Years before Richard Stackpole became an appliance expert and repairman, he was forced to learn how to store a refrigerator after he damaged his. He went to a local appliance shop for replacement parts and after befriending the owner, ended up running the shop five years later.
“I had a fridge that I had laid down for 10 minutes when we moved from Lakewood and Bellflower (in Southern California),” he said. “Even though I stored it standing up in the garage and moved it standing up, it never got cold again.”
It was the first lesson he learned about refrigerator storage: Never lay or store a refrigerator on its side or face down because it can displace the oils and gases that make the machine run. He now helps other appliance owners learn how to care and store an assortment of appliances on his YouTube channel.
If you’re looking to store your refrigerator during a move or between uses, keep reading for more of Stackpole’s tips as well as some advice from an appliance store owner who has stored thousands of refrigerators over his 33 year career! And be sure to check out our how-to video that provides more tips on how to store a refrigerator.
Clean a Fridge Thoroughly Before Storage to Prevent Infestation
After you’ve thrown away last week’s Chinese takeout and the collection of condiments from your refrigerator, make sure to clean it thoroughly to prevent hungry insects from finding their way into your fridge.
“Bugs tend show up, even when there’s no food in it,” Stackpole said. “And their waste is very acidic, which can eat through plastic, so it’s important to clean it out right away to avoid attracting bugs.”
Don’t use bug spray or harmful chemicals inside your fridge to deter insects. Keep in mind that it will eventually store food again sometime in the future. Consider a mild, non-toxic soap or just hot water to clean out any food remnants, he added.
Prop the Refrigerator Doors Open Before Storage
Avoid mildew by propping an unplugged refrigerator’s doors open with a ball of tape to give an inch or more of space. This space will allow moisture to escape.
“The No. 1 thing is to get the moisture out of it,” said Stackpole. “You can’t just wipe it out. You need to keep the doors open for a day or two, because there’s a lot of moisture behind the panel.”
“Don’t forget to add paper towels or newspapers to help soak up additional moisture,” he added.
If you plan to store the refrigerator for a longer period of time, a thick magnet may be a better option since tape can dry out, said Mike Gill, owner of Appliance Warehouse in Spokane, Wash.
“You can keep the drawers and shelves inside the refrigerator during storage,” Gill said.
Add Dryer Sheets or Coffee to a Stored Fridge to Trap Odors
Keep your refrigerator smelling fresh by adding dryer sheets in the produce drawers and on top of the shelves.
“The cheaper dryer sheets seem to have the strongest perfume, and that’s what you want,” said Stackpole.
If you’re looking for a more natural scent, Gill recommends using coffee.
“Take an open tin of coffee and keep it in the refrigerator and add another one in the freezer,” he said.
Store Refrigerators Indoors to Avoid Weathering
It’s best to keep fridges out of the sun. Heat can cause serious damage that could kill your appliance.
“The sun will damage the handles and seal,” said Stackpole. “Also, the foam insulation between the box and the outer skin will expand when it’s in the sun every day. This will mess up the way the doors close. The sun can also crack the plastic on the inside.”
Cold weather can also ruin refrigerators that are stored outside, because moisture from rain, snow and morning dew can cause parts of the fridge to rot, Gill said.
“The outside moisture will also ruin the interior fans,” he added.
Both experts recommended storing a refrigerator in a garage or other indoor area.
For more tips on how to store a refrigerator and how to move one, check out our how-to videos on YouTube!