How To Unclog a Refrigerator's Defrost Drain

Updated February 21, 2017

If you notice an odour coming from your refrigerator, the problem might not just be last week's potato salad. Refrigerators have a defrost drain in the bottom of the inside cabinet used to channel moisture away from the inside. It also is used to drain water when defrosting the freezer. These drains sometimes can stop up, leading to unpleasant smells. If your refrigerator's defrost drain is stopped up, there might be a few steps that you can take to clear the block. Your refrigerator and nose will thank you.

Cut power to the refrigerator. Unplug the appliance and turn off electricity to the circuit that controls the refrigerator.

Open the refrigerator and find the defrost drain. It usually is found at the lowest part of the inside compartment. In some refrigerators, this might be beneath a lower shelf.

Insert a piece of plastic tubing inside the drain hole. Gently push this through the drain until it goes out through the other side. You should be able to feel the tubing pushing away clogs. Plastic tubing also helps keep the drain from becoming scratched, which can encourage bacterial growth.

Fill a quart-sized container with warm water. Add a capful of bleach. Insert a turkey baster into the solution and draw it into the bulb. Insert the turkey baster into the refigerator drain and squeeze the bulb.

Remove the toe panel from the bottom of the refrigerator. This is the grill at the bottom held in place with screws or hexbolts. Pull out the drip tray from underneath the refrigerator. Be careful because it will be filled with water from the turkey baster, in addition to other liquids. Dump this out and rinse the drain pan.

Insert the turkey baster back into the warm water and draw up another batch. Squeeze this out into the refrigerator drain. Empty the drain pan. Continue until the water emerges clean.

Replace the drain pan and toe panel. Replace the refrigerator shelf. Restore power to the refrigerator.


Consulting your refrigerator's owner's manual could be helpful to find the drain.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic tubing
  • Quart-sized container
  • Warm water
  • Bleach
  • Turkey baster
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About the Author

Nathan McGinty started writing in 1995. He has a Bachelor of Science in communications from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in international journalism from City University, London. He has worked in the technology industry for more than 20 years, in positions ranging from tech support to marketing.