Commercial Refrigerator Maintenance Tips

Maintaining your Commercial Refrigerator

 

Most commercial fridges have to endure the rough handling of kitchen staff under pressure. It is therefore important to maintain your equipment to ensure it runs safely and delivers optimum performance and value for your business. When done correctly, regular commercial fridge maintenance can result in your system’s extended lifespan and energy reduction. 

We’re proud to provide aftercare for our customers, but by keeping your fridge in good working order you can avoid calling out engineers and keep their fridge running at its best without the need for external assistance. 

This article will tell you everything you need to know to maintain your commercial refrigerator.

Top tip: Remember that it’s the kitchen staff who will be using the equipment day in, day out. While it’s useful for those ordering and receiving the goods to know the basic hygiene procedures, the focus should be on training staff and providing sufficient product maintenance information to the wider team.

Part One: Cleaning your commercial fridge

The first law of good fridge maintenance is to keep it clean, for which there are key elements you need to address, prepare for and carry out. 

Before you start

First, empty your fridge. This helps with food rotation and allows you to identify any containers which need to be replaced.

Next, disconnect from the power supply. 

Cleaning products

Choosing the right cleaning products and chemicals is important, as inappropriate ones can result in damage or surfaces not being properly cleaned. Some chemicals react with certain materials (stainless steel, rubber or aluminium), so always check the label before use to prevent discolouration or damage to parts of your fridge. 

Additionally, avoid using scented fridge cleaning products as these can mask the tell-tale odours of food that needs to be discarded.

Inside

Where you can, remove the shelves, runners and floor protectors to give you the best access to the interior of the fridge. Most cleaning products work best when left to soak in for a few minutes, so apply the product and leave before wiping down. Bacteria and mould can accumulate over time, so it’s important to disinfect it with a food-safe sanitizer. Dry thoroughly when you're finished. 

Many commercial appliances have a fridge drain hole at the bottom of the fridge's interior. This can often become clogged and dirty as any spillages or residue drain away through and bacteria can quickly grow.

Door handles, hinges and seals

Remember to clean the harder-to-reach parts of the fridge as these are the most commonly missed: handles, inside the door seal channel and fixed-position shelf runners. Many modern commercial fridges have removable door seals to make cleaning faster and more convenient. 

While washing up liquid is usually fine for this task - especially when cleaning daily - use an antibacterial product if bacteria and mold start to build up. For removable parts, make up a simple bowl of warm soapy water and immerse.

Inspect the door seals to check they are functioning well and aren't torn, as a door that doesn’t close properly will allow warm air to enter. This causes condensation and makes the fridge have to work harder to cool the contents. Replace any torn gaskets or seals to prevent possible damage to the compressor and over-work of the condenser.

Condenser coils

Keeping the condenser coil clean is the most important thing you can do for your fridge and should be taken care of at least once a month. While the outside can just be wiped with a damp cloth, we recommend using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner which will allow you to clean the surface while also reversing the flow of air so you can blow out dirt that may be deeply embedded in the coils. 

This is less of a problem for people with Foster +StayClear fridges as their aerofoil tubes improve airflow and significantly reduce the chances of dust build-up and blockages.

Also, don’t forget the condenser tray - mounted on the underside of the fridge - which can be removed, emptied and cleaned.

Evaporator coil

Check the area around the evaporator coil - a vital refrigerator component. The evaporator coil is located by the evaporator fan and helps to cool the unit’s interior. Ensure the area near the coil is clear and clean. 

Condenser fan and filter

With constant door-opening into a working kitchen, air-cooled fridges encounter air filled with grease, steam and dust that can all be sucked into the condenser. Most fridges will use a filter to protect the delicate condenser components against this, so filters can become clogged and dirty if not cleaned regularly. This can, in turn, lead the fridge to fail, often resulting in expensive repairs or even replacement.

Every fridge is different, so refer to the user manual to locate the filter in your machine and make sure you remove it properly. Once removed, use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust, debris and detritus. 

It is important to note that even with a filter to protect it, the interior of the condenser can still accumulate dirt over time so you should check and clean the condenser itself.

Drain lines

Cleaning your drain lines can be a time-consuming process but it's an important one, so have them professionally checked once a year to ensure they aren't clogged. The service tech will usually disinfect the inside of your unit while servicing it.

