What Causes Icing in Refrigerators & Freezers?

Updated February 21, 2017

The only place you typically want to see ice is in the icemaker in your freezer, but sometimes there can be problems with your refrigerator and freezer that make ice appear in unwanted places. This ice can cause leaking, which leads to a mess in your refrigerator or on your floors, and it can cause food to freeze or even cause improper cooling. Finding the root cause of the icing in your refrigerator or freezer is the first step to finding the remedy.

Door Gaskets

If icy frost is building up on the items inside your refrigerator, the cause may be a faulty door gasket. The bad gasket may also cause frost build-up around the door of the refrigerator. You will likely see if the gasket is bad by closing the door and visually inspecting the gasket to check for gaps between the gasket and the front of the refrigerator compartment. According to the Appliance Repair It website, you should not be capable of sliding a single sheet of paper between the two surfaces. If the gap is minor, a coat of petroleum jelly around the gasket may solve the problem. On the other hand, dirty gaskets could cause a bad seal, or damage to the gasket itself could cause a major gap. Cleaning the dirty gasket or replacing it will stop the frosting problem.

Self-Defrost Problem

If you notice ice building up on the inside walls of the freezer, there may be ice on the evaporator coils, which can reduce the cooling capacity of the entire unit. A frost-free refrigerator is designed to self-defrost three or four times a day, but there could be a problem with the defrost timer, thermostat or defrost heater, according to the Repair Clinic website. Occasionally it could be a one-time problem that simply requires a manual defrost.

To manually defrost the refrigerator and freezer and remove the ice from the evaporator coils, turn off the thermostat in the refrigerator and freezer and remove all perishable foods. Leave the doors open for 24 hours, and lay towels around the base of the refrigerator to soak up any water caused by melting ice. Dry out the unit at the end of the melting period, and turn it back to normal settings. If the problem returns, you'll need to hire a technician to inspect and repair the frost-free system.

Drain Tube Clog

If you see icing and water inside the refrigerator, usually pooling and icing in the bottom of the unit, it may be caused by the drain tube from the freezer being clogged with a piece of ice. The overflow runs into the refrigerator and pools or freezes inside. You'll have to locate the tube and clear the clog to resume normal function. A manual defrost will also take care of this problem.

Door Left Open

Your freezer will be covered in ice if the freezer door is left open. Obviously you'll realise if the door is left wide open, but you may not notice immediately if the door is slightly ajar. If you see ice forming and realise the door wasn't completely closed, simply clean out all the ice and shut the door completely to fix the problem.

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About the Author

Lee Morgan is a fiction writer and journalist. His writing has appeared for more than 15 years in many news publications including the "Tennesseean," the "Tampa Tribune," "West Hawaii Today," the "Honolulu Star Bulletin" and the "Dickson Herald," where he was sports editor. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mass communications from Middle Tennessee State University.