How To Fix a Clogged Refrigerator Defrost Drain

As with all appliances, refrigerators are susceptible to having one or two of their parts malfunction. One of the most prominent problems homeowners experience with their fridge is a clogged drain that leads to the defrost freezer section. This problem can become so bad that the fridge will no longer function properly or produce ice quickly enough to keep up with demand.

If your fridge defrost drain is clogged, there are many solutions you can try to fix it. There are a few simple steps you can take to get your drain flowing again. This will help you preserve your appliances and keep your groceries cold during the summer months.

Before calling a fridge repair service, you can try a few simple fixes to save money. It’s important to note that drain clogs in your fridge are inevitable because of the nature of how they work. Read on to learn about the several methods you can use to fix this problem.

Defrost Drain Basics

inside refrigerator

A fridge defrost drain is a tube that allows the defrosted water from the freezer to exit to a bucket or drain underneath the fridge. An overflow system in your fridge keeps water from leaking outside by draining out to a drain at the bottom. When the water builds up and begins to block the flow, you will experience problems with the drain.

If the water isn’t flowing freely, it can lead to cross-contamination when the food starts to freeze in contact with the water or lead to drainage problems.

Your Fridge’s Drain: A Primer

Most modern fridges come with a drain located on the bottom of the appliance. Some appliances have drains outside their doors to allow the defrost water to flow out, while others don’t have them at all. If your device doesn’t have a drain, you can find the plug on the right side of the unit. Remove the plug to drain any water from atop the appliance.

The refrigerator control panel is inside the fridge, most often on top of the ice maker.

Related Post: How To Fix a GE Refrigerator Ice Dispenser

What are the Signs You Have a Clogged Refrigerator Defrost Drain?

  • Fridge not cooling correctly/food melting
  • Ice buildup on the inside of the freezer compartment
  • Water overflowing from underneath the fridge
  • Fridge and freezer temperature at room temperature
  • Uniform layer of frost covering the coil or the panel around the coil
  • A pool of water under the vegetable drawers or in the bottom of the fridge
  • Visible frost or ice at the defrost drain hole
  • Occasional odor similar to alcohol coming from your fridge. (This indicates a problem with the drain tube.)

On top of these signs, you’ll want to check for any signs of water leakage around the door or back panel. It’s possible that there is a crack or leak in the door seal that you can try to fix before calling a maintenance specialist.

Causes of a Clogged Drain

There are many reasons why your refrigerator’s defrost drain might clog. The most common causes include:

  • Food debris clogging the drain – There are many reasons why a drain might become clogged. The most common is food and other debris getting stuck in the drainpipe. Pouring grease, fat, or condiments (like ketchup and mustard) down the pipe can also cause a clog to happen.
  • Water overflows – A drain might become clogged if the appliance gets too much water from internal leaks or doesn’t release the water from the bottom quickly enough.
  • Food contamination – Though this is uncommon, food wrapping can also accumulate inside the drain if there is a liquid spill inside your appliance. The food can then fall into the drain and clog it.
  • Leaks – If there are any leaks in your fridge, this can cause a blockage that leads to a clogged defrost drain. If you notice any drips or leaks, make sure that they are from the defrost drain and not from any other part of your appliance.
  • Condensation – When your refrigerator isn’t allowed to ventilate long enough, the condensation will begin to build up inside the fridge. This can lead to a clogged defrost drain because the water will overflow. Fridges should be allowed to ventilate at least 10-20 minutes a day to prevent this from happening.

Simple Fixes for a Clogged Refrigerator Defrost Drain

clogged refrigerator defrost drain

When you need to fix a clogged drain, the best solutions are often the most affordable ones. You can use simple and inexpensive items to unclog your drain without needing to call a repair person. Some of these scenarios include:

Fridge Drain Hole

The first step in fixing your fridge’s defrost drain is determining if the problem is with the hole that allows defrosting water to drain. The hole may be clogged, or there may be a piece of debris blocking it. If the hole is clogged, you can use a knife to scrape off any residue and rinse the hole with water.

This should clear any debris. If the hole is clear, use a butter knife or a screwdriver to remove any blockage outside the drain hole. Once you’ve cleaned out the jam on the outside, rinse out the inside of the hole with water.

Clogged or Freezing Defrost Drain

A buildup of ice or frost might be clogging or blocking the defrost drain. If this is the case, simply use a butter knife or other tool to dislodge any ice or frozen buildup from the drain. Then rinse out the defrost drain with water. Your fridge defrost drain should now be running correctly.

Drain Strap

How can a drain strap disrupt your refrigerator defrost drain? The belt is the rubber piece that connects your fridge to the wall. If it is too loose or too tight, it can cause a blockage. Make sure that you check the strap occasionally and tighten it as needed.

Sometimes, the strap just needs to be drawn as time goes by. A clogged refrigerator defrost drain is usually not an expensive problem to fix. You can quickly locate the drain and use simple tools or household items to fix it on your own.

Drain Heater

The function of the drain heater is to defrost the fridge to help prevent your drain from freezing. It will activate if you overfill your fridge or if it is unplugged for too long. The drain heater may be malfunctioning if your fridge is still draining water after the water has stopped flowing.

If this is the case, check the drain heater to ensure it has been correctly installed onto the drain. If you’ve installed the heater properly and the drain is still not heating up, the heater likely needs to be replaced.

Failure In the Drain Tube

The drainpipe is a vital part of your fridge. The tube carries water in your fridge into the fixed drain pan, and sometimes, it can get clogged. If this is the case, you can try to unclog the drainpipe yourself by clearing out the blockage with a pipe cleaner or another long, thin implement.

Safety Precautions for Unclogging a Defrost Drain

Before carrying out any repairs on your refrigerator, make sure that it is unplugged and thoroughly cooled down. Some components inside the fridge can still be hot after it has been unplugged.

Also, make sure to remove any food that could get in your way while you’re working. Make sure the fridge is dry before starting.

How Can You Prevent a Defrost Drain from Becoming Clogged Again?

Once you have unclogged the drainpipe, make sure to clean the area around it to prevent it from clogging again. Make sure to flush out all the water in your fridge before closing it. Also, check that the filter is functioning well and replace it if necessary. Furthermore, try to avoid letting food, such as fruits and vegetables, remain in the fridge for a long time. Finally, try not to pour water directly into the drainpipe.

When Should You Call a Professional?

You should call in an expert if you have tried all the DIY fixes provided above and you are still unable to unclog the fridge drain. If you don’t have any experience with plumbing, you will want to hire a professional.

Final Thoughts

A clogged defrost drain can be a real headache and can potentially leave you with a lot of spoiled food. Ensuring that you prevent a clog and take care of any that inevitably occur is essential, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

When you notice that your fridge’s defrost drain has clogged, it is crucial to unclog it. When faced with this issue, you can carry out many simple fixes and DIY solutions without calling a professional. However, if you have tried the above fixes and they have not worked, you should consider calling a professional

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