Kitchen Maintenance 101: Cleaning Your Refrigerator Coils

It’s been awhile since I’ve humiliated myself in the name of household science….so here I go again. Just keep in mind…I would only do this for YOU!   I share (my dirt), because I care. :-)

So the last several weeks our refrigerator has been making some odd noises and we keep turning the temperature down (ie. turning the dial “UP” to “Coldest”) to keep the stuff inside cold enough.

refrigerator temperature control dialI actually didn’t give it much thought beyond, “Well, that is odd.”  That is until I happened to see a picture on Pinterest of someone doing something to their refrigerator I had never seen before. They were VACUUMING it! Which got me thinking about whether MY refrigerator might benefit from something similar.

Well, curiosity got the best of me and pretty soon I was down on my hands and knees, and then laying on the floor, inspecting the mysterious grill at the bottom of the fridge that I’ve never given two seconds notice before. Yep, sure enough….I had one. And by upon initial inspection…it looked like it could definitely use a little cleaning. HA! Did I say a LITTLE cleaning?

cleaning refrigerator coilsI popped the grill off, (which was surprisingly easy to do!) to take a closer look.


cleaning refrigerator coils

Dust bunnies doesn’t even come CLOSE to describing the horror that faced me! Dust MONSTERS is more like it! Trust me on this one…make sure your little ones aren’t around when you do this…they’ll have nightmares for WEEKS!

cleaning refrigerator coils

I made a beeline for my new (to me) Dyson vacuum cleaner (thank you!) to take care of the situation. Well, of course it couldn’t be THAT simple! Oh no. Somehow the crevice cleaning accessory that came with my refurbished vacuum had mysteriously disappeared. This job REALLY required a crevice tool!

It’s a good thing the hubster was taking a pre-Father’s Day nap at the time because what I did next would have horrified him. lol. Sometimes it’s best he just doesn’t know the stuff I do until he reads about it on my blog. ;-) (Hi hon!)

cleaning refrigerator coils

I couldn’t find the accessory for my NEW vacuum…but I did manage to find the crevice tool for my OLD one.  And it was almost a perfect fit! Almost. I figured some packing tape would fix that right up…and I’m pleased as punch to report (unlike most of my “hair-brained” ideas) it worked swimmingly! 

I quickly removed the tape with no ill effects to the vacuum at all, and the hubster was none the wiser! (Until now.)  ;-)

To give you and idea of how much dust was actually lurking underneath my fridge….I decided to completely empty and clean the canister of the vacuum before I started attacking it. (I will horrify you with that picture in a bit.)

Before I started vacuuming I thought it was odd that MY refrigerator didn’t have any coils like the one I’d seen in the picture on Pinterest. I figured mine must be in the back or something. lol. I am so blonde sometimes. After a couple of minutes of sucking up gunk…these shiny black rounded things began to appear.  Ahhh….there they were. :-)  They were just hiding under so much dust they were literally not visible. At all.

Thankfully the Dyson made quick work of all of the dust MONSTERS and here is proof positive. That was ALL clinging to the coils underneath my fridge!  I know….disgusting.

cleaning refrigerator coils

But thankfully my vacuum made quick work of all of it….and now all is once again right with the world underneath my fridge.

I solemnly swear….I will never allow it to get to that state again. (Yes, I was watching Harry Potter 3 when I wrote that.)

cleaning refrigerator coils

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  1. says

    What a very visual reminder that I should clean my fridge underneath and behind pretty soon too (maybe I should let the hubster do the job to avoid the nightmares?)! Mine makes noises that sound like a chicken lives in the freezer part, haven’t gotten to the bottom of that one yet. Thanks for sharing !

  2. Susie says

    I remember when I first realized that this job needed to be done….. My dad came over to look at my fridge because like yours it wasn’t staying cold enough. By the way I had 3 cats and a dog at the time, just imagine the fur and hair flying around. Anyways, he promptly showed me how to clean the back and underside of the fridge and now asks me on a regular basis if I am keeping it clean. Haha, gotta love parents =o)

  3. Christy says

    But what I am still curious about Jillee…is it staying colder in the fridge now? Does the dust and gunk keep the coils from running efficiently? Have you noticed a difference yet? And did the noise go away?

