Appliance Care 101: How to Move a Refrigerator the Right Way

Is there any task less fun than moving? Packing up everything you own and putting it in boxes to cart to a new location can be stressful and overwhelming — especially if it’s been years since you’ve moved and you’ve had time to accumulate a whole lot of possessions. And that’s not even taking into account the sheer physical labor involved in bending, lifting, twisting and carrying heavy loads and awkwardly sized items.

When it comes to moving, getting your kitchen appliances where they need to go is one of the trickiest tasks. And the queen of difficult appliances is definitely your refrigerator. It’s big and bulky, but it’s also got some delicate parts that need to be cared for the right way to avoid possible damage.

So whether you’re planning to pack up a side-by-side French door model with a built-in ice maker and all the bells and whistles or a tiny mini-fridge from your dorm room, make sure you know what you’re doing. Here’s how to take care of your old fridge as you move to your new home.

Your Step-by-Step Guide for Moving Your Refrigerator

1. Get Prepped

Hand Truck on White Background

Before you even think about moving your refrigerator, you need to grab a measuring tape and make sure it will fit in its new spot. That means you need to measure the length, width and height of your fridge, plus several other locations. Measure all the doorways you’ll need to pass through on your way out of your old place and into the moving truck; then measure all the doors in your new location. This will help you plan an appropriate route so you don’t get stuck anywhere along the way.

You’ll also need to gather a few specific moving supplies to make the job easier. In addition to your handy measuring tape you’ll also need the following items:

  • a moving dolly or hand truck
  • strong rope and/or moving straps with ratchets
  • cleaning supplies, including a sponge, dish soap, sponges, baking soda, etc.
  • padded moving blankets
  • packing tape
  • scissors
  • newspaper, brown craft paper and/or bubble wrap

Once you have everything you need, you’re ready to get started.

2. Clean It Out, Clean It Up

High Angle View Of Woman Cleaning Refrigerator

Even a small refrigerator will feel heavy when you have to carry it to a new location, so lighten up by emptying it completely. Start by removing any exterior decorations and the magnets that hold them in place. Then it’s time to open up the fridge and get rid of the contents. If you have a place to store items in a friend’s refrigerator, great. If not, you’ll have to give away the food or get rid of it.

Pro Tip: Plan several weeks in advance to use up the food in your fridge and freezer. Plan your menu around your remaining items so you can waste as little as possible. Eat out when you run out of food.

Once the fridge is empty, unplug it and open it up. Now’s the time to roll up your sleeves and start scrubbing. Remove all the shelves and drawers that will come out and scrub them down with soap and water, using baking soda as a mild abrasive to scour away any stuck-on grime. Rinse and allow to dry thoroughly.

Next, use a soapy sponge to clean the interior walls of the refrigerator and a damp cloth to rinse it. You may need to buff it dry, or you can let it dry out on its own overnight.

Repeat the cleaning for the freezer as well. Allow the whole appliance to thoroughly defrost and wipe it dry before continuing.

3. Pack up the Accessories

hand cutting Air Bubble Wrap by scissors for Packaging product

Instead of replacing the shelves and drawers, wrap them in paper or bubble wrap for protection and pack them for the move. Glass shelves should be handled with special care, but plastic can also be brittle. You may wish to bundle shelves together and wrap them in blankets for additional padding.

If crisper drawers don’t come out easily or seem too unwieldy to carry separately, you can use a small piece of tape to hold them closed during the move — just be sure to use painter’s tape that won’t make a mark or leave behind sticky residue.

4. Secure the Door and Cord

Scotch tape dispenser

You definitely don’t want your refrigerator or freezer doors to fall open during the move, so use your rope, moving straps or packing tape to wrap around the whole body of the appliance and hold them closed.

Pro Tip: Packing tape can harm the finish of your appliances, so apply it sticky side up. You’ll need a friend to hold the end while you wrap the tape around for the first time. When you get to the starting point, be sure to layer the tape over the end so it holds itself in place. You can cover the exposed sticky tape with strips of newspaper to keep it from sticking to other items in transit.

Wrap the power cord with a zip tie and secure it to the side of the fridge with tape so you don’t trip on it or get it caught during the move.

5. Protect the Fridge

Traditional white and black appliances don’t have fragile finishes, but stainless steel, colored enamel and black stainless can be scratched. Protect your investment by wrapping it with a blanket covering, or at least cover the front doors with newspaper or craft paper. Don’t forget the door handles, which can easily be wrapped in paper as well.

6. Lift It Up, Move It Out

Metal Hand Truck with Refrigerator isolated on white background

Now for the hard part. Get a friend or two to help you slide the fridge away from the wall and toward the dolly. Slide the flat base of the moving dolly under the fridge. Tip the dolly toward you to lift the fridge up while your friends stand on either side to keep it centered as you move and to be your eyes if you can’t see straight ahead. Once you’ve tipped the dolly, you’ll be able to roll it forward. It can be a little hard to start, but it gets better as you build momentum.

The hardest part will be getting down any steps or up the ramp into the moving truck. This is where your friends — the spotters — are crucial. Go slowly and stabilize the appliance as you go to keep it in place.

When you have it in the truck, make sure there’s room for it to stay upright for the trip. It’s best to put it in the back corner of the cargo van where you can tie it in place with additional rope or straps.

Packing It In? Answers to Your All Appliance Questions

Still have questions? We have the answers!

Can You Transport a Fridge on Its Side?

It’s best to keep your refrigerator in an upright position for the entire move, no matter what its size. This is because putting a fridge down on its side can cause damage to the refrigerator compressor and keep it from doing its job. The compressor is filled with oil that is held in place by gravity. If you place the fridge on its side, the oil can flow into the cooling lines and clog them, which will mean a call for appliance repair at best and a trip to buy a new refrigerator at worst. The damage chance is greater for an older model that may have sludge in the oil that makes it even more likely to clog.

How Can I Transport My Refrigerator in a Pickup Truck?

If you don’t think it’s safe to keep your refrigerator upright in the bed of your pickup, you may be able to place it on its side for a short trip. If you must have the fridge sit on its side, make sure that you return it to a vertical position for at least 24 hours before you plug it back in. This should allow plenty of time for the oil to drain back down where it belongs before you attempt to use it.

Can I Place My Refrigerator on Its Back?

Beer Temperature | AB-1200B

No. This has significant potential to harm your fridge, since the compressor coils are not designed to support any weight. Even compact models are too heavy for the delicate refrigeration unit and ruin your appliance for good. If you can’t keep it upright, place the appliance on its side with the hinges at the top so the door doesn’t fall open against your tape or rope. For side-by-side refrigerator freezer models, put the freezer side down so the heavier door will be more likely to stay shut.

Moving your refrigerator — whether it’s a standard size or a compact beverage cooler — doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what to do. Just be sure to clean it well, secure the doors and protect the finish, and lift heavy models carefully with a moving dolly or hand truck. Transport your fridge in an upright position whenever possible to protect the cooling lines and compressor system, and you’ll be able to enjoy a cold, refreshing drink in your new place in no time.


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