How to Clean Refrigerator Coils (in 5 Steps)

Appliance Express
June 3, 2024
Refrigerator Repair

Everyone knows you need to regularly clean the interior of your refrigerator, but did you know the coils need cleaning too? This is a chore that is often neglected, but it can make a big difference to the lifespan and performance of your refrigerator. It can even help you save on your electric bill! If you feel like you don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place! Our step-by-step guide walks you through how to clean your coils thoroughly and effectively to ensure your fridge is running optimally. 

What Are Refrigerator Coils?

Refrigerator coils are essential parts of your refrigerator’s cooling process. They’re usually found at the bottom of the refrigerator, although older models sometimes have them located at the back. They’re responsible for transferring heat out of the refrigerator, allowing it to maintain its cool temperature. Keeping them clean ensures that your fridge can work efficiently. 

How Do Refrigerator Coils Work? 

The refrigerator coils work in tandem with the compressor and the refrigerant to keep your fridge cold. The coils are filled with refrigerant gas, and they absorb heat from the inside of your refrigerator. The refrigerant gas then releases the absorbed heat into the area around your refrigerator and turns back into a liquid. The cycle continuously repeats, ensuring your fridge stays cool and your food stays fresh. 

How Do Refrigerator Coils Affect Refrigerator Performance?

The coils are an essential part of the cooling process—without them, your fridge will not be able to maintain its temperature. If the coils are dirty, your fridge finds it harder to release the heat, reducing cooling efficiency. This means the compressor has to work harder, which can increase energy consumption and reduce the lifespan of your fridge. Clean coils are able to release heat more easily, ensuring your fridge can maintain the correct temperature. 

Why Do Coils Get So Dirty?

Due to the repeated heating and cooling cycle, there is often a slight, imperceptible air flow around your refrigerator coils. This can carry dust, debris, and pet hair, which can settle on the coils. Cooking oil and grease from your kitchen can also get stuck to the coils, which helps dust and debris stick. Because the coils are at the bottom of the fridge, the area is not cleaned frequently—particularly because refrigerators are heavy and hard to move! 

How to Clean Your Coils:

Step 1: Unplug the Refrigerator

Before you start, unplug your refrigerator from the power source. This is essential when doing any kind of appliance maintenance, as it removes the risk of electric shock. You may need to move your refrigerator away from the wall in order to access the plug. 

Step 2: Locate the Coils

Next, you need to gain access to the refrigerator coils. On almost all modern refrigerators, they are located at the bottom of the unit, usually behind a kickplate or grille. If you have an older model (more than 15 years old) they may be located at the back. If you’re not sure, have a look at your refrigerator manual to help you find the location.  

If your refrigerator has a coil or a kickplate, this will need to be removed before you begin the cleaning process. You might need to use a screwdriver to detach the grille, or it might snap into place—it can vary based on the make and model. 

Step 3: Remove Dust and Debris

Once you’ve accessed the coils, it’s time to clean them! We recommend the following process:

  • Take a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment and thoroughly vacuum the coils, removing as much dust as you can. Move the vacuum brush around to loosen any built-up debris, but be careful not to be too rough. 
  • Use a coil cleaning brush to get between the coils to dislodge any hard-to-reach dirt, then repeat the vacuum process. 
  • If the coils are greasy, the dirt may be difficult to remove with just a vacuum and a brush. Use a damp cloth to wipe away any stubborn grease spots—just make sure the coils are totally dry before you plug it back in!
  • If there are any areas that are too difficult to reach even with a coil brush, try purchasing a can of compressed air from your local hardware store. This is great for clearing out stubborn dust from hard-to-reach areas. 

Step 4: Clean Around the Coils

Once the coils are clean, make sure you clean the surrounding area before plugging your fridge back in—otherwise, the coils will just get dirty again! Move your fridge and thoroughly vacuum underneath it, ensuring that there is no dust left on the floor. If the fridge is located next to another appliance like an oven or dishwasher, this is a good opportunity to clean underneath those as well. Keeping the area clean helps prevent future dust buildup on the coils and means your coils stay cleaner for longer. 

Step 5: Plug Back in and Monitor

Once the coils and the surrounding areas are clean, put the kickplate or grille back in place and return your fridge to its original position. Plug it back in and monitor it to make sure it is cooling effectively. 

Maintaining Your Coils for Optimal Efficiency

  • Set a reminder to clean the coils every six months. This ensures the dirt and dust buildup never gets too much and makes cleaning easier. 
  • Regularly clean the surrounding area, including moving the fridge and vacuuming underneath. This significantly reduces dust buildup.
  • Make sure any spills around your fridge are immediately and thoroughly cleaned up. Spilled liquids can help dust adhere to the coils, making cleaning far more difficult.

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