What Happens If I Don't Clean the Refrigerator Coils?

by Team eLocal
Critical case for a major appliance repair

Many homeowners would class their refrigerators as their most essential kitchen appliances — and, truly, they're incredibly easy to maintain. However, adding basic refrigerator maintenance to your schedule is essential for keeping your appliance running efficiently.

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One of the simplest things you can do to maintain your refrigerator is to clean the condenser coils, but many people are unaware of just how crucial those hidden coils are.

What Would Happen If You Never Cleaned Your Refrigerator Coils?

Your refrigerator coils contain a refrigerant that absorbs heat from your fridge and freezer. Therefore, they're crucial for allowing your refrigerator to stay cool and operate efficiently.

Never cleaning your refrigerator coils could significantly impact how it functions. Dirty refrigerator coils don't absorb heat as efficiently, so you could notice a difference in the internal temperature of your fridge and freezer. An overly warm fridge could lead to spoiled food or allow harmful microbes to flourish, potentially causing food poisoning.

Another disadvantage of not cleaning refrigerator coils is that your fridge must work harder to maintain the correct temperature, putting extra strain on your appliance's compressor and shortening its lifespan. Working harder also uses more energy — up to 35% more, according to Realtor.com. Therefore, you could see a major spike in your energy bills if you allow dirty refrigerator coils to fester.

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What Do You Need to Clean Refrigerator Coils?

You probably have everything you need to clean your refrigerator coils already. Before starting, gather your vacuum cleaner, vacuum crevice attachment and a duster. You can purchase specialized refrigerator coil cleaning tools, but a household duster with a handle will do the job just as well.

How to Clean Refrigerator Coils

Fortunately, cleaning your refrigerator coils is quick and easy enough.

Start by finding the coils, which are usually at the bottom of the front or back of your appliance. Check for a removable toe panel if you can't locate the coils. You'll usually need to remove a metal grille to create enough access to insert your duster or coil cleaning tool.

Next, attach your crevice tool to your vacuum cleaner and suck up any large pieces of fluff or debris from around the refrigerator coils. You can then use your duster or refrigerator coil cleaner to remove dust and smaller particles of debris.

Cleaning refrigerator coils can create a mess on the floor around your refrigerator, so it's a good idea to leave your vacuum running under your duster to catch any falling dirt. Visually inspect your refrigerator coils using a flashlight and then replace the panels.

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How Often Do You Need to Clean Your Refrigerator's Coils?

Generally, you should aim to clean your refrigerator coils at least once per year. You may need to clean them more often if you have shedding pets because pet hair often becomes trapped in the coils.

However, this maintenance schedule only applies when your fridge is running as normal. It's worth cleaning your refrigerator coils whenever you notice cooling issues or see an unexplained spike in your energy bills.

Another sign that you need to clean your refrigerator coils is an overworked compressor. You can often hear the compressor running when it needs to cool your fridge down. If you hear it running longer than usual (or even constantly), it could be a symptom of dirty refrigerator coils. Replacing a fridge compressor is expensive, so it's sensible to clean your refrigerator coils as soon as possible.

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