  4. Barb says

    I bought my coil brush at a store that sells appliances. Back then, it was $7. It really does get a lot more dust after vacuuming. While using the brush, I have the vacuum hose up close so it picks up the dust as it flies off.
    It does make your refrigerator more efficient.

  5. Ayshela says

    fyi, when your crevice tool disappears would be a good time for one of those paper towel tubes you don’t have any more. ;) a bit of cling wrap usually holds it against leaks and it flattens down to the shape you need toward the end so you can get into heat vents, dryer vents, under the fridge, etc.

    Also, if you drop something small on carpeting, put a nylon knee high over your vacuum tube and run it over the floor where the item fell. It’ll suck up against the stocking so you can find/retrieve it easily.

  6. nicole says

    my dryer is a year old and i bough a lint lizard thinking, there shouldn’t be much in there in a year right, it sounded like i was sucking up horses or something, i bet my lint lizard would work under my frig too, i probably should go try

  7. Chris says

    Oh my goodness, this looks like a good thing to get my grand daughter to do. She loves to help me as she is only 7 and has not gotten to that age where you can’t find them when you need them. I’ve only had my fridge for a little over a year so maybe it won’t be to bad, but with two dogs I’m sure there will be dog fur all in there.

    • says

      After much tugging, pulling and yanking I finally got that grill to pop off.
      I have no coils there! So I didn’t have nine years of pet hair stuck to them. There was still a bit of dust under there, so that is clean now.
      Who knew?!?

  8. Elizabeth says

    I try to remember to do this twice a year (IF I remember) it helps with the efficiency of the fridge. After reading the comments I now realize there is a brush for between the coils and for dryers, I need to go in search of one of those. Thanks for sharing :-)

  9. Ruthie says

    Okay, I had to try it. I couldn’t get my vent cover to pop off (no idea how old this refrig is, but it came with the house 15 years ago…), but the crevice tool of my vacuum cleaner fit inside the larger vent openings, so I got it in there as much as I could. I think I sucked out enough to knit a lint sweater.

    So then I decided to see what I could do in the back. Got a ton there as well. So, being me, I decided what the heck, I’ll pull the refrigerator out from the wall as far as I can and see how much more I can get from underneath.


  10. Ruthie says

    (whoops, didn’t mean to hit submit yet!)

    DO NOT DO THIS because as I pulled, the copper tubing that was bringing water into the ice maker, that already had a crimp in it, decided it didn’t like being moved. Oh, yes, it cracked right on the crimp and water began spraying EVERYWHERE. My poor husband was rudely awakened from his Sunday afternoon nap by his wife screaming hysterically from the kitchen…, oops, my mistake.

    I’m still happy I got rid of all that junk that was piled up under there, though, so thank you, Jillee. :O)

  11. Sher says

    omg…wow…I have been in this house nearly 5 years and never popped that off to clean under there
    my dust monster pile looks just like yours!
    I took before pics because my hubby won’t believe me otherwise…he is napping.
    what is it with hubby’s and sunday afternoon naps? :)

  12. Amy K says

    My dad worked as a trainer who trained appliance repair folks, so this little tidbit is well known around here. It’s not about being a neat freak, it’s about keeping you appliances running as efficiently as possible and avoiding more costly repairs, accidents, etc in the future.

    Just like you do maintenance to your car, you’ve got to do the same with your household ‘machinery’.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  13. Colleen says

    Jill, your post was so timely! I have been having the *exact* same experience with our 10 yr old fridge and just chalked it up to “they don’t make ‘em like they used to!” Duh. Girlfriend, I am right there with you in your “humiliation” ;-) Was getting ready to shop a new fridge (and secretly thanking the old one for doing the death throes impression, but oh well). Instead, I got right to work yesterday, cleaning that nasty gunk out of there and am already noticing an improvement. You’re awesome!

  14. Susan says

    I do this task about once a month. Very impoirtant especially if you have pets, as their fur gets in there as well. Be sure to unplug the fridge! I also pull mine away from the wall, remove the cardboard piece on back, and vacuum everything in there. The fan also accumulates a lot of dust. Great post!

