Troubleshooting A Mini Fridge That’s Freezing Everything

A mini fridge is great for an office, apartment, dorm, or any small space where you don’t need a full-sized fridge. But if yours keeps freezing everything solid, you’ll need to get it fixed quickly. A small investment in a repair now can save you lots of money on ruined foods and drinks later on. 

If your mini fridge is freezing everything it’s most likely due to a bad seal, like a damaged or dirty door gasket causing the door to not shut properly. Adjusting your temperature settings could also possibly fix the problem. Dirty coils can cause malfunctions that could also be causing your issue. 

This article will take you through some of the most common reasons for your mini fridge going on the fritz and share some troubleshooting tips to help you fix the problem. In some cases, simply changing your use habits can correct the issues you’re experiencing. 

Best Place to Keep Your Mini Fridge for Best Use

Where to place your mini fridge is a big decision. You want it to be easily accessible and convenient, but you also want it to operate properly and avoid potential issues. 

Mini fridges are versatile, so you can put them pretty much anywhere you’d like, from your garage to right next to your bed. Still, there are some simple guidelines you should follow to ensure your fridge keeps working properly. 

  • DON’T put your mini fridge in direct sunlight (like right next to a window) or other heat sources. Doing so will keep the unit too warm and force it to work harder to maintain cold temperatures. 
  • DON’T put it in a small closet or other enclosed location – it needs good air circulation. 
  • DO put it on a flat, level surface.
  • DO ensure it has at least several inches of clearance on all sides – not flush agains’t the wall (especially the back).

Why Your Mini Fridge is Freezing Everything?

Check the Temperature Settings

If your mini fridge is freezing everything you put inside, the first thing to check is the temperature settings. While this may seem obvious, it’s the most common cause of problems with these small units. 

Unlike full-sized refrigerators, a mini fridge normally uses a small dial inside to set the temperature. It’s typically a scale of 1 to 5, though yours may have more numbers depending on your specific model. 

Make sure the temperature isn’t set to “freeze.” Depending on your model, 1 may be the coldest setting or 5 may be the coldest setting. Try adjusting your settings to a number in the middle to see if it resolves your issue. 

How Do Mini Fridge Temperatures Work? 

Mini fridges normally have single-digit temperature settings. They may be 1-5 or 1-7 depending on the manufacturer. In some cases, there may be a “0” or defrost setting. 

In most cases, the lowest number is the coldest temperature setting. So, if your temperature dial goes from 1-5, 1 would be the coldest setting and 5 would be the warmest setting. 

For normal everyday use, you should set your temperature control to a low-middle number. For a 1-5 dial, keeping the setting on 3 should be sufficient for most people. However, if you’re having ice buildup and freezing, try moving it to 4 to see what happens. 

If your dial is 1-7, keeping the setting on 3 or 4 should be good for keeping your food and drinks cold. If you’re not sure which way is colder and which is warmer, try turning it all the way to 1 and see if you hear the fridge turn on. If so, there’s a good chance that 1 is the coldest setting. 

What to Do if Your Mini Fridge is Freezing Food on the Lowest Setting Still

If you have your mini fridge turned all the way down and it’s still freezing your items, you may want to first double check that you actually have it set on the warmest setting rather than the coldest. One way to know for sure is to get a small thermometer to go inside the fridge, then you’ll be able to see the temperature going up or down. 

You may also need to move your food to a different spot in the fridge, especially if yours has a freezer compartment. The shelf directly above or below the freezer compartment is typically the coldest spot in the fridge. Try moving your foods to a different shelf to see if that resolves the issue. 

Similarly, having your items pushed too far against the back can also cause them to freeze. Make sure you have your items spaced out in your fridge so there’s enough room for airflow. 

What you put into the fridge can impact whether the items freeze. If you’re putting things into the mini fridge while they’re hot or if there’s too much moisture, that could be causing icing and freezing. So, let’s talk about that in more detail. 

Make Sure the Food You Put in the Fridge Isn’t Too Hot or Wet 

It’s best to let hot foods cool down before putting them into your mini fridge. Hot foods produce steam, which creates moisture when it gets into the cold fridge. Steam that turns into water vapors create condensation on the walls, shelves, or outside of packages that can freeze. 

Putting wet items into the mini fridge can cause the same problem. For example, rinsing off fresh fruit and sticking it into the fridge while it’s still dripping leaves water that will turn to ice if the temperature is cold enough. 

Letting your hot foods cool down and making sure items are dry before you put them into the fridge will reduce ice buildup and freezing. 

Keep the Door Closed, Don’t Open it As Often

Another way moisture can get into your mini fridge is through the door. Not only does warm, moist air get inside the unit, but you also let the cold air out every time you open the door. 

If you live in a humid environment, opening the door too frequently causes even more problems. More moisture in the air means more moisture going into the fridge, which creates a big opportunity for ice and frost buildup. 

