How To Clean Refrigerator Coils In 5 Easy Steps & Why To Do It

A refrigerator is one of the most used and expensive appliances in any kitchen. Keeping your refrigerator in the best possible shape is important, especially on those days when all you could want is a frosty cold beverage straight out of the appliance. For many people, refrigerator maintenance comes down to tossing out old food and wiping down the exterior and interior on an occasional basis. However, cleaning the coils on a refrigerator is another task that everyone should be doing regularly. If the coils start to get dirty, it can cause the refrigerator to cool inefficiently. Even if the refrigerator is turned way down in temperature, dust on the coils will interfere with the heat exchanges and cut down on the efficiency of the compressor. This can lead to other issues so it’s easier to take care of maintenance tasks regularly instead.

Cleaning the refrigerator coils takes very little time and is simple to get through. It should be done frequently, rather than forgetting about it for years at a time as many consumers do. When the condense coils are dirty for an extended amount of time, it can increase your energy bills. Instead, grab a vacuum cleaner and get started cleaning. Use this easy to follow guide to learn how to clean your refrigerator coils and keep your refrigerator in great shape.

What Happens If Your Refrigerator Coils Are Dirty?

Knowing how a refrigerator works can give you better insight into why you should be cleaning the coils on the appliance regularly. It all comes down to the second law of thermodynamics. Essentially, if two things of different temperatures are placed next to each other, the hotter item is going to become cooler while the cooler item will get hotter. This is the same idea when it comes to refrigeration. A pump and a motor are used to push some kind of refrigerant through a set of coils. Once it reaches that area, the refrigerant will get cooler and turn into a liquid. This allows it to take the heat from the appliance and use it to cool the items inside the refrigerator.

If the coils are dirty, the refrigerator has to do more work to keep your foods and beverages nice and cold. When the coils are left to get even dirtier and more coated in dust and debris, it can cause food to spoil. So not only are you paying more for energy costs, but your food may go bad more quickly so you spend more on groceries. With higher energy bills and food spoilage, the cost of running the appliance can go up 35%. In the worst case, it can even cause the refrigerator to break down early so you need to buy a new one. Most people aren’t looking to buy a new refrigerator early, which is why cleaning the coils is so important. It can cut down on costs in multiple ways.

Steps to Clean Refrigerator Coils

Most experts agree that the coils in a refrigerator should be cleaned every six months to a year. However, those who have pets should schedule this task more frequently since pet hair has a habit of getting everywhere. These coils, found on the base of the refrigerator or behind it, are exposed to the environment so dust can get on them easily. Make sure to add cleaning the coils to your spring cleaning routine. If you have pets, do it in the autumn as well.

When it comes to cleaning the coils on a refrigerator, there are a few tools you will need. First, a dust mask will come in handy while you go through the cleaning process. A flashlight can also be helpful, especially if the coils are located on the back of the refrigerator. You’ll also want to have a vacuum and a coil condenser brush, which is specifically designed to help with the cleaning task.

  1. Get Everything Ready

    The first step, for this and any other maintenance or appliance repair job, is to unplug the refrigerator from the wall or turn off the power to the area. If the power outlet is behind the appliance, make sure to pull the appliance from the wall to get access to the power. The good news for coil cleaning is that there’s no need to worry about foods spoiling or getting too warm during the process. The actual cleaning only takes a few minutes so it won’t cause any issues with the refrigerator’s contents. At this point, you can put on your gloves and mask so you’ll be protected throughout the cleaning process. Make sure you have all your tools ready so you can get through the process without any running back and forth for items you forgot.

  2. Access the Condenser Coils

    Find the condenser coils on your refrigerator. If they are in the front, they will typically be found behind a snap-off toe grill. If there is no toe grill on your appliance, the condenser coils might instead be on the back of the refrigerator. What you are going to be looking for are tubes made of metal in a U-shaped grid pattern. Assuming the dirty coils are all the way on the back of the refrigerator, the refrigerator needs to be pulled away from the wall before you can start cleaning them. For coils in the front, pull off the toe grill so you have better access to them.

  3. Do the Initial Vacuuming

    While you vacuum, keep your dust mask on. Most of the dirt, dust, pet hair and other material will end up on the floor and in the vacuum but some of it can get into the air and you do not want to breathe it in. If the coils are hidden beneath the refrigerator, the flashlight you brought with you will help you better see them so you can do a good cleaning job. Use your vacuum to get rid of the loose debris and dust on the backside of the appliance or inside the toe grill. Vacuum it up before you get ready for the next step in the process.

  4. Use the Coil Condenser Brush

    Once you’re done with the vacuum, take the coil condenser brush and brush away all of the dirt and dust that you can get off. This is a tool that you can get for just a few dollars from any hardware or DIY store. The brush is around two feet long and has a series of short bristles on the top third of its body. It’s built with a cylindrical design that allows it to reach tight spaces in between the coils.Use the brush in a back and forth manner to remove all the dust. Getting all the dust out can take some work so make sure to twist it into tight spaces and corners. You can keep the vacuum running to pick up all the dust as it comes out of the refrigerator. When you clean the coils on the back of the refrigerator, hold the brush with one hand and the narrow end of the nozzle with the other. If the coils are on the front, it’s simpler to alternate between vacuuming up dust and brushing the coils.

  5. Final Steps

    At this point, you can use the vacuum to take up any extra dust or debris that might be on the floor. If the toe grill was taken off, it can be reattached. Those with coils on the back of the refrigerator can push the appliance back into its original space. Make sure to plug the power cord back in and you can use the refrigerator just the same way as you normally do. You’ll be good to go for six months to a year, depending on what kind of cleaning schedule you’ve decided to keep.

Ongoing Refrigerator Coil Maintenance

As we’ve mentioned, the coils should be cleaned at least once a year. Doing it every three to six months is even better if you have the time. However, there are other maintenance tasks that you can do while you’re already working with the appliance. One of the other things you can do is cleaning the fan blades located on the condenser motor. These can’t be reached as easily with a vacuum, so a coil cleaning brush will come in handy for this.

While you’re doing your refrigerator maintenance, this is also a good time to change out the water filter if the refrigerator has an ice maker or a water dispenser. This is something that needs to be done about once every six months, but more often if the ice or water is used regularly. You can also open up the refrigerator and clean out the air duct vents using a half water and half vinegar solution. Once every six months, you should also clean the door gaskets with water and vinegar to prevent the growth of mold. Add all of these tasks to your cleaning to-do list and you’ll have less to worry about when it comes to your refrigerator. We hope we were able to answer all of  your refrigerator coil cleaning questions, if you have any additional questions please reach out to us at, we are always happy to help!