15 January 2010

Refrigerator seal and fridge maintenance

One of my great finds on Twitter last year is Julie Warner, who Tweets and blogs for Warners' Stellian Appliances in Minneapolis/ St. Paul. Julie's as engaging as she is informative, she really knows her stuff. Warners' Stellian Appliances has been a family owned and run business since the 1950s. In an era when independent retailers are disappearing, Warners' Stellian proves that through a  commitment to community and customer alike, it's still possible to thrive. Intelligence and hard work don't hurt either. Not in the Twin Cities? Have no fear, Warners' Stellian handles online sales through their website. Check them out.

Julie writes the Warners' Stellian blog and it's always full of terrific ideas and pointers. Such was the case earlier this week when she wrote the following about refrigerator maintenance. I asked her if I could reprint it and she agreed graciously.

image courtesy of Big Chill

Refrigerator seal & fridge maintenance
By Julie Warner

Some people spend as much money on a kitchen as they do a car, yet expect to do no maintenance.

Would you be surprised if your truck engine overheated if you never changed the oil or refilled the coolant? Most also expect to rotate and replace tires and wiper blades.

You might not have spent 13 grand-something on a fridge, but I’m sure you plunked down a good amount. Here are some maintenance tips to help get your return on that investment. See my previous post,  Ice maker troubleshooting.

Moisten your gasket

A small amount of condensation on the fridge or freezer is normal, especially during humid weather and summer vacation, if you have kids who don’t know how to keep the refrigerator doors shut.

If you see more condensation than normal, check the seal (or gasket as we appliance nerds call it) for any obstructions and clear them. If there aren’t any, try moistening the gasket with Vaseline. Seriously, it works. If you don’t have any petroleum jelly, I’ve used Neosporin in a pinch (What won’t that stuff do, honestly?).

After applying a thin layer of Vaseline, organize your fridge. It doesn’t have anything to do with the seal, per se, but it will help you find what you need faster, meaning the door won’t be open as long. If Warners’ Stellian installed your fridge, we leveled it to tilt slightly back to encourage the doors to swing shut.

If someone else installed your fridge, consider leveling it in a similar way.

Clean your coils

New refrigerators have self-cleaning condensers. But if you have an old fridge, you might still have coils that need to be cleaned once or twice a year. Some fancy vacuum cleaners have attachments to suit this purpose. But otherwise, you’ll have to get a coil brush from an appliance parts store.

(If you find yourself driving to an appliance parts store to buy a coil brush, make a detour and buy a new fridge instead because yours is pretty darn old. The energy grid will thank you.)

To clean the coils, remove the base grille and use the brush or vacuum attachment to clean it, the open areas behind the grille, and the front surface area of the condenser.

If you have pets or hairy, shedding family members, take care that the area around the refrigerator stays clear to ensure proper heat exhaust. Otherwise, that thing will be running all the time.

Change the water filter

If you have a water dispenser, you likely have a water filter. Replace it every six months or take direction from your indicator light, if you have one. Or, if odor and odd taste don’t cramp your style, stretch the life of it. But seriously, beyond water quality, an old water filter can cause sediment to build up and cause problems.

There are probably seven different types of water filters. Yours is either is the top back corner of the interior, down in the kick plate, or along the top interior of the fridge. ALWAYS bring your filter into the store when you’re replacing it because we don’t necessarily know the type a filter goes with a model number we looked up in your order from two years ago. We can guess, but it’s still a guess.

After replacing the filter, flush the air from the water system (see how to purge air from the water system animation – though 4 gallons seems like overkill) to prevent dripping from the dispenser.

Defrost your freezer?

Your freezer is probably “frost-free,” meaning it defrosts itself. You may have purchased an all-freezer unit that is manual defrost for storing foods long-term, but that’s another blog post (or e-mail me).

Just take care to clean your fridge and freezer every month.

Your turn: What did I miss?

Share your tips in the comments.


 You can find Julie on Twitter as @WarnersStellian, you can also find their fan page on Facebook. In addition to that, here's the link to their website and of course Julie's terrific blog.

Thanks Julie! So gang, chime in. Anybody have a refrigerator hint they're dying to pass along?


  1. Thanks for reminding me that my only job on the chore list with my name on it is "clean the fridge". :(

  2. I just attacked mine last weekend. I live alone and I'm forever stunned by the number of condiments and pickled vegetables I can accumulate in a short period of time.

  3. I have the same problem. And I buy a lot of things on a whim. "Oh, capers, I totally need those!" So I have some things that I'm not even sure what I'm going to do with them, taking up space!

  4. I eat capers like candy. Really. Though lately I've been buying the salt-packed capers from Italy. They are like salty, vinegar-y raisins. Oh man...

  5. Great tips on maintenance! Thank you Paul (and Julie.)

    May I add the following tip re Fridges? Prior to purchase, 'test drive it first'. Last year, my dearly beloved Fridge of fifteen years was replaced with a new model which I absolutely detest! Reason, when I go to retrieve something from it, it is not uncommon for me to bump my head. (I mean really bump my head as I have had the occasion to actually 'see stars'.) I am not what you consider 'a giant' but due to its design, it is literally a hazard to my health. BUYER BEWARE!

  6. Just how does one test drive a refrigerator prior to purchasing one? Short of spending a lot of quality time on an appliance showroom floor, I don't know how you could know that sort of thing prior to purchasing one. Good idea though.

  7. To answer your question Paul....reach well into the rear of it; something I neglected and never thought was necessary to do. If you can exit without sustaining a concussion, then buy it regardless of the Brand. (Oh God how I curse it.)
    SMILES -Brenda-

  8. Excellent! We're talking about the same thing more or less. I thought that maybe you had some kind of a deal with a manufacturer and they let you try out a model or two in your home before you committed. I was all ready to start screaming "No Fair!" Mercifully I kept my mouth shut. Hah!


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