Commercial Refrigerator Maintenance


A commercial refrigerator is at the heart of any food service business and can create extreme difficulties when the unit breaks down. While no refrigeration unit lasts forever, there are several things you can do to extend the life of your refrigerator.

Commercial Refrigerator Cleaning Tips

NOTE! Be sure that your machine is unplugged before you begin any cleaning of your unit.

By keeping all of the mechanical parts of your commercial refrigerator clean, you are taking the first step to keeping your unit healthy. There are several parts on a unit that should be cleaned regularly.

Condenser Coil

The condenser coil location on a unit can vary, and can be found either by checking the owner’s manual or asking the installation technician to point the unit out to you. This part should be cleaned at least once a month to keep it free of dust, dirt and lint.

Clean the condenser coil with a commercial condenser coil cleaner, which can be purchased at many kitchen equipment retailers. Brush the condenser fins from top to bottom and never side to side. Once you have completed scrubbing the fins, straighten any bent fins with a comb.

Some manufacturers such as Structural Concepts, have patented cleaners that automatically clean the condenser coils daily.

refrigerator condenser coil

Fan Blades and Motor

The blades and motor on commercial refrigeration should also be cleaned once a month. Cleaning is done with a soft cloth run over both the motor and the fan blades. If it is necessary to wash the blades, cover the motor with another, dry cloth so that the moisture does not cause damage to the motor.


It is important to remember not to use any steel wool, caustic cleaning chemicals or bleach when cleaning the interior of your refrigerated unit. These products can not only cause damage to the finish of the refrigerator, but they can leave behind strong chemical scents that can affect the flavor of the food. Use a solvent of warm water and mild soap to clean the inside of your unit.

refrigerator fan blades

Once a week, remove the door gaskets from the refrigerator and allow them to soak in a soap and water mixture for about thirty minutes. Once they have soaked for a while, simply remove the gaskets, dry them and replace them on the unit. Be sure to make sure the gaskets still create a proper seal once you have reattached them to your unit.

Shelves should also be removed and cleaned at least once a week.

commercial display refrigerator

Additional Maintenance Tips for the Commercial Refrigerator

Aside from routine cleaning, there are some additional things you need to do every couple of months in order to assure your commercial refrigerator is operating properly.

  • Schedule routine maintenance checks. Most commercial refrigeration manufacturers have routine maintenance programs in which you can enroll and have the unit checked out by a trained professional. The maintenance techs will be able to spot and correct potential problems before they result in costly repairs and refrigerator downtime.
  • Check the door gasket for a proper seal. In order to assure the door or drawer is properly sealing, insert a dollar bill between the gasket and door frame and close the door. The bill should give some resistance when you pull on it. If it falls to the floor or slides out easily, the door is not properly sealing, and you need to replace the gasket.
  • Check the holding temperature. In order to assure proper food safety, the holding temperature on all commercial refrigeration equipment needs to be checked several times every day. If the temperature is too low, the food can spoil. If the holding temperature is too low, it could be caused by blocked vents or a malfunction with the refrigeration system.
    >>Learn More about Food Safety Temperatures and The Danger Zone
  • Replacing interior lights. Having a functioning interior light will allow employees to quickly identify what they are seeking and reduce the amount of time the door is open. When replacing the lights, be sure to use the same size and wattage of the bulb already in there. Lower wattage bulbs may not illuminate properly in the cold temperature and could damage the housing.

Servicing Your Commercial Refrigerator

In addition to cleaning, having a maintenance technician look at your commercial refrigeration unit on a regular basis is a good way to spot potential problems before they worsen. Beyond that, sometimes things just go wrong and you need a professional to fix it. Either way, the best place to get expert repair advice is through a manufacturer-authorized service agent. Here is a list of major service agents for major commercial refrigeration brands:

Taking care of the basic components of your refrigerator can lead to a much longer lifetime and lessen the hassle for you as the owner. It may mean taking extra time and little bit of extra money in the short term, but getting extra years out of your machine makes up for it in the long run.


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  1. I work at an ice cream store, so it is important to have refrigerators that are working well. I’ll share this with my manager, I think she will appreciate it. I’ll do the money test see if there is a proper seal.

  2. I just started working in a food service, and we have plenty of large refrigerators. I am sure that they could all use some of this maintenance from time to time, just to help be sure that they are working well. One thing that I think is really important is making sure that the door has a proper seal. Without a good seal, it wastes a lot of energy and doesn’t keep the food cool, which is definitely something to avoid. I will be sure to try your dollar bill trick, because then I can see if the gasket needs to be replaced. Thanks for your great thoughts!

  3. I can imagine that a commercial refrigeration would require a lot of maintenance. My dad owns his own business, and he has to do a lot to keep all of his equipment running smoothly. I like your tip on scheduling routine maintenance checks. I feel like that’s a great way to always keep up on any type of business equipment.

  4. I’m sure that some of us have lived in a dorm of apartment with people we may or may not know. Soon you find out that there is a smell coming from the fridge. I don’t think it was cleaned once, and I bet if I went back now, it would still smell. It’s a good thing that those with larger fridges as the ones in restaurants don’t do this. Even then, they would have someone come by and clean or fix it for them.

  5. Thanks for all of the maintenance tips! I especially appreciated the suggestion you give to check the door gasket for proper seal. This is probably something that often gets overlooked (I know it does for me at least), but it can have serious temperature loss effects. Thus, when you take the time to make sure that the gaskets are sealed completely, you can keep the cool air in your fridge and make sure that your food is staying fresh and healthy. Thank you for sharing!

  6. I’d imagine that having the unit regularly maintained could prevent a lot of problems from happening before they become serious. My brother owns quite a few of these at his restaurant and I often wonder how often he has them looked at to make sure they’re functioning properly. I’ll definitely have to talk to him about the dollar bill tip though, he’s always worried that they don’t seal properly and that could really help him out.

  7. I’m an amateur chef. I would love to have a walk in restaurant refrigerator one day. However, just like any other piece of equipment, they do require care to maintain their proper function. You make a great point about checking and cleaning the gaskets to ensure that they work properly and efficiently. Ensuring that your restaurant’s refrigeration works properly can help reduce operating costs and avoid food spoilage. Thanks for your post.

  8. I never knew that a commercial refrigerator needs routine checks. I would imagine that a routine check would be a good way for a professional to identify any potential problems that a refrigerator could have. My uncle owns a restaurant with a walk in fridge, I wonder if he knows to get it inspected routinely.

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