  15. Hillary Smith says

    My fridge was making a weird noise too, and now that you mention it, I haven’t heard the noise since I vacuumed my coils! Our appliance guy said to vacuum the coils every 3 months.

    I LOVE your blog/s I pin almost every “One good thing” you do, and use them. I have also bought many of your “Sweet Deals”, not that my hubby needs to know that :) I use most of your homemade cleaning things, my favorite are the Clorox wipes and the no grate laundry detergent. They’ve both changed my life :) You’re super darling please, keep doing what you’re doing.

  16. Anonymous says

    Linked here from American Digest. If that isn’t a genuine public service message then I don’t know what a public service message is. Good on you. Handshake. Speaking as a husband, I’m sure your husband rewarded you with more than a handshake.

  17. Brandy says

    Oh my! Got on here to look for a good DIY solution for cleaning the INSIDE of the fridge and saw this instead. Immediately went to look at the under my fridge because, well truth be told, I can’t recall ever cleaning it out like this. Let me tell ya- my before looked just like yours! Thank you for the kick I needed to get under there and vacuum that area out. My loudly humming refrigerator is now quiet as a mouse! :D

  18. Judy OBrien says

    So, did you find any money?
    I have a handy cleaning idea for you while you’re cleaning the kitchen.
    Under the stove hood/ fan is usually a gnarly looking filter. Pop it off, stick it in the dishwasher and ta da….it’s clean as a whistle! This is also a great way to clean light fixtures, from hallway lights and ceiling fans, etc. happy cleaning…..if there is such a thing!

  19. Mary says

    Ok, I got a good look under my fridge and its not too bad (I clean under it atleast a couple times a year) but way in the middle is almost impossible to get completely cleaned off. I used several brushes, but not even a toothbrush will fit through mine. (I put your toothbrush back in the holder honey). So I thought, what would my hubby do? He’d get his air compressor out! So I’m blowing it all out, its messy, even using the vacuum to clean up whats blowing around. Atleast its looking great now!

  20. Kimmer says

    I’ve vacuumed the grill in front, but never knew I could take it off and get to the coils (my old fridge had coils on the back). I know it will be an all out nightmare of cat fur and tinfoil ball cat toys and pencils. Thanks for showing me how its done.

  21. Sarah says

    Thanks so much for this. I always am cleaning the grill but never realized I should pop off the grill and clean behind it! Eight years of dust bunnies….yuck! Of course I couldn’t stop my cleaning there, so this led to the pulling out of everything inside and cleaning in there and pulling the fridge out and cleaning behind and under it. My husband thanks you!

    • Sarah says

      Oh, I do have a question if anyone can answer it. The hard water buildup on my water dispenser tray has been driving me crazy. The black tray has this whitish crud that won’t scrub off! I tried soaking it in a vinegar/water solution today and got better results than any other attempt in the past, but it did not go away completely and I could not soak the button you depress for the water so that still looks terrible. Anyone have advice?

      • Lauren says

        Plastic baggie with half vinegar half water, tie it around the presser thing. If it’s not a free-hanging thing, you could take a rag or paper towel soaked in straight vinegar and wedge it in there so it covers it for a few hours, making sure it doesn’t dry out.

        • Sarah says

          Thank you for the advice. It totally worked. I think I will soak the tray to get the last bit off. I was afraid the solution may ruin the plastic so i didn’t let it soak too long, but it seems that it didnt affect it all at so I will go for it longer this time.

  22. kat davis says

    I have used a paper towel roll… attached to the vacuum… and somewhat smashed to get the vacuum hose into the “tight spaces” after I watched a repair guy do it… you can get to the back of the coils this way, without driving the dirt into the coils.

  23. CTY says

    As a defense for all of us– the coil also has a fan close by; which means the refrigerator actually draws stuff in. So think of it as gathering those bunnies into one location for you. Such a considerate appliance.

  24. says

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  25. Jane Doe says

    Luv the many comments & helpful tips BUT please remember that it’s “fridge,” not “frig”—I wouldn’t care, ordinarily, except that frig means something very dirty in British slang.

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