Avoid opening the door more often than you need to, and try not to keep the door open for too long. Just grab what you need and close the door to keep everything inside nice and cold. 

Loose Door Gasket? 

Even if you do a good job of not opening the mini fridge door too much, you still may be unknowingly dealing with a problem. Around the door there’s a rubber seal which helps keep all the cold air trapped inside your mini fridge. This is the door gasket. 

If the door gasket comes loose, gets damaged, or has too much buildup on it, the door won’t be able to make an airtight seal when it’s closed. In that case, you’ll have air and moisture getting into the fridge and cold air escaping even when the door is closed. 

Sometimes, the gasket can just become overly-compressed with use over time. In that case, the gasket will look kind of smashed or flattened out, and you may need to replace it to resolve the issue. 

Luckily, replacing a door gasket is fairly simple and something you can probably do yourself. You can get a replacement door gasket from any online appliance parts retailer like Amazon, Appliance Parts Pros, or Part Select

A new door gasket should cost between $18 and $45 depending on your exact model. 

You can pry the old gasket off with a flathead screwdriver and install a new one by stretching it around the door. You may need to use a hair dryer to warm up the new gasket first and make it more pliable. 

See if the new door gasket fixes your temperature problem first, but if not, you can move on to more complex troubleshooting steps. 

Possible Thermostat or Thermistor Problem? 

If you’ve checked your settings and door seal and your mini fridge is still freezing everything, there could be an issue with the thermostat or thermistor. The thermostat is what monitors the temperature inside your mini fridge so the unit knows when it needs to cool down or stop cooling. 

Remember, before doing any work on your mini fridge, be sure it’s unplugged. To check the thermostat, start by removing the screws or clips holding the control panel cover or box in place. This may be on the “ceiling” part of your mini fridge, on the side, or it may be on the back panel.

Locate the wires coming from the thermostat; they may be blue and red. Use a multimeter to test the wires coming from the thermostat with the dial turned to “0” or “off.” 

Turn the dial slowly until it’s at the coldest setting. If the multimeter display shows “0.000” when the dial is set to “off,” or if it shows “O.L.” when the dial is set to the coldest setting, it means the thermostat needs to be replaced. 

You can shop for a replacement thermostat and other parts here. A new mini fridge thermostat typically costs between $10 and $25, and you can change it yourself. Check out this Youtube video to see how it’s done. 

Possible Refrigerant Leak? 

A refrigerant leak probably isn’t your problem if you’re dealing with your mini fridge freezing everything, but if it’s not keeping things cooled properly, this could be the issue. 

If your mini fridge is leaking refrigerant that’s something you’ll want to get fixed right away. If you can’t repair it, be sure to unplug the refrigerator and move it outside or to a well-ventilated area in the mean time. Breathing freon gas in large quantities can make you sick over time. 

Signs that you may be dealing with a refrigerant leak include: 

  • Food items feel warm
  • Fridge is always running 
  • Unusual smell (musty, ammonia odor)
  • Unexplained health problems (nausea, headaches, fainting)

Leaking refrigerant is normally due to physical damage or a puncture. To find the leak, do a close visual inspection of the lines. You can also spray some soapy water onto the area and look for bubbles. This will show you exactly where the gas is leaking from. 

If you find the leak, you can seal it with silicone to stop it from progressing. But you’ll still need to have someone come out and vacuum the lines and replace your freon. 

In many cases, it may be better to just replace your mini fridge rather than paying for these kinds of repairs. 

Compressor Issue? 

If your mini fridge has a faulty compressor, the unit won’t function properly. This is something that can cause freezing problems because the compressor will continuously run refrigerant through the coils, keeping the cold air flowing through the unit all the time. 

If you hear your mini fridge running nonstop, it could be a faulty compressor. 

Replacing a compressor can be a difficult task and not one you should do yourself unless you have experience working on appliances. That’s because it will involve dealing with the refrigerant inside the unit, which you need specialized tools and equipment to do.

With a mini fridge, it might be more cost effective to replace the unit rather than pay a service technician to do this work for you. 

However, there’s also a chance that the problem is not the entire compressor but just the compressor relay, which we’ll discuss next. 

Check the Start Relay

The start relay is a component that tells the mini fridge when the compressor needs to come on and run. It also tells the compressor when to shut off. So, if your compressor is running nonstop and freezing everything inside your mini fridge, the start relay could be the culprit. 

You can check whether the start relay is functioning properly by testing it with a multimeter. The start relay is normally attached to the compressor itself, but its exact location will vary depending on the manufacturer. 

If you find that the start relay is faulty, you’ll have to replace it. This is a job you may be able to do yourself if you feel comfortable and have some skill with appliances, or you may want to leave it to a professional.  

A replacement start relay is pretty inexpensive. You can find one online for as little as $6 to $10, but the exact part you need may vary depending on the manufacturer. 

Make Sure to Clean the Evaporator Coils Correctly 

With most mini fridges, the coils are located on the back of the unit. That’s why it’s so important to give your mini fridge enough space from the wall. To clean the coils, you’ll need to pull the mini fridge out so you can get to the back side. 

