Your refrigerator is one of your home's most important (and expensive) appliances.
Without regular cleaning and maintenance, dust and dirt build up in the fridge's condenser coils; door gaskets can loosen their grip and allow cool air to leak out; and the temperature inside can become unstable.
These fridge maintenance tips can help keep your refrigerator in peak operating condition - and perhaps help it to last longer.
Wash the interior of your refrigerator weekly with a sponge and warm, soapy water to remove crumbs and spills from shelves and walls.
This is also how to clean the fridge door and handles. Add a box of open baking soda to the back of a low shelf to help absorb food odors so your other edibles do not.
Don't forget to go through all your fridge's contents at least weekly, and toss items that are past their prime or that your family won't eat - no matter how hungry.
Monthly refrigerator maintenance should include checking the interior temperature to assure it is maintaining the temperature needed to operate at peak efficiency: between 37- to 40-degrees Fahrenheit. Catching temperature variations early can help prevent expensive refrigerator problems later.
Whenever possible, allow leftovers to cool to room temperature before placing them inside the fridge. This will cut down on the amount of warm air inside that can cause the interior temperature to rise and fluctuate, which can compromise the safety of the food in your fridge.
Regularly check that the refrigerator door seals (or gaskets) close tightly to prevent cold air from sneaking out. It's common for gaskets to weak, loosen, or tear within just a few years.
Worn or loose seals can cause your refrigerator to use 2.5 percent more energy for each 1 degree F. over ambient room temperature (about 70 degrees F), one of the reasons why regular refrigerator maintenance is essential.
That means your fridge could use up to 25 percent more energy when the temperature tops 80-degrees inside your home. (Read more tips for saving energy in the kitchen here.)
An easy way to check that the seals are working properly: Slide a piece of paper half in and half out of the fridge door. If you can easily pull it out, the door seals may need replacing. Wash every three months with soapy water to remove any spills and crumbs, and towel dry.
As part of your appliance maintenance, remove dust and dirt from the fridge coils behind or underneath the refrigerator every six months or so. Condenser coils are the large, radiator-like things located at the back of, or beneath, your refrigerator. They're essential for removing the heat from the appliance.
How do you clean refrigerator coils? Start pulling out the fridge (or snapping off the grille, if the coils are on the bottom front), and then clean using a vacuum or long-handled bristle brush to remove dust, dirt, and debris. Get more on How to and why you should clean your refrigerator coils.
If you lose power, open the door as little as possible and use food from the pantry as much as possible. If the door is rarely opened, food will be safe for four hours in the fridge and 48 hours in the freezer (if full) and 24 hours if half-full.
Finally, remember the old adage "Out with the old, in with the new"? If your fridge is more than 20 years old, it's time for a new one. Older models can use up to 3 times more electricity than the newer, more energy efficient refrigerators.