it clean. If you do notice mold or mildew growth on it, then this can be a sign that it is actually leaking and forming condensation.
All of these issues can be stopped or at least slowed down with a little cleaning and maintenance to your refrigerator. Unfortunately, being lax with that causes premature wear, so why not extend the lifespan of your appliance with a little care?