What to Do About a Leaking Refrigerator

Refrigerator Leak

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A leaking refrigerator can feel like a drastic enough situation that you may think it's time to shop for a new fridge. But a leaking refrigerator doesn't necessarily mean that your fridge is on its way out.

Over time, blockages and clogs, frozen sections, loose valves, or misaligned parts can develop leaks in the refrigerator. You can usually fix or clear these leaks by yourself, using simple tools—saving a call to the appliance repair company. 

Defrost Drain Is Blocked

The evaporator coils will drip water onto the bottom of the freezer compartment if the defrost drain is clogged with debris or is frozen. These drips can continue onto the refrigerator shelves and even onto the kitchen floor, especially if the door gasket is dirty or faulty.

Fixing a Blocked Defrost Drain

You should thaw any ice buildup in the drain and flush the drain with hot water to clear debris. Have lots of towels around to mop up spills.

  1. Find the defrost drain, usually located in the back of the refrigerator.
  2. With a cordless drill, turn out any screws holding the cover in place.
  3. If the drain is frozen over, thaw it out by directing a hairdryer over it.
  4. Clear the drain tube by directing hot water into the tube. Use a squirt bottle or turkey baster to direct water into the drain hole.

Refrigerator Is out of Level

Moisture condensing on evaporator coils can leak out of the refrigerator. Also, a refrigerator that's out of level taxes the motor and pump. Setting the refrigerator level not only reduces leaking but helps with the unit's overall functioning.

Tip

Consult your refrigerator's manual for leveling instructions. Some fridges may need to be slightly higher (about 1/4 inch) in front than in back.

Leveling a Refrigerator

  1. Place a bubble level on top of the refrigerator. Position the level from front to back.
  2. Remove the grille (near the floor) by pulling it toward you.
  3. With an adjustable wrench, turn the front roller legs clockwise to raise the front of the unit and counter-clockwise to lower it.
  4. Check for front-to-back level. For level fridges, the bubble should rest between the two marks on the indicator.
  5. Check side-to-side level. Move the bubble level 90 degrees so it runs from side to side.
  6. Adjust the front roller legs with the wrench until the unit is level.
  7. Replace the front grille by snapping it back into place.

Tip

For fridges that need to be higher in front, raise the back end of the bubble level. Measure the distance from the bottom of the level to the top of the fridge. The measurement should be 1/4 inch. If not, raise or lower the refrigerator's front roller legs until the measurement is 1/4 inch.

Water Inlet Valve Is Loose or Damaged

Located on the back of the refrigerator, the water inlet valve supplies water to the freezer to make ice and to the dispenser for fresh water. The copper or plastic tubing may be damaged or loose. Or the brass water inlet valve might be damaged or have come loose.

Leaks at this point will drip and pool around the bottom of the refrigerator and can make it appear as if water is coming from inside the box of the fridge.

Fixing a Loose or Damaged Water Inlet Valve

  1. Pull the refrigerator away from the wall to access the back of the fridge. 
  2. Look for the rigid copper tube or plastic tube entering the fridge from the direction of the kitchen sink.
  3. Use an adjustable wrench to tighten the brass nut where the tube attaches to the fridge's inlet valve.
  4. If that doesn't fix the problem—and water is still leaking here—the water inlet valve should be removed and replaced by an appliance technician.

Water Filter Is Misaligned or Faulty

The refrigerator's water filter cleans and filters water from the house's water supply on the way to the fridge's water dispenser. A misaligned or defective water filter can leak water into the refrigerator. Typically, the water will be concentrated on a top shelf of the refrigerator since the filter is usually located on the roof of the refrigerator box.

Fixing a Misaligned Water Filter

  1. Find the water filter housing on the roof of the refrigerator box.
  2. Swing down the housing door.
  3. Twist out the water filter, then twist it securely back in place.
  4. If this does not fix the leak, try replacing the filter with a new water filter.

Door Gasket Is Dirty or Faulty

The rubber gasket around the inside of the refrigerator door may be leaking water from the inside of the box to the outside. Fix by cleaning or replacing the gasket. While this will not stop leaks inside of the refrigerator box, it will prevent those leaks from reaching the kitchen floor.

Fixing a Dirty or Faulty Door Gasket

  1. Make a solution of warm water and a squirt of dishwashing detergent.
  2. Dip a clean rag in the solution and then squeeze it out.
  3. Wipe the rag all the way around the door gasket, particularly the section where it meets up with the refrigerator body. Remove all debris.
  4. Thoroughly wash out the rag. Run cool, clean water over the rag, squeeze it out, and use it to wipe the soap residue off of the door gasket.

When to Call a Professional

Call an appliance technician to replace the water inlet valve.

For blocked defrost drains and tubes, if you have tried to flush them out with no success, have a technician assess the problem. These parts may need to be removed for more thorough cleaning or they may need to be replaced.