Share on Facebook

A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

7 Ways You’re Shortening the Life of Your Refrigerator

Believe it or not, it is very easy to break your refrigerator. These 7 common habits could be taking years off your very expensive appliance.

Hand of a woman is opening a refrigerator doorag1100/Shutterstock

You’re not cleaning the internal mechanics

“If the defrost drain is clogged with debris, or frozen, the water dripping off the coils will overflow the drain trough and drip into the bottom of your refrigerator,” experts at the Repair Clinic told Reader’s Digest. Not only can this overwork your fridge, leading to a shorter lifespan, but it can also potentially cause your fridge/freezer to leak water all over your kitchen floor. Leaking water is definitely a sign you should get any appliance looked at—it’s also a symptom of some of the ways you’re shortening the life of your washer and dryer.

Employee hand in rubber protective glove with micro fiber cloth wiping a fridge's stainless doors. Early spring or regular cleanup. Commercial cleaning company concept.FotoDuets/Shutterstock

You’re not cleaning the fridge itself

Additionally, debris, foodstuff, sticky spills, and more common food mishaps that stay on the gasket of the refrigerator’s door too long can tear or break the seal of your refrigerator door which can cause a leak that cold air will escape from. This makes learning how to clean your refrigerator properly all the more important. In order to keep your fridge in tip-top shape and working for a long time, be sure to wipe down the door edges often. While you’re wiping down your fridge, take a look to see if you’ve organized your refrigerator shelves the right way to keep ingredients fresh and avoid food poisoning.

refrigerator kichen repair coil appliancesasipixel/Shutterstock

You’re not cleaning the coils

According to our sister site Family Handyman, you can eliminate more than 70 percent of service calls for your fridge by cleaning your coils once a year. (Family Handyman recommends upping that to twice a year if you have furry pets.) Debris on the coils can stop your fridge from properly dissipating heat which means that your compressor will be working harder and longer than it was designed to, using more energy and shortening the life of your fridge.

refridgeratorAndrey Popov/Shutterstock

It’s too full

We’ve all played a few games of Tetris with our refrigerator after we get home with the groceries, but be careful when stocking up and storing. While this isn’t a huge problem with newer models, some older models have fan blades that are less protected. You may even be able to see the fan blades in your freezer or fridge. Cramming your food into the fridge and freezer to the point of applying undue pressure on this small part can affect its shape and fit among related parts of your fridge, which means that it might break, or work ineffectively. Ineffective fridges are overworked fridges which will eventually lead to a refrigerator that doesn’t work. In order to avoid overfilling your fridge, be sure to do a deep clean of the contents of your fridge every once in a while. That’s not as hard as it sounds.

Male hand is pouring cold water from dispenser of home fridge.Nataly Mayak/Shutterstock

You’re not changing the water filter often enough

If you have the type of fridge that makes ice—with the dispenser either within the freezer or on your door—the water filter is key to keeping this part of your refrigerator in great condition. An old, broken, or dislodged water filter can create all kinds of problems for your fridge. At best, your ice dispenser breaks. At worst, your fridge overworks itself to an early death and you’re stuck footing the bill for a new one. Luckily, c|net reports that you will likely be able to detect this problem early as your ice cubes will start coming out smaller, oddly shaped, or not at all.

Freezer is defrosted to clean.wsf-s/Shutterstock

Your freezer temperature is too high

While this is the safest temperature for your refrigerator, the freezer is a different story. “Ideally, the temperature should be set between zero and five degrees Fahrenheit,” said experts at Repair Clinic. The wrong freezer temperature can affect the longevity of your ice maker, as well as the safety of the food you’ll be eating. A higher temperature than 15 degrees Fahrenheit can also cause the defrost thermostat to stop working which in turn, overworks your refrigerator and shortens its life.

fridgegary yim/Shutterstock

You ignore weird noises or constant running

If you notice that your fridge is always running, or is running louder than usual, do something about it right away. Some fixes are easy enough that you can do yourself or they’re inexpensive for a professional, but even if that’s not the case, allowing a fridge to work itself harder then it is intended to is a good way to put an early expiration date on it. Depending on the age of your fridge, you may want to decide not to fix it, and to invest in a new, more energy and cost efficient option anyway. Now that you know how to avoid shortening the life of your fridge, make sure you know how to avoid shortening the life of your coffee maker.

Isabel Roy
Isabel Roy is the newsletter editor at Reader’s Digest. She writes and reports on home, culture, and general interest stories. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse in 2017 with a B.A. in Rhetoric and Writing.