Does leaving your fridge door open overnight damage it? (what really happens)

Maybe you or a family member got some water or had a little snack in the middle of the night. When you woke up the next morning, you are surprised to find that your fridge door has been left open!

Now you might be wondering – is this the end for your refrigerator? Will it start having some issues and will it need a replacement soon? What about the food in your fridge?

This blog post will let you know what happens when your refrigerator door was open and the things you should do to ensure that it will continue running smoothly.

ALSO: Don’t know how to check if your food is still safe to consume after leaving your fridge open? We’ll also tell you what you need to watch out for later in this article.

Your fridge door was open overnight – what now?

Generally, leaving a fridge door open will not cause it to need an expert to repair or replace it.

open fridge door

Many of us have been there – it’s not that uncommon to forget to close or unplug appliances once we use them. When we forget to close a fridge door, it is usually no big deal as long as it’s only a couple of hours since it was in that state.

Of course, this is not always the case as there are many factors that will determine how it will affect the appliance.

These can be its model and type, its age, how long it was left open, and if there are other existing issues that need to be looked into. As an example, some fridge doors may be left open due to a faulty seal, which needs to be addressed quickly to ensure food safety.

When it was left overnight, however, it is possible for overheating issues to arise if your fridge was not maintained properly. This is why you need to do a few things to regulate the appliance which we’ll talk more about later.

What happens when you leave your fridge door open?

Forgetting to close your fridge door or accidentally leaving it open due to a faulty seal may cause the following to happen:

Moisture formation

A refrigerator’s primary function is keeping our food cool by preserving it and keeping it fresh. Since the inside of the appliance is at a cool temperature, leaving the door open allows hot air to enter it, causing moisture to form.

When condensation occurs on the inside of the appliance, this also affects its overall temperature.  

Warmer items in the fridge

Once the cool temperature of the fridge is no longer maintained, food items will start warming up. This means that they will eventually adjust and follow the temperature in the place where they’re being kept.

If your kitchen is warm, this will lead your food to also warm up faster, which speeds up the time it takes to spoil.

Food spoilage is certainly wasteful on the wallet and that may make you think twice about throwing it away. However, eating food that could already be spoiled is extremely dangerous for your health. Make sure to check your food once your fridge door has been left open to avoid consuming food that may already have bacteria.

Fridge parts may start breaking

Leaving the door open a few times will usually not cause it to break. However, leaving it open many times for longer periods will eventually cause some parts of the appliance to be faulty.

One of the first parts that may break due to an open fridge door is its compressor. A compressor works to ensure that the fridge is cool enough to maintain the desired temperature. Hence, an unstable temp will cause it to work overtime and overheat.

Aside from the compressor, thermostats may also malfunction as time passes. This is due to the fluctuating temperature in the fridge. In cases like this, hiring a reliable appliance repair company in your area will be your best bet.

The fridge will need more time to cool

If your fridge has been open for hours, you shouldn’t expect it to cool immediately the minute you close it. This is because parts of your appliance such as its coils may be frozen and will need defrosting for it to work properly.

Was your fridge left open overnight? It would be best to manually defrost it instead to lessen its stress in regulating its temperature .

Higher electricity bill

Finally, one of the things you may expect to happen after leaving a fridge door open is a higher electricity bill.

When the temperature is unstable in your fridge, it needs to consume more energy to regulate the temperature to hopefully keep your food from spoiling.

Hence: more energy = higher electricity consumed.

Things to do after leaving your refrigerator door open

Now that you know what could happen once you leave your fridge door open, you may be wondering about what you can do to reduce its effect on your appliance’s lifespan while also making sure your food is safe to eat.

Here are the things you should do if you left your fridge door open overnight:

Check the items in your fridge for spoilage

Generally, your fridge’s temperature should be around 2 to 4 °C. Anything higher than this puts your food at a higher risk of spoiling due to the bacteria it may grow.

Because of this, an open fridge can definitely throw off the temperature of your food, which puts you and your family at risk of food poisoning or Salmonella.

According to the USDA [1], if you are unsure about the temperature of your fridge and it already feels warm, it’s best to discard perishable items for your safety.

If you think that the temp’ in your fridge is no longer effective, you can check it using a thermometer to ensure that it’s still working properly.

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TIP: How to know if your food is still safe to consume

  • Keep your eye on perishable items
    Perishable items such as dairy, meat, seafood, and poultry are not recommended to be kept at room temperature.
    Hence, if your fridge was left open overnight, it would be best to discard them properly as they may no longer be safe to eat. This also applies to cooked food such as soups that may grow some bacteria when kept at room temperature.
  • Check for visible signs of spoiling
    Remove all your food items from your fridge and check them individually for signs of spoilage. This could be slight changes in colour, texture, and most importantly: an unpleasant smell.
    Usually, condiments are not affected by room temperature and are shelf stable.
    Just remember: avoid tasting foods to check if they’re spoiled or not. If in doubt, best throw them away.

Defrost and wipe the inside of your fridge

If your fridge door has been left open for less than two hours, many experts say that it’s safe to unplug, plug it in again, and use it as normal. It’s important to remember, though, that it may take at least a day for your fridge to return to its normal temperature as it needs to restart the cooling process again.

On the other hand, if the fridge door has been open for more than two hours (or you just want to be sure that your fridge will work as smoothly as possible), it would be best to unplug your appliance and start manually defrosting it.

Although some fridge models have an “auto defrost” feature, manually defrosting and wiping allows you to give your appliance a thorough clean. This also makes the fridge perform better as you are improving its airflow by removing excess ice and dust.

SEE ALSO: How to Defrost Any Samsung Refrigerator (the proper way)

Keep your fridge in optimal condition!

It can be worrying to leave your fridge door open overnight and have to think about the possible damage and costly replacement. After all, they are expensive and should last you many years.

Thankfully, by knowing what happens to your fridge and what to do when in this situation, we hope that you’re able to increase your appliances’ lifespan even more.

If you want more tips on keeping your refrigerator and appliances in tip-top shape, feel free to read more of our blogs.

For questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a fridge burn out if left open?

Parts of your fridge such as its compressor may burn out or overheat if left open for a very long time.

Is food safe when the fridge is turned off overnight?

Fresh products such as meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy may not be safe to consume if a fridge was left open overnight.

What happens if my freezer door was slightly open overnight?

A freezer door that has been left ajar would need more energy to keep the temperature, which means that it may overwork or overheat.

How long can a fridge be left off?

Ideally, if the door is closed, the food inside the fridge will not go bad if it’s less than 4 hours. However, an open fridge is less stable and there’s a higher risk of food spoilage as temperatures are ever-changing in this situation.

Why is keeping the fridge open bad?

Keeping the fridge open is bad as it changes its temperature so much that it affects how the food is stored. As a result, food is more likely to spoil and it also affects the lifespan of the appliance.

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