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Common Refrigerator How-To’s and Hacks

by Albert Lee Appliance

Do you know how the special features on your refrigerator work? Do you have your appliance set to the ideal cooling temperature? Are you putting food items in the appropriate storage drawers or are they only being used to store cans of La Croix? 

We cast no judgment—we just want to ensure that you’re utilizing your refrigeration appliance correctly and making the most out of your space. Taking care of your refrigerator and utilizing the correct functions and features will only help to prolong the life of your food. If you’ve ever wondered what a crisper drawer is or how an auto-defrost setting works—these are the questions we’re here to help you answer. 

To ensure your fridge is working properly and your food is being preserved, follow our latest guide as we walk you through some common refrigerator hacks. 

How to Use a Refrigerator Crisper Drawer?

On each of these refrigerator drawers you’ll find little notches—usually labeled with different humidity levels. If you’re moving the notches toward the middle of the drawer and crossing your fingers for the ideal temperature, this probably isn’t doing your food much good. Crisper drawers have an adjustable range that can be set from low humidity to high humidity. Essentially, this setting is a window that you decide to open or close depending on the type of produce you plan to store. If you want low humidity, the window will be left open—if you want high humidity, the window will be sealed shut. 

While we’re on the topic of humidity, what about humidity control? You may also see these drawers labeled as humidity-control drawers— meaning, this setting is in charge of controlling the flow of oxygen to the contents inside the drawer. It’s the same principle as the crisper drawer; the high setting cuts off airflow so the humidity can help the produce ripen, and the low setting opens the vent to allow gases and moisture to escape. The main purpose of the crisper or humidity-controlled drawer is to create a neat and organized environment to store your food and prolong the life of perishable goods like fruits and vegetables. 

What Goes in Each Drawer?

Any kind of perishable produce that is known to rot quickly should be placed in a low-humidity crisper drawer. This would be any kind of fruit like apples, peaches, or pears that emit higher levels of ethylene gas. When you leave the drawer open, it allows the fruit to breathe and gives those gases the chance to escape. When those gases are released, it helps to keep fruits and veggies from going bad prematurely.

The high-humidity crisper drawer is reserved for any food item that is known to wilt. All your herbs and leafy greens such as arugula, spinach, and cabbage should be stored at higher humidity. When you close the window on the crisper drawer, this traps any water vapor from the leaves and the buildup of moisture inside the drawer keeps your greens nice and crisp. This is why you see the device that sprays a gentle mist over the produce in grocery stores—that collection of moisture helps to keep your veggies perfectly fresh.

Ideal Fridge Temperature 

Automated temperature settings aren’t always accurate, so it’s important to make sure your fridge is set to a safe and healthy temperature so your food can stay fresh and last longer. A chilly internal fridge temperature helps preserve your food, but it also helps to avoid the many kinds of foodborne illnesses. At the correct temperature, a refrigeration appliance can keep food items cold and safe to eat for days and even weeks on end.  

Now, let’s get down to numbers. Your refrigerator can help slow the spread of food-related bacteria if you aim to stay somewhere between 35 and 38 degrees. This is the range that is as cool as you can get before freezing and as warm as you should get before bacteria begins to multiply. If you want to retain the quality and freshness of your food without any stuck-on miniature ice crystals, 37 degrees is a safe and comfortable temperature. 

If you notice your fridge temperature rising and getting into the 40-degree territory, you should let your food cool before putting it back into the fridge. Hot casserole pans or bowls of soup can quickly heat the inside of your fridge and put other contents at risk of bacterial growth.   

It’s also a good idea to keep your fridge full. The temperature can stay cooler if the drawers and shelves are mostly full. You don’t want to overcrowd and block airflow, but a well-stocked and organized fridge plays a huge part in retaining food freshness and the ideal temperature. 

And for fridge sake, stop letting your kids open the doors so often. Gazing blankly into the fridge when you’re hungry only lets warm air into the fridge and allows all the cool air to escape. Grab your snack quickly and be on your way.   

Refrigerator Rubber Door Seal 

Another important aspect affecting fridge temperature is the door seal or gasket. As the name suggests, it seals in all the cold air so your refrigerator locks and keeps your food fresh. It’s a strip of rubber that fits tightly into the groove around the edge of the refrigerator door. If it wiggles loose, it isn’t a problem—it can be adjusted and pushed back into place. 

Sometimes you’ll notice the refrigerator seal is out of place when the door won’t close or when it pops open on its own—this can be a sign that the seal is dirty. Simply mix together some dishwashing liquid and plenty of warm water. You can use an old toothbrush to dip into the mixture and use it to scrub away any grime on the gasket. Be sure to check every side of the seal and wipe down with a towel after to catch any moisture you might have missed. 

It’s important to check door seals once a week because if there is a leak in one of the gaskets, the cold air may be slowly escaping, making it more difficult to properly cool your fridge and using up far more electricity than needed. 

Automatic Defrost Fridge 

Refrigerators are designed to keep a cool environment for safe storage of your food and beverages, but over time, temperature fluctuations can cause ice to build up inside your appliance. When warm air makes its way into the cooler environment, it freezes and leaves a frost behind on the walls and shelves. If your fridge has an auto-defrost feature, when activated, this setting uses a heater to warm the appliance and defrost the system to break down any melted or stuck-on ice. A timer controls the fan to blow cold air into the appliance and heat elements where there is any built-up frost. These pools of melted ice flow onto a tray above the compressor where the heat can evaporate the water into the air. 

Now that you know how these refrigerator settings function, you should be ready to test them out for yourself. If you have any other refrigeration or appliance-related questions, give us a call or chat with us today. Our team of industry experts at Albert Lee are happy to assist you in any way possible. Want to know even more? Check out our two part refrigerator buying guide: Refrigerator Buying Guide part 1 and Refrigerator Buying Guide part 2.