When you notice water pooling on the floor in your kitchen, the natural assumption is that this water is coming from your sink, washing machine or dishwasher – but that’s not always the case. Faulty refrigerators can develop leaks – even if the appliance doesn’t have a built-in water dispenser or ice maker. The good news is that the leak will still be water, because the coolant that modern fridges use is a gas, not a liquid.
If you see a puddle of water building up in the fridge, or under it, then this means that the appliance has developed a problem, and you should investigate immediately.
What Causes Fridges to Leak?
There are many reasons your fridge could be leaking. A few of the most common are:
- The Defrost Drain is Blocked: The most common reason for a fridge to start leaking water is that the defrost drain is blocked. The defrost drain is a small hole that allows water which accumulates during the defrost process to drain into a pan for easy disposal. If this hole is clogged, water will accumulate inside the fridge itself. The good news is that it’s easy to clear any blockages by cleaning the hole with a piece of stiff wire, and then flushing the hole with hot water.
- Cracked Drain Pan: It’s perfectly normal for a small amount of water to build up in the drain pan. That water should evaporate quite quickly, if the fridge is working properly, because the condenser fan in the fridge will be blowing warm air across the pan. If the drain pan is cracked or damaged, then it could start leaking. If you can see signs of damage, replace the pan immediately.
- Damaged Ice Maker: If your fridge has an ice maker that connects to the water-supply, then this could well be the cause of the leak. Inspect the ice maker, and check the hoses and pipes attached to it. If there are kinks in the pipes this could cause excess pressure, leading to leaks where the pipes connect to the device. Older plastic hoses may develop cracks or tears, too. Tighten any connections, inspect the hoses, and make sure that all the connectors are sound.
- Damaged Water Filters: If there is a poor connection between the water filter and the water supply line, then this could cause a leak. This can happen for many reasons. It could be that when the filter was last replaced, it was not installed properly. Alternatively, the filter could be the wrong type or size for your fridge, or the housing or seal that it screws into may be cracked. If the issue is with the water filter, then you will probably see water running down the outside of the filter itself, and dripping into the interior of the fridge. If you need to replace your water filter, be sure to buy the exact part that is specified in the manual, for a perfect fit.
How to Stop Your Fridge From Leaking
As you can see – all of the issues above are minor and generally easy to fix. It is actually quite easy to keep a fridge in good condition, and with some basic day to day maintenance you can prevent most of the common causes of leaks.
Level the Fridge
One of the most frequent mistakes that people make is to install their fridge on a surface that is not completely level. This means that when condensation from food pools in the refrigerator, instead of running down the drain hole and into the drip pan the way it should, the water will pool elsewhere in the fridge. All it takes for this to happen is for the refrigerator to be slanted very slightly forward. The correct way to install a fridge is to have it tipping backwards just a little bit. Not only will this ensure that condensation drains away properly, it will also ensure that the door swings shut when you release it.
Your fridge has some ‘legs’ on the bottom, and all you need to do to get the fridge at the right angle is have someone lift the front of the fridge slightly so that you can access those legs. Unscrew the front legs slightly (one or two turns should be enough), and then lower the fridge again. Use a spirit level to make sure that both legs are even. Open the fridge door and let go of it. If the door swings shut itself, then the fridge is at the right angle.
Note that fridges are designed to be just slightly off-level. Do not tip the appliance too far backwards, because this could cause other problems, and pose a potential safety hazard too.
If your fridge doesn’t have adjustable legs, then you can use a small piece of rubber or wood as a shim.
Keep Your Fridge Clean
Be sure to clean the fridge regularly. Get into the habit of wiping the inside down and pay attention to the area around the drain hole. If you see debris or mold building up, remove it immediately. When you go to defrost the fridge, take some time to flush the drain system with a mild solution of soapy water with a little ammonia to kill off any bacteria. Don’t put hot food in the fridge, because this can cause condensation problems (and it could increase your risk of food poisoning, too).
Keep Your Fridge in a Warm (not Hot or Cold) Place
What a lot of people don’t realise is that if you keep the fridge in a place where the temperature is extremely hot or cold it can cause problems. Cold places, in particular, are problematic because as the heat from the motor flows over the exterior of the fridge, it can cause condensation to build up on the exterior of the fridge and drip onto the floor. You can test whether the temperature of the room is a problem by using a space heater near the fridge for a few days. If the condensation goes away when you do this, consider moving the fridge to a warmer room.