Can A Refrigerator Be Left Unplugged For A Long Time? Safety Guide

The refrigerator works continuously to keep everything inside cold, and the longer it runs, the less strain there is on the compressor. Plus, because refrigerators don’t consume too much energy, people usually don’t turn them off when they’re away for a few days. But what if you’re going on an extended vacation or moving? Can you leave your fridge unplugged for so long?

Refrigerators can be left unplugged without any problems. However, empty and clean the fridge beforehand. Turn off the water supply and drain all the compartments, including the ice maker and water dispenser. To avoid smells, leave the doors a bit open while you are away.

Refrigerators are expensive appliances and should be handled with care. The biggest issue with them, though, is they don’t like to be switched off and on frequently — and moving is even worse. So let’s look at some safety suggestions for unplugging your refrigerator and how to move it without any damage.

Is It Bad to Leave a Refrigerator Unplugged for a Long Time?

Smiling Woman Cleaning Refrigerator

Technically, no. It’s completely safe to leave a refrigerator unplugged for a long time as long as you take some precautions.

That said, there are a few reasons why you might not want to do this. First, it’s more practical to keep a refrigerator on if you’ll be gone for only a few days; you won’t have to go through the hassle of preparing and cleaning the fridge. And secondly, you won’t have to trash all the extra food you have.

However, if your trip is longer than three weeks, it’s a good idea to turn it off to save on electricity bills and to avoid accidental damage while you’re away.

Here are some key steps to prepare your fridge before you leave it unplugged:

Empty the Fridge

Obviously, perishable food will go bad when the fridge is unplugged, but even non-perishables can spoil inside an unplugged fridge.

That’s because the temperature and humidity within the refrigerator will increase over time, causing mold and bacteria growth. So make sure you take everything out, including the drawers and shelves.

Drain and Defrost the Fridge

Cut off the water supply from the main valve; it’s usually on the wall behind the refrigerator. Next, drain the reservoir for the water dispenser and make sure there is no water left in the lines.

Then, if you have an ice maker, either defrost the refrigerator and drain the water still in the lines or let the ice maker complete one last cycle from the remaining water and then remove the ice. Leave the icebox in the draining position.

This will help keep the inside of your fridge dry and prevent any potential damage. Finally, make sure the thermostat is set on “off.”

Give the Fridge a Deep Clean

After unplugging and emptying your refrigerator, give it a thorough clean. This is important because all the crumbs and food particles spilled inside will start to rot and smell bad over time. Plus, bugs and other critters will find a cozy new home in all the gunk.

So please give it a good wipe-down with a disinfectant, and make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. Baking soda and water can help with tough-to-clean areas.

Please avoid using any bug repellent or pesticides inside your fridge, as you’re going to use it again in the future. Also, remove the used water filter cartilage if you have one.

You don’t want any moisture building up, causing rust or other damage, so don’t forget to wipe the interior dry with a clean cloth. Then, open all the fridge doors and box compartments to air it out.

Leave the Door Open

Since a closed refrigerator can get stuffy over time and start to smell really bad, it’s recommended to leave the door(s) open a crack when leaving it unplugged. So either prop opens the door with a ball of tape or something similar or pull out a rack to keep the doors away. This will help keep the inside relatively fresh.


It’s recommended to leave dryer sheets or open boxes of baking soda inside the fridge and freezer to absorb any bad smells. A cup of coffee beans can also work really well.

How to Safely Store Your Unplugged Refrigerator

Sometimes, just unplugging and leaving your fridge isn’t an option. For example, maybe you’re moving, or your new place can’t accommodate your big, multi-door fridge. In that case, you have to take some extra precautions to store it safely.

First and foremost is making sure the fridge is empty and clean. As we mentioned earlier, start with emptying and defrosting and then give it a good deep clean.

Next, wipe down the interior, doors, and all the compartments with a disinfectant, making sure all the nooks are squeaky clean, and dry. Once it’s nice and dry, you have to choose a storage spot.

Ideally, the fridge should be in a cool, dry place. Avoid any areas with high humidity or moisture, like attics — your fridge can easily rust, or the foam-filled insulation can develop mold in those conditions. Sun-exposed areas are also a no-go, as the heat will quickly damage your appliance.

Your best bet is a spare room, basement, or garage that’s out of direct sunlight and is dry. If you can’t keep it cool and dry at home, invest in a climate-controlled storage unit. They can be pricey, but it’s better than ruining your expensive fridge.

How Should I Carry My Fridge?

Professional workers carrying refrigerator on stairs

Coming to the packing and transportation part, keep your refrigerator upright all the time. Just a few minutes on its side can displace all the compressor liquids and potentially ruin your fridge. Ideally, use a moving dolly or hand truck to move the fridge. It’s best to have friends help you move it.

While moving, keep the fridge secured with straps and ropes and ensure there’s plenty of protection to avoid scratches or dents. Again, something like a moving blanket or furniture pads will work well. If you’re using a moving truck, put it in the corner against a wall to avoid any accidental bumps.

When you finally get your fridge to the storage spot, don’t forget to leave the doors ajar to help air it out and avoid any bad smells in the long run. Removable parts like shelves and drawers can be left inside or taken out. Just make sure they aren’t squeezed in a tight place; that can cause chips and dents.

If you follow these tips, your fridge can remain safely unplugged for a long time. Then, whenever you start using the fridge again, remember to leave it upright for several hours (check your manual) before turning it on; this will help the liquids stabilize. And of course, give it a good clean before putting your food back inside.