What Happens When a Refrigerator Is Left Unplugged?

Refrigerators are built upon the 24/7 functionality principle. It is meant to keep cold storage for long intervals of time. In fact, its efficiency is maximized when it stays plugged in!

But when you have to be away from your house for several days, weeks, or months, it isn’t ideal to leave any appliance plugged in, as it can be expensive to keep it running without check. You wouldn’t want skyrocketing electricity costs when you come back, after all!

However, it begs to question: What happens then to the unplugged refrigerator? Should one expect a less-than-optimal fridge coming home?

Here’s everything you need to know about leaving a refrigerator unplugged for prolonged periods.

Unplugging the Fridge

The refrigeration compressor lies at the heart of the refrigerator’s ability to keep an environment frozen and cold for long periods. 

The compressor needs some time to jumpstart and shut down, in the same way that it takes some time for a fridge to start building up or melting the ice particles in the frozen section. Given that, unplugging and plugging it back repeatedly may damage the refrigerator. It shocks the compressor with the electricity to jumpstart the machine when it is still processing the act of shutting down! Once a refrigerator has been unplugged, it is recommended to wait for 15 minutes before plugging it back in to give time for the compressor to fully shut down.

Aside from that, no damage can be expected to arise from leaving a refrigerator unplugged for long periods. However, take note that the moist, damp environment of a defrosted, unplugged fridge is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. When bacteria starts reproducing inside the small fridge from leftover spoilt food, it may create toxic molds and microorganisms that can creep into the machine and rust it, causing damage!

This is why we recommend following these precautions to make sure the unplugged refrigerator stays undamaged:

If possible, remove all of the food from the refrigerator

It is recommended to remove all the food from the fridge before unplugging it. What is left inside will just spoil after a few days or weeks. Meanwhile, those that won’t spoil don’t need to be in the refrigerator, in the first place. 

Clearing out the contents is done to make sure no bacterial overgrowth will occur in your fridge while you are away.

Set all the inner controls to 0, and turn off all the inner buttons

Even if the refrigerator will be unplugged, it matters that the controls that set the temperature and turn on the icemaker are set to OFF or 0. This is for the machine’s sake; making the controls reflect their correct condition at all times prevents the damage of the controls and handles. 

If possible, remove all the contents and clean the fridge well

It’s time to take a look at how the refrigerator is doing. Take some time to thoroughly clean the fridge because even if you take away all the food, the remaining microparticles that have stuck on the edges or corners may still deteriorate and damage your refrigerator.

Leave the refrigerator’s door open

It sounds like a bad idea—however, leaving the refrigerator door even just slightly open helps facilitate air circulation to avoid foul odor from penetrating and staying inside the refrigerator. 

Enclosed spaces that have the slightest possibility of moisture are perfect breeding grounds for dangerous microorganisms and molds. Given that it is unplugged and thoroughly cleaned and dried, there is no worry about leaving the doors open.


Taking the proper steps to care for our refrigerators before our most-awaited trips is a noble thing to do, and it ensures the longevity and optimal functionality of our fridge. After all, what are a few minutes of preparation as compared to the expenses we might incur when we accidentally damage our fridge!

Are you looking for more information on refrigerators and how they work? Pixel Fridge has got everything you need to know! If you’re trying to figure out how much electricity a mini-fridge uses or how often should a refrigerator cycle on and off, then we’re the premium information outlet you need. Connect with us today to find out more!

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