What To Do When Frost Or Ice Builds Up Inside The Refrigerator Compartment

Posted on: 26 February 2016

It's not entirely unusual for ice to form in the freezer during a humid summer, but it's a more troubling problem when it frosts over the ceiling and back wall of the refrigerator compartment. This ice can drip on your food as it melts or block crucial vents that circulate air. Take immediate steps to defrost the compartment, and then follow this troubleshooting guide to decide if you need professional refrigerator repair or not.

Melting the Ice

If there's a serious build up of ice rather than just a light coating of frost, you should empty the food in the fridge and freezer into a cooler and pack it with some ice. Once the unit is empty, unplug it and leave the doors open to encourage the ice to melt. Check the bottom floor of the refrigerator compartment for a small drain, usually hidden under the crisper drawers that slide out. If there's a lot of ice around the drain, use a hairdryer to warm it up until you hear the water trickle down into the drain at the bottom of the refrigerator.

Check the drain for obstructions like food particles or mold, which are two common problems that lead to interior frost. Use a length of wire to clean out any blockages, then test the drain by running the refrigerator for a few hours.

Checking the Seal

Move on to the next most likely cause of ice accumulation by checking the refrigerator door for seal issues. When the magnetic door seal is blocked with food residue or loses flexibility, it creates gaps that let in moist and warm air. When this fresh air hits the cold atmosphere inside the compartment, moisture quickly accumulates and freezes. Check the door seal by:

  • Closing a dollar bill or piece of thick paper in the seal and seeing how much tension is applied as you pull it free
  • Setting up a flashlight or lantern inside the refrigerator and closing the door, checking with the room dark to see if any light is shining through around the seal
  • Feeling for cold spots around the edges of the door, indicating air leaks
  • Inspecting and stretching the flexible seal to find cracked or hardened spots.

It's relatively easy to replace a magnetic refrigerator door seal, but be sure to order a replacement from the manufacturer instead of using generic replacement strips that can lose their effectiveness after a few months. If you can't find a matching model for your refrigerator, a repair technician can supply you with a high quality material that fits properly after they measure the door gap and width.

Cleaning the Condenser

Once you've confirmed that the door is sealing properly, examine the condenser at the bottom of the fridge next. This is another likely culprit because when these coils go without cleaning for longer than a few months the accumulated dust blocks air flow. The reduction in cooling causes frost issues in the refrigerator compartment.

You'll find the condenser hiding behind the grill or removable plate at the very bottom front of the refrigerator. You can remove that cover and clean the condenser coils gently with a specialty brush or a vacuum attachment if there's a lot of hair and dust. Give both of these tests a try and let the refrigerator run for a few hours to see whether the frost returns.

Calling for Help

When you find that the ice is coming back despite your attempts to clean out the drain, check the door seal, and clean the condenser, call a professional, such as those at Anderson's Appliance Repair Service, for a diagnosis instead of attempting more DIY repairs. Recurring frost issues inside the fridge indicate temperature control and air flow problems that are best handled by an experienced technician, especially if there's a refrigerant leak or it needs refilling.