Fridge environment

It can be just as important to keep the area around your fridge clean, as this will further prevent outside influence inside your fridges and on your food. Mop the floor under and around the unit, moving them to mop underneath if you can. Don’t forget to dust the top of your fridge, as well.

Remember to dry your fridge before you turn it back on

It is essential to dry your fridge and not let it air dry because sitting water or chemicals can quickly discolour surfaces of plastic and metal - and even help rot seals.

When you've finished cleaning, don’t forget to turn your fridge back on!

What you'll need

 You will need a few specific things for the process of cleaning a fridge:

  1. A strong, clean cloth that has been disinfected and not used to clean toilets or similar
  2. A bucket filled with warm soapy water
  3. A multipurpose cleaner - appropriate refrigerator cleaning solution for the surfaces/materials of your fridge
  4. A floor cleaner
  5. A grout brush (or toothbrush)
  6. A wet-dry vac (optional; useful for certain tasks)
  7. A mop
  8. A towel or kitchen roll

 

How often should I clean my commercial fridge?

 Commercial fridges should be cleaned thoroughly once a month - as described above.

While the main kitchen itself will be cleaned after each service - and thoroughly each night - fridges should be emptied and wiped out at least once a week.

Walk-in refrigerators should be cleaned quarterly.

 

Dealing with spills and drips

 Spills and drips in your fridge should be cleaned up as soon as they happen. This is to prevent cross-contamination and keep the rest of the produce in the fridge safe. You should also do an internal clean of anywhere below the place your spill occurred.

 

Part Two: Monitoring fridge settings and temperatures

 Temperature control is one of the key food safety factors. Monitoring settings and temperatures is an important part of commercial fridge maintenance as it directly affects your customers' health, with the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer crucial to limiting bacterial growth. 

If the temperature stays above the recommended level for a certain period of time, you are placing your customers at risk. For example, if your commercial fridge seals are torn or perished, the temperature can be affected. 

Many fridges have in-built thermometers so you can see the internal temperature. For those that don't, you should invest in a digital fridge thermometer. It is best to purchase a digital thermometer which comes with an alarm that can be set to go off if the fridge is too hot or too cold.

The best place to put a thermometer is in the warmest spot, usually near the door, not tucked away at the back. Check it daily to ensure it is maintaining the right temperature.

Check the compressor

 You should also test your refrigerator's compressor using a multimeter (or digital ohmmeter). Pull the compressor's relay and overload cap off to reveal its three terminals, then check the resistance between each of these three pins and note the two pins with the highest resistance. The one that remains is the 'common' - that to which one end of both the start and main windings connect. 

Take a reading from that common to each of the other two before measuring back across the two with the highest resistance, ignoring the common. This reading should be the exact total of the two individual coil readings.

If the two sets of readings aren't within around 0.5ohm of each other, then one of the compressor windings is shorted. If it runs at all, it'll run hot and usually end up short-cycling on its overload protector. If this is the case, you will have to replace the compressor.

 

The benefits of regular fridge maintenance

 There are many benefits to regular commercial fridge maintenance, the likes of which can save businesses time and money in the long run. 

Prevent emergency breakdowns

 Regular and frequent commercial fridge maintenance can help to prevent costly breakdowns and repairs. A broken down fridge in a commercial environment not only costs money to repair, but could lead to the loss and wastage of food. It may even impact the kitchen's ability to open at all and serve food to customers.

Our fridges come with a two-year parts and labour warranty to ensure your business is not negatively impacted if your fridge does break down.

Keep mold and mildew to a minimum

 Mold and mildew can be dangerous and should be avoided at all costs in commercial environments. You should clean relevant equipment regularly to prevent its build up.

Maintaining your fridge can prolong its lifespan and extend the time you have before needing a replacement – a desirable outcome for businesses as good quality commercial equipment comes at a premium.

Reduce energy bills

 Maintaining your fridge will not only help protect your customers and their health, but can help reduce energy bills as leaky doors and seals can mean the fridge has to work harder to stay cold – using more energy to deliver the same temperature as a fridge in good working order.

Extend the lifespan of fresh produce

 The better your system runs, the longer produce will stay fresh and be less likely to spoil. Read our guide to food safety training for more tips on how to keep food fresher for longer.