The average refrigerator weighs between 150 and 350 pounds. It goes without saying that moving and storing one isn’t exactly the most fun thing you’ll do in your life. Besides being heavy, refrigerators are cumbersome and easier to break than you’d think. They also have the potential to cause water damage in storage if not defrosted properly.
We’re not going to sugarcoat this: storing an unused refrigerator can be challenging, but that’s exactly why we created this guide to walk you through the process step-by-step. After all, your refrigerator is the thing that keeps beer cold, ice cream frozen and saves leftover pizza from going bad. You owe it to your refrigerator to store it the right way. Here are 7 easy steps to store your refrigerator when not in use:
Step One: Remove Food
Let’s start with the easiest—and most delicious—step. Remove all of the food from your refrigerator. Hopefully your refrigerator isn’t completely full from a recent grocery run, but if that’s the case, store perishable items in a friends’ fridge (ask first, obviously) or store what you can in a cooler temporarily and commit to replacing the ice on a regular basis. You can also get rid of the food by eating it—though you certainly shouldn’t force yourself to chug that entire gallon of milk.
Step Two: Clean It
Once your refrigerator is totally empty, do an initial wipe-down. You’ll be cleaning the inside of your refrigerator twice before putting it into storage, so don’t worry about being too thorough on this first pass. You’re going to do a more aggressive cleaning after you defrost your refrigerator. For now, wipe down everything inside and out with a towel dipped in warm water and a small amount of mild dish soap.
Step Three: Defrost
This is the most important step of storing your refrigerator, and it’s easily accomplished with the right tools and the right amount of patience. And we’re not kidding about patience—this part takes about seven days.
First, unplug the refrigerator. Open the doors and surround the refrigerator with towels. Over the course of the next week, the refrigerator will defrost. You’ll need to check and change the towels regularly (approximately every few hours), so that there are constantly dry towels absorbing the melting moisture.
Step Four: Clean It Again
Now that you’ve defrosted your refrigerator (hooray!), it’s time to clean it more thoroughly. Remove shelves and drawers and clean them with a mixture of warm—but not hot—water and baking soda. Rinse thoroughly. Use this same mixture to wipe down the inside of the refrigerator, as well as the outside. Make sure that everything is 100% dry by wiping drawers, shelves, the interior and exterior with a towel and then allowing a day to air dry. You can also remove dust from coils with a dry cloth at this time.
Step Five: Transport It to Storage
If you’ve never moved your refrigerator before and are nervous about doing it yourself, there’s no shame in hiring movers. At the very least, you will most likely need to plan on renting a moving truck. Trust us, strapping a 200 pound metal box to your Honda Civic and driving on the highway is definitely not a good idea.
Whether you’re moving it yourself with the help of friends or using a moving service, keep in mind that the refrigerator must be transported and stored upright. It should be moved from your home to the moving truck and from the moving truck to the storage unit with hand truck. Make sure that it is secured inside the moving truck during transport so that it doesn’t tip and damage the compressor.
Step Six: Put It in Your Storage Unit
Drive up to your storage unit and transport the refrigerator with a hand truck, keeping it upright. Once inside the storage unit, prop the refrigerator doors open to prevent moisture from building up inside and causing mold growth.
Step Seven: Reward Yourself
You did it! You successfully cleaned, defrosted, moved and stored one of the most notoriously difficult appliances. Give yourself a pat on the back and reward yourself—preferably with something that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.