Why is my refrigerator leaking water inside? The 7 most common causes – and expert fixes
An internal fridge leak is often less sinister than you may think; here's why it's happening
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If your refrigerator is leaking water inside, all is not lost! More often than not an internal leak is an easy fix that can be resolved smoothly without calling in the help of a professional.
Although pools of water in your fridge could be a sign of a blockage or damage, it might just be a sign you need to clean your refrigerator or water dispenser. So an internal leak is less of a worry than when a fridge is leaking water externally all over your floor.
Here, experts reveal the seven most common causes behind a refrigerator leaking on the inside, and what you can do to fix it.
Why is my refrigerator leaking inside?
Excess pooling water on the inside of a refrigerator may not always be caused by a leak. More often than not, it is caused by a build-up of condensation or a small blockage that can be shifted to help dry the interior of your fridge out and get rid of the ‘leaky’ appearance.
Here is what to look for in a leaky fridge.
1. The defrost drain is blocked
'While a refrigerator can leak inside for several reasons, one of the most common is a blocked defrost drain,’ says Ron Shimek, President of Mr. Appliance (opens in new tab), a Neighborly (opens in new tab) company. The defrost drain is the small drain tube at the bottom of your refrigerator that carries excess water formed by condensation or melting ice to a drainage pan underneath your appliance.
It may become blocked if you do not regularly clean your refrigerator, or organize a refrigerator poorly and cover the hole. The good news is that this drain is relatively simple to unblock yourself. Start by turning the refrigerator off and removing all the food and products from the refrigerator, as well as removing any shelves if necessary to access the drain.
Then, carefully pour a small amount of warm (not boiling) soapy water down the hole to melt any blockages. You may also want to try using a turkey baster to help force water at pressure down the drain to remove blocks.
‘An issue like a clogged drain that isn't cleared by warm water will require a service professional to repair,’ warns Ron Shimek, however, as this indicates something solid like food, grease, or dirt is blocking the drain.
2. The water dispenser line is blocked
Water dispensers are wonderful refrigerator accessories, but they are prone to breaking down over time leading to small leaks. To check a water dispenser line for damage, turn off the fridge and turn the shut-off valve to stop water from moving to your appliance before slowly working your way down your supply line, checking for noticeable cracks or splits. If you cannot see any physical damage then it is likely an ice block. This can be resolved by leaving the refrigerator turned off for a few hours to allow it to melt.
‘Any issues with a perpetually leaking or blocked water line will likely need to be addressed by a service,’ recommends Ron Shimek. ‘This is especially important if you notice the line has substantial damage.’
3. The door seal is broken
‘A broken door gasket or seal is another common reason for a leaking fridge interior,’ says Ron Shimek of Mr. Appliance, ‘or even something preventing the door from closing completely. See if the door has been left even the slightest bit as this can cause condensation on the ceiling, dripping down into the rest of the fridge. In this case, wipe the ceiling and inside of the refrigerator out and make sure the door is closed tight.
‘Make sure your door is closing properly and nothing on the inside is keeping it from closing, and shorten the times you have the door open and let external air in. Also, allow foods to cool before putting them in the refrigerator,’ Ron advises.
Many of the best places to buy refrigerators also stock maintenance parts such as replacement door gaskets, making it easy to replace the seal at home.
4. A water dispenser tank is cracked
When buying a refrigerator, whether or not to opt for a water dispenser is a big decision. One thing to note is the more accessories your fridge has, the more components there are that can cause leaks or malfunctions.
‘An easy-to-spot cause of an internal refrigerator leak is if a water dispenser tank has a crack in it,’ says Millie Hurst, Solved Section Editor for Homes & Gardens. ‘This could be caused by something banging into the tank when the door closes, or ice build-up causing the plastic to expand and contract, weakening the material.
‘Start by thoroughly drying your water tank to remove any condensation,’ she suggests. ‘If you cannot see a clear crack at this point, try topping the dispenser up with some water. Wait and watch to see if any beads of water begin to escape from the tank.’
If a leaky tank is the culprit, you may be able to get a replacement water dispenser online or through a service for your refrigerator, depending on your make and model.
Millie Hurst is Section Editor at Homes & Gardens, overseeing the Solved section, which provides readers with practical advice for their homes. Millie has written about and tried out countless cleaning and DIY hacks in the six years since she became a journalist, and has worked in both London and New York.
5. Your water filter needs to be replaced
Almost all water dispenser units have a water filter built-in, but their concealed location makes them easy to forget about.
A water filter over six months old can start to become defective, preventing the proper passage of water and causing a gradual leak. This is one of the easier internal refrigerator leaks to fix and requires simply removing or replacing the filter with a new one.
6. Something else in your refrigerator is leaking, like a carton
‘It could also be something as simple as a bag, can, or another container of liquid leaking,’ Ron Shimek says. Besides ensuring you practice safe food storage tricks to extend the life of your groceries and avoid adding things you should never store in a refrigerator, the first thing you should do when checking for the source of an internal leak is to empty all food and products out of your fridge and dry the shelves and drawers.
7. The weather is particularly humid
‘It might have something to do with the weather,’ suggests Jen William, founder of Address the Home. ‘When it's very humid, extra moisture enters your fridge every time you open it. The moisture condenses and builds up. The drain or drip pan then gets too full and overflows into the fridge. If you notice this, you can just start emptying the pan once a day when it's extra hot and humid. If it's getting out of hand, get a fridge dehumidifier that sits inside, such as this small dehumidifier from Amazon (opens in new tab).’
When placing a refrigerator in your kitchen, try to keep it away from external doors and windows, and warm ovens to prevent condensation from building up as quickly.
Jen William is the founder of Answer the Home. He spent many years working for in real estate. He has seen how people suffer with plumbing and home maintenance and the costs. So, he decided to create a website to simplify these kinds of tasks for everyone called Answer the Home.
Where is the defrost drain in my refrigerator?
A defrost drain can be in slightly different locations in different refrigerator models, however they are usually at the back of your appliance towards the bottom. This may be at the base of your refrigerator, or even at the base of the back wall. It will be small and circular and may have a moveable plastic plug poking out to help prevent large food particles from escaping down the hole.
What are signs of a Freon leak in a refrigerator?
In more sinister cases, a refrigerator leak may be caused by a Freon (gas) leak, as opposed to a water leak. You can tell the difference if your food is warm inside the appliance; the motor sounds loud and is running constantly; your electricity bill sky-rockets; you or someone in your household becomes unexpectedly ill with vomiting, eye irritation, breathing issues, headaches, or nausea; or you notice odd chemical smells when you open your refrigerator.
For any Freon leak, your appliance should be turned off immediately and a maintenance professional should be called to repair it or remove the appliance safely.
Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for six months, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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