Having a spare refrigerator on hand can be useful if your main fridge suddenly breaks down. But if you need to store an extra refrigerator not currently in use, how long can it safely sit there before running into problems? Properly storing an unused refrigerator is important to preserve its lifespan and efficiency for whenever it gets installed and plugged back in.

In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about storing a refrigerator not in use, including ideal storage times, critical maintenance, environmental factors, and proper storage procedures. We’ll also answer the key question: “how long can a refrigerator be stored without being used?”

Refrigerator Storage: Basic Moments

When powered off and not actively cooling a food compartment, an unused refrigerator goes into a type of hibernation or standby mode. Internal components like motors and compressors are shut off, while door seals and insulation work to maintain stable, cool, and dry conditions inside.

However, extended storage comes with risks of moisture buildup, mold growth, part degradation over time, and more issues. That’s why following best practices for both preparing and storing the inactive refrigerator is essential.

Factors Impacting Safe Refrigerator Storage Duration

Many elements influence how long a refrigerator can safely sit unused before problems arise. Key factors include:

Surrounding Storage Environment Ambient temperature, humidity levels, and exposure to outside weather elements impact storage lifespan. Stable climate-controlled conditions are best.
Age and Wear Like most appliances, refrigerators wear over years of use before storage. Older units or those with pre-existing conditions won’t store as well.
Model Type Freestanding, built-in, top freezer, bottom freezer, and specialty models all have different recommended storage times based on their components and design.
Pre-Storage Preparation Thoroughly cleaning, defrosting, drying, and maintaining the refrigerator before storage is vital for preservation.

Considering these factors, most manufacturers and experts recommend storing an unused refrigerator for no more than 1-3 months maximum.

We’ll now explore why this duration, proper preparations, maintenance tips, and important revival steps after storage for getting the most out of your refrigerator time out of commission.

Recommended Maximum Refrigerator Storage Duration

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When evaluating all the considerations around refrigerator storage and maintenance needs over time, most manufacturers and experts recommend not storing a refrigerator unused for longer than 1-3 months maximum.

This recommended maximum duration varies slightly depending on the refrigerator’s age and model. For example, brand new refrigerators can safely store longer unused than older units with existing wear and tear. And units specifically designed for garages or basements can handle longer inactive durations than standard kitchen refrigerators.

But for typical household top or bottom mount refrigerators, here are the key reasons why inactive times are limited to just 1-3 months:

  • Door Seals & Insulation: While helpful, door seals and internal insulation lose integrity over time in preventing external moisture and air from infiltrating inactive refrigerators.
  • Internal Mold & Mildew: Without active refrigeration, unused units risk developing mold, mildew and bad odors inside over just weeks without careful ongoing maintenance.
  • Motor Lubrication: Refrigerant compressor motors and internal circulation fans require occasional operation to maintain proper lubrication.
  • Component Degradation: Like most appliances, sealed system and electrical parts slowly degrade over time – whether powered on or off. Storing too long accelerates wear.

Exceeding 1-3 months of storage risks all these problems and more. So unless the refrigerator was extremely well maintained or designed for extended inoperation, revival gets increasingly unlikely the longer its unused.

Prep Refrigerator Properly Before Storage

To store a refrigerator or freezer safely for 1-3 months, proper cleaning, defrosting, drying and preventative care before shutdown dramatically extends its storage lifespan. Follow these key preparation steps before packing away your refrigerator:

  • Deep Clean Interior: Remove all food and shelves, then thoroughly wash inside using hot water and baking soda solution to sanitize and absorb odors.
  • Defrost Freezer: Manually defrost freezer compartment to prevent ice buildup from damaging interior over time.
  • Dry Components: Ensure refrigerator box and all shelving are completely dry before closing doors to prevent moisture trapping.
  • Clean Door Seals: Carefully wipe and dry refrigerator door seals so they maintain flexibility and sealing.
  • Replace Air Filter: If equipped, install a new air filter to aid circulation and prevent overwork after restarting.
  • Stabilize Unit: Use furniture pads, blocks or packing materials to ensure the stored refrigerator doesn’t shift or settle during storage.

Following this protocol before shutdown enables safe storage for the recommended 1-3 month maximum duration.

Use Best Practices When Storing Refrigerator

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Once powered off and prepped for storage, maintaining the right conditions throughout storage preserves your unused refrigerator’s integrity:

  • Stable Climate: Ideal storage condition is cool, dark and dry. Avoid temperature extremes and humidity.
  • No Exposure: Keep unused refrigerator fully sheltered – never exposed to outside weather elements which cause internal corrosion.
  • Leave Doors Closed: Avoid opening doors which allows moist air infiltration and offsets door seals.
  • Power Cord: Manufacturer recommendations vary on power cord. Some advise leaving plugged in to preserve light circuits.
  • Monthly Maintenance: Perform visual checks monthly and remove any moisture accumulation to prevent problems.
  • Pest Control: Use moth balls or odor absorbers inside to deter insects and rodents from infiltrating stored unit.

Again following best practices preserves your inactive refrigerator for safe revival after 1-3 months stored.

Revive Refrigerator Properly After Storage

When ready to use refrigerator again after recommended maximum storage duration, proper revival steps prevent problems:

  • Inspect Seals & Inside: Check door seals, insulation, cabinets, etc. for any damage before restarting refrigerator.
  • Wipe Down & Disinfect: Thoroughly clean inside box and compartments again before replacing food.
  • Replace Filters: Install new air filters and water filters if equipped.
  • Gradual Power On: Plug back in and set cooler temperatures gradually over 24 hours, not immediately to max cold.
  • Schedule Maintenance: If stored for over 60 days, schedule technician service to check components and seals.

Following this protocol for restarting an inactive refrigerator prevents voltage spikes or jarring components leading to early seal system leaks or failures.

Also, after resuming use of the refrigerator, be careful when placing food in the refrigerator. The lids should fit tightly on the pans so that the food does not absorb residual odors from the refrigerator compartment, which has not been used for a long time. Look for suitable cookware on Ballarini’s website leballarini.com, it’s a really good choice. This is evidenced by the reviews of people on Trustpilot who use this cookware.

Avoid Common Refrigerator Storage Mistakes

While storing an unused refrigerator or freezer risks many problems over time, a few common mistakes significantly raise chances of permanent damage:

  • Storing Too Long: Exceeding 3 months exponentially increases likelihood of serious issues needing professional repair.
  • No Climate Control: Allowing unused unit to bake in hot garage or freeze in uninsulated basement damages interior.
  • Leaving Door Open: Just one accidental opening while stored allows damaging moisture infiltration for weeks.
  • Missing Maintenance: Lack of diligent monthly upkeep lets mold, moisture and pests accumulate out of sight.
  • Rushed Revival: Quickly powering back on without cautious inspection risks voltage spikes damaging computerized components.


When life events require storing away an unused refrigerator for awhile, following proper storage procedures preserves the appliance for safe use after 1-3 months out of commission. Ideally refrigerators should stay plugged in and running. But if storing is unavoidable, meticulous cleaning, conditions maintenance, and gradual revival prevent serious, costly and dangerous refrigerator failures down the road. Monitor and care for your inactive refrigerator storage, and rely on technicians to ensure safe restart when needed again.