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How to Clean Refrigerator Coils

These illustrated step-by-step techniques show you how to keep your refrigerator running efficiently by easily cleaning its condenser coils.

vacuuming refrigerator coils©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Use a vacuum to clean dust from refrigerator coils.

During a refrigerator’s cooling process, room air travels across refrigerant-filled tubing called the “coils” or “condenser coil” where heat is given off. Over time, dust from this flow of the room air collects on the coils. As the dust builds up, the coils become less effective at doing their job. It’s important to clean the coils a couple of times each year to keep your refrigerator running efficiently and dependably. This is a relatively easy job, as explained below.

These instructions are for typical coils located behind a panel at the top or the base of the refrigerator. If you have a refrigerator with black coils mounted on the back, be advised that these coils do not require semi-annual cleaning.

Cleaning Refrigerator Coils, Step by Step

1Unplug your refrigerator or turn it off at the circuit breaker that delivers electrical power to it.


2Remove the cover panel to reveal the coils and cooling fins. On most models, the kick plate or top trim plate simply lifts off.


removing cover panel©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Remove the panel that covers the coils by lifting and pulling outward.

3With a long, narrow nozzle on your vacuum and the help of a refrigerator coil brush—a special long-handled brush that looks somewhat like a bottle brush—clean out all the dust and debris. Be careful not to bend or dent the cooling fins. You can buy a coil brush at a hardware store for about $10.


vacuuming refrigerator coils©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Use a long, flat crevice tool on your vacuum to clean the coils and interior surfaces.

4Holding the crevice tool flat, slide it between the coils, cleaning as thoroughly as possible. Wipe dust from surfaces with a rag.


vacuuming coils©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Use a long, flat crevice tool on your vacuum to clean the coils and interior surfaces.

cleaning refrigerator coils©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Slide the crevice tool between the coils to clean thoroughly.

5Replace the cover, and then plug the refrigerator’s electrical cord back in or turn the circuit back on.


replace refrigerator panel©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Replace the cover panel and restore power to the refrigerator.


This helpful video shows how to clean the coils of a refrigerator where the coils are located at the bottom:

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Join the Conversation

  • mrh1965

    I’m not sure a vacuum alone will really clean those coils. I moved into a house once with a 15+ year old refrigerator. It was running maybe 40 minutes out of every 60. The coils were at the bottom and were totally disgusting.. clearly had never been cleaned and the dust was more black than grey.. and copious. Anyway, I went the the 99 cent store and found an odd, rainbow-colored, dusting tool or brush. I worked it in and out of the coils and vacuumed up all the disgusting mess as I dislodged it / pulled it forward. Never would have been able to get the majority of it with just a vacuum alone. Wiped clean the coils as best I could when done. After that the fridge ran more like 20 minutes out of every 60. Lived there for several years and it was still running fine when I sold the house.

    Clean your coils, people. Save money and extend your appliance’s life.

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