Does leaving your fridge door open overnight damage it?

Written by Adam Morris
6 Min read
, , ,

So, does it? Find out!

If you’ve just come to the fridge on the hunt for breakfast after a good night’s sleep and, to your horror, you’ve seen the door of the fridge door open, should you be worried?

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at your refrigerator and answer the question: does leaving the fridge door open damage it?

The short answer is, no you won’t do lasting damage to your fridge. But there is more to unpack here, so let’s get into it.

You won’t cause irreparable damage to your refrigerator by leaving the fridge door open. However, the food inside the fridge could spoil. Plus, if you’ve it open for a long period of time, it may cause your electricity bills to increase.

So, how do you know if your food is still safe to consume?

Depending on the age of your machine, generally speaking, if you’ve left your fridge door open for less than 2 hours then the food inside should be fine.

When it comes to food safety, the magic number is 40°F. If the food inside your refrigerator is subjected to temperatures of over 40° for a while, then it’s probably best to get rid. Or if you don’t have a thermometer in the fridge and you can’t tell the temperature, then it’s better to throw the perishable foods away. 

However, if you’ve left the fridge door open and the inside temperature has remained under 40°, then it should be fine. Modern appliances are capable of keeping food fresh for a couple of hours with the door open. Although, you may still need to throw the food away if it feels warm or it’s a hot day outside. 

One other aspect is the amount of food you have in the fridge. The products inside your appliance help keep your fridge cool. Therefore, if you don’t have many items stored, it may be more difficult for your machine to regulate its temperature. 

Man looking inside a fridge icing over

So, is it okay to leave the fridge door open?

Generally speaking, it’s fine to leave your fridge door open for between two and four hours. So, having the door open for a while as you pick what you’re having for dinner, clean the interior, or restock after a large grocery shop won’t cause any damage. 

In addition, your fridge’s compressor kicks into life whenever the door is opened. This means your appliance is working harder with the fridge door open. The compressor is ruled by your fridge’s onboard thermometer. If this thermometer senses warm air then it will tell the compressor to cool it down. But if the door has been left open, then the thermostat will constantly be telling the compressor that it’s too warm, this can cause the component to overheat. And when your compressor has overheated, your fridge won’t cool down.

Although, your family constantly opening and closing it won’t have too much effect on the machine or its compressor, leaving it open by mistake when you go up to bed for the night will see an increase in your energy bills. Plus, it’s not tremendously energy efficient either. 

What do to when your fridge has been left open

We can tell you all about the effects of leaving the door open on the contents of your fridge and the machine itself. But, what are you supposed to do when you find it open?

As we said above, if your appliance has been left open for less than a couple of hours, then you will be fine to just close the doors and move on. However, if it’s been longer than two hours you may need to throw away any perishable foods and reset your fridge

In most cases, you can easily run a fridge reset by defrosting it. To defrost the fridge you can start by unplugging the machine and wiping away any condensation which may have been collected. Once you’ve got rid of the spoilt contents and wiped away the excess water as a result of the condensation, you can plug the fridge back in and run it on maximum for 6 hours to expedite the cooling process. 

Once the fridge has cooled to 40°F you can start adding your food again. 

How long does it take to cool a fridge? 

Now you’ve defrosted your appliance you’re probably wondering, what’s the cooling time for a refrigerator?

Well, this can depend on a number of factors as well as your make and model. Having said that though, generally, it can take your fridge anywhere between 3 – 24 hours to get cool again. 

So what factors affect your fridge getting cold?

  • Age 
  • Fridge maintenance 
  • Contents temperature 
  • External temperature 
  • Keeping the door closed 

Age 

It probably goes without saying that older fridges can take longer to cool down after a good clean or defrosting. Modern machines have more efficient components, the compressor in an antiquated model will take longer to go through the motions. The normal lifespan of a refrigerator is around 10 years. 

Maintenance 

As with most appliances we talk about on this blog, it’s super-important to keep your fridge in good working order. If you complete regular cleaning sessions on the internal and external components, then you should find that your fridge is more efficient at getting cold again after a period of unplugging. 

Plus, if your machine is well looked after, you may not even need to defrost it after leaving the fridge door open for a few hours because the components are still like new. 

How to Clean a Fridge (Spring Cleaning 2022)

Contents temperature

As we mentioned above, the food and other items stored in your fridge can actually play an important part when it comes to helping your appliance keep its cool. Placing warm items into the fridge can cause condensation which can cause frozen water droplets to appear. 

In addition, the warmer items in your fridge can start telling the internal thermostat that it’s getting warmer. This will cause the compressor to turn on and start working harder to cool the items and surrounding area. 

External temperature

It probably sounds strange to suggest that the outdoor temperature can affect things happening inside the sealed environment of your fridge. But if you live in a warmer climate or are experiencing extreme heat then your kitchen can warm up and prevent your fridge from cooling as quickly as possible. 

Keeping the doors closed

This one probably goes without saying but if you need to defrost your fridge and cool it again after leaving the door open for too long, then you will affect the cooling time by constantly going back and opening the door to check the temperature. 

It’s best to just trust the process and let your machine do its thing for a while without disturbing it. 

What about the freezer?

If you’ve left the fridge door open on the freezer, then the pools of water around your machine should probably tell you everything you need to know about the quality of the contents. 

If you’re not planning on cooking and eating any of the perishables over the next couple of days, then it’s probably best to throw them away. 

However, the freezer is a robust character, so you should be able to run a similar process to that of the fridge. Unplug it, clean it and refreeze. When it comes to refreezing your freezer, it can take anywhere from 12 – 24 hours to complete the job. However, some manufacturers recommend a sweet spot of around 16 hours. 

Final thoughts 

Leaving your fridge door open overnight is not ideal, but it shouldn’t do any lasting damage to your fridge. 

In fact, sometimes, opening and closing your fridge multiple times a day can have a bigger impact on its energy efficiency. So if you accidentally leave your fridge open overnight, don’t worry! As long as you’re ensuring that your fridge is well looked after, then it will carry on working fine for its decade-long lifespan. 

Remember it’s always important to keep up with your appliance’s cleaning schedule to help it run as smoothly as possible. Plus, you should always try, wherever possible, to keep your fridge well stocked with cool items. Oh, yeah, and shut the doors when you go to bed at night. 

Why is it not advisable to repeatedly open the door of a refrigerator?

It’s not advisable to constantly do this as your fridge compressor is kicked into action every time the door is opened. Constant opening and closing can cause it to overheat and not cool your machine. Although, this is a rare problem especially on newer machines.

What can damage a refrigerator?

There are many things that can damage your fridge. Some examples are: placing it too close to a wall, dirty condenser coils, blocked drainage hole, under or overstocking, and improperly storing items.

Appliances made simple. 

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram