When it comes to cleaning your fridge, getting down on your hands and knees to vacuum the coils is probably not high on your list. However, cleaning refrigerator coils is an essential piece of home maintenance that can save you money and extend the working life of your fridge.

Why Clean the Coils on Your Fridge?

The short answer to this question is “because it saves money and makes your fridge last longer.” But, first, to understand why it’s useful, you should know how your refrigerator works. 

How a Refrigerator Works

Our fridges work on the principle of heat transfer. So when something warm meets something cool, they will eventually “share” their heat and end up at the same temperature.

The pump on your fridge pushes a cold gas through the coils. As it travels through the coils, the gas cools down and becomes a freezing liquid. This liquid travels through the tubes hidden behind the white inside walls of your fridge.

While inside the fridge, the liquid absorbs any warmth and brings down the internal temperature of the air and, most importantly, the food and drinks inside.

This liquid then passes through the refrigerator’s outside coils, letting the heat evaporate into the air. So when it’s working hard, the air around your fridge gets warm, partly because of this dissipation of heat and partially because the motor and compressor are working harder to keep the system moving.

Why Clean Your Refrigerator Coils?

So, before we leap into the how, let’s explore why you should clean your refrigerator coils.

1. Make Your Fridge Last Longer

While your pump and compressor are working double-time to keep your fridge cool, they also wear out more quickly. That could mean the difference between replacing your refrigerator after 10 years or after 15+ years.

2. Enhance Your Seller Image

If you plan to sell your home in the near future, cleaning your fridge coils is probably not a major selling point that the home inspector has on their list. However, if you ask an inspector, you’ll find that attention to detail, such as cleaning all the nooks and crannies in your kitchen, can enhance the overall impression that realtors and buyers may have.

The theory is that if you’re willing to go the extra mile, cleaning under and behind the refrigerator, then it’s highly likely that you have taken extra care of other areas of your home.  

3. Save Money on Utilities

When the coils of your fridge are dirty, it is more difficult for the heat to evaporate. This makes the compressor and motor work harder, which means you use more power. And more power means higher utility bills.

“But surely, cleaning my fridge coils won’t save much?” you may be asking. A report by the US Environmental Protection Agency stated that a mere 0.042 inches of dirt and dust are enough to increase the fridge’s energy use by up to 35%. Meanwhile, another study suggested that the savings can be as much as 47%.

So, now you know the “why” of cleaning your coils, let’s take a look at the how.

How to Clean Your Refrigerator Coils

One of the best things about cleaning your refrigerator coils is that you get all of the benefits above, from an easy task.

1. Unplug Your Refrigerator

The cleaning process does not involve any direct work on the electrical elements of your appliance. However, it’s possible to accidentally touch an electrical component, so it is always important to unplug before you begin. In addition, if there’s a mechanical or electrical fault you are unaware of, unplugging your fridge will help prevent a potentially significant injury.

2. Pull Out Your Fridge

Next, pull your fridge away from the wall to completely expose the area where your fridge sits.

You need to do this, no matter what style of fridge you have.

3. Find Your Coils

Some older model fridges have coils at the back, with no covering. Meanwhile, more modern models usually have the coils underneath or on the back with a metal panel to cover them.

Most floor-level coil covers and grills are designed to clip into place. You may have to pull it quite firmly, but be careful not to snap off any fixings. It is worth taking a peek at the grill before you get down onto the floor. That way, if you do need a screwdriver, you can grab one before you get comfortable.

If your coils are on the back of your fridge behind a metal panel, you will need a screwdriver to remove the panel.

4. Vacuum

Once you have exposed your coils, you can begin by vacuuming them. This is especially important if there is a significant build-up of dust and dirt.

If you have a vacuum with removable tools, use the crevice tool to get deep between the coils.

Top Tip: Be careful when using the crevice tool. It is easy to push or twist the tool too vigorously between the coils that you can accidentally bend the metal fins on your fridge.

4. Dust or Brush

Once you have vacuumed out all the dust and debris, use a stiff-bristled brush to remove any caked-on or greasy dirt from the coils. You can find appliance brushes online and in local stores, but a bottle brush or similar works just as well.

Do not wash the coils with water or cleaning fluids.

5. Vacuum Again

After brushing the coils, vacuum again to ensure you’ve cleaned out everything you can.

6. Clean the Cover

If you have a rear metal panel coil cover, wipe the inside with a cloth, or vacuum with a brush attachment to ensure there’s no stray dust.

If you have floor-level coils, take the cover grill and wash it in warm, soapy water. Then thoroughly dry the grill before putting it back in place.

7. Clean the Floor

Before putting your fridge back into position, clean the floor where it sits and the wall behind it. Putting your refrigerator back into a clean spot will lengthen the time between cleanings.

How Often Should You Clean Fridge Coils?

For most people, you need to clean the coils once a year. So add this job to your spring cleaning routine, or mark it as a job for the bored teenagers in your home during spring break. 

If you live in an especially dusty, greasy, or otherwise dirty environment, consider doing this every nine months or so.

And Now You Have Clean Coils…

Cleaning the coils on your refrigerator can save you money and extend the life of your fridge. Also, it doesn’t have to be that often — most people only have to carry out this simple task once a year. 

For more simple yet effective home inspection and home maintenance tips and advice, visit our homeowner’s page and blog.