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Commercial Refrigeration

How to Clean Refrigerator Coils in Commercial Kitchens


how to clean refrigerator coils

Have you ever dropped something behind or underneath your refrigerator and taken a gander at what lurks in your refrigerator’s recesses while retrieving the misplaced object? You probably were surprised and maybe even embarrassed to see the incredible amount of dust accumulated, so you can only imagine the dusty condition of the hidden refrigeration coils.

Though many of us pride ourselves in keeping our kitchens spic and span, the truth of the matter is sometimes those “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” things occasionally slip through the cracks. As the owner of commercial refrigeration equipment, the very thought of how to clean refrigerator coils might cause you to recoil. But have no fear, it’s easier than you think.

Let’s take a look at the simple steps involved in how to clean refrigerator coils.

Basic steps for how to clean refrigerator coils

  1. Unplug refrigeration equipment.
  2. Locate condenser coil, which is likely at front floor-level behind a grate or the back of the unit.
  3. After removing grate, use a stiff brush to gently brush the coils and fan.
  4. Vacuum the dust from the coils.
  5. Reattach the grate and plug your refrigerator back in.

Keep reading for more details and tips for doing the job of cleaning refrigerator coils safely and effectively.

More helpful details on how to clean refrigerator coils: tools of the trade

Here’s what you need to know about how to clean refrigerator coils without endangering your health or the equipment.

Respiratory protection. For those who are sensitive to allergens, you may want to wear a dust mask before your “how to clean refrigerator coils” work gets underway.

Don’t forget to unplug! As noted in the first step of the “how to clean refrigerator coils” tips above, you must unplug your commercial refrigeration equipment from an electrical outlet. This is critical for your safety and for avoiding an electrical shock hazard. This task may require that you move your refrigerator from a wall. Be careful when moving the unit from the wall because it may be top-heavy and tip over. You may need assistance.

Don’t be concerned about food spoilage because the coil cleaning process is a quick one. It should take less than 30 minutes and as you become more familiar with the job, you will reduce the amount of time it takes for its completion.

Flashlight. When embarking on your mission to clean refrigerator coils, a flashlight may come in handy. Whether your condenser coil is located at the front floor-level underneath your unit’s doors or at the rear, it could be tricky to see at either location.

Screwdriver. Often the condenser coil is located behind a toe-grill that likely snaps off at the front floor-level of your refrigerator. Sometimes the grill is fastened with screws, so you may need a screwdriver. If not located at the front, the condenser is probably located behind a rear access panel. Best practice is to clean the grill cover with soap and water before reattaching.

Refrigerator brush. Though a multi-purpose stiff brush or paint brush may do when completing your “how to clean refrigerator coils” project, it is preferable that you use a coil condenser brush, also known as a refrigerator brush, to gently brush the coils and fan and avoid damaging the fins. These coil brushes can be purchased at your local home improvement or hardware store for under $10. The cylindrical shape of a refrigerator brush makes for easier cleaning between gaps in the coil pattern and will allow you to remove dust from crevices.

Vacuum & attachment. The use of a narrow nozzle vacuum hose attachment is recommended. You should use a simultaneous coil-brushing and vacuuming technique in order to prevent straying dust. This means you will have the brush in one hand and the vacuum hose nozzle in the other. Don’t just vacuum the coils. Vacuum the adjacent area and don’t forget to vacuum the floor area below. Now that you have clean refrigerator coils, you don’t want to undo your cleanup work by allowing periphery dust to migrate to the coils.

While you’re at it, clean the fan. The fan is also usually located in the back and should be dusted off.

Should you use cleaning products?

In many instances, vacuuming refrigeration coils is the only action necessary to remove dirt and dust from condenser coils. However, for coils that have been subjected to excessive grease and grime, coil cleaners are available at home improvement and hardware centers and online. Biodegradable and “green” cleaners are among the products than can be purchased.

Some refrigeration experts also prefer to blow out dust from refrigerators using pressurized air cans that are often used to clean computer keyboards or more powerful portable compressors. If you go this route, be prepared to clean the dirt and dust bunnies that will scatter throughout your kitchen area.

Keep in mind that if your coils are really grimy, it might pay to bring in a professional who has the expertise and tools to do the job well and save you the time! In fact, coil cleaning is often covered under a refrigeration service contract. If you haven’t got one, find out more here: Refrigeration Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find the Right One for Your Food Service Operation.

Refrigeration Preventative Maintenance Contracts

Why is it important to know how to clean refrigerator coils?

Frequency. Though coil cleaning is usually covered under a refrigeration preventative maintenance contract, the nature of your restaurant or food service business may call for more frequent coil cleaning. Refrigeration experts who are extremely familiar with how to clean refrigerator coils recommend cleaning refrigeration coils three times annually, but even more if necessary for your operating conditions.

Preventing breakdowns. Besides not wanting to compromise your sanitary conditions and jeopardize the outcome of a health inspection, there are other practical reasons for taking the “how to clean refrigerator coils” topic seriously. Dust on refrigeration coils act like an insulating blanket that will interfere with the transfer of heat from your system. This will force your compressor to work harder and longer to maintain cool temperature levels. An overworked system can lead to an expensive repair or worse yet a total breakdown when you have a room full of diners expecting an exceptional dining experience.

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Reducing energy costs. By knowing how to clean refrigerator coils and completing the task regularly, you will also save a significant amount on electric bills because your refrigeration system will be operating more efficiently. According to the Food Service Technology Center, an industry leader in commercial kitchen energy efficiency and appliance testing, dirty coils can result in a 90-percent increase in energy use!

Critical coil cleaning is to the smooth operation of your kitchen. Taking good care of your equipment will pay off in reduced problems and longer equipment life.