If the coils aren’t on the back, they may be underneath behind a vent or grate. In either case, you’ll need to access the coils to be able to clean them properly. 

First, do a visual inspection to see how much debris is built up. Then you can determine whether you need a soft cloth, brush, or vacuum to remove it. With whatever cleaning tool you choose, carefully remove all the dust, pet hair, and other debris builtup on the coils. This will help your mini fridge run better and last longer. 

You should clean your coils at least once per year, but you may need to do it more often if you have pets or a lot of dust in your home. 

Proper Storage of Food Can Reduce Freezing Items

How you place your food inside the mini fridge can impact whether it freezes up or not. Overcrowding items in once area can impede airflow and cause freezing, especially if you put them too close to the vent or freezer compartment. 

Spread items out evenly on the shelves and take care not to block any of the vents. Always cool down hot foods and only put dry items in the fridge to reduce ice and frost buildup. Remember, your fridge needs “stuff” inside of it to maintain the proper temperature. An empty fridge can cause problems just like one that’s overfilled. 

Also, if you’re going away and won’t be using your mini fridge for a while (like weeks or months), you should clean it out and unplug it so it can defrost while you’re gone. 

Proper Fridge (Mini Fridge) Maintenance

Taking care of your mini fridge and performing simple routine maintenance will keep it in good working order for years to come. As with any other appliance, cleaning and care will ensure your mini fridge lasts longer and keeps your foods cold without freezing them. 

  • Keep it Clean: Clean all parts of your mini fridge regularly including the shelves, walls, bottom, and exterior. Remove spoiled food items and clean up spills as soon as you find them. Take special care to wipe the door seals and gaskets. 
  • Check for Clogged or Blocked Vents: Do a visual inspection of the inside and outside of your mini fridge. Any grates or vents should be clear of dust, debris, or other blockages. If air can’t flow properly throughout the unit your mini fridge will be working too hard. 
  • Check for a Thermostat: When you set up your mini fridge, set it at a medium temperature setting to see how it does before you make adjustments. Use a fridge thermometer so you’ll know the actual temperature inside the unit. Don’t set the temperature too high or too low to keep the fridge from running more than it needs to.
  • Defrost Periodically: If you experience a lot of ice buildup or want to do a deep clean on your mini fridge, unplug it and prop the door open for at least 24 hours. Lay a towel at the base to catch the moisture. 

Do Mini Fridges Stay Cold? 

Mini fridges can do a great job of keeping food and drinks cold just like a full-sized refrigerator. Still, not all mini fridges are created equally. That means some may be better than others, especially when it comes to keeping food items cold enough to be “food safe.” 

Most newer models have thermostats with a display to show you what the temperature is inside. However, not all units have this feature. So the only way to know for sure if your fridge is cold enough is to use a refrigerator thermometer. 

To keep food items cold enough to be considered safe, the ambient temperature needs to be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. If the mini fridge has a true freezer compartment, it should be set at zero degrees.

However, the kinds of mini fridges you find in many hotel rooms may not be cold enough to keep your leftovers “food safe.” In most cases, those mini fridges are actually designed to serve as beverage coolers rather than true refrigerators.

Still, if you purchase a mini fridge for your dorm, apartment, office, or home, you should rest assured that it is fully capable of reaching low temperatures that will keep your items cold. Most modern mini-fridges can be set at zero degrees – or lower – and will stay cold indefinitely once they reach the temperature setting. 

How Do I Make My Mini Fridge Colder? 

If you have your mini fridge set at the lowest setting and it’s still not as cold as you would like, there are some things you can do to improve the unit’s performance.

In addition to ensuring the fridge is clean and the coils are free of dust and debris, here are some other tips for keeping your mini fridge as cold as possible: 

  • Clean up spills: As soon as something spills in your mini fridge, take the time to clean it up. Liquids and other debris sitting in the fridge can harbor bacteria and it can also impact the temperature inside the unit. Liquid increases the humidity inside your fridge, which can affect how well the appliance can keep things cold. 
  • Place it in a cool area: The external environment can impact how cold your mini fridge gets on the inside. It’s best to place the fridge in a cool area where it won’t have to work extra hard to cool down. For example, don’t place it in front of a sunny window or in a hot closet. Not only does it affect the temperature, but it could potentially pose a hazard if the fridge doesn’t have enough ventilation.  
  • Don’t overfill: Jamming your mini fridge with too many food and drink items can make it hard for cold air to circulate. A mini fridge has limited space, so you may not be able to keep everything in there that you’d like to. However, it’s important to leave enough room for cold air to move throughout the unit. If yours is filled to the brim, you may want to look into buying a slightly larger mini fridge. 
  • Get rid of excess liquid: Anything wet inside your mini fridge can cause problems for the cooling system. Refrigerators do best with dry air inside the appliance, and excess liquids can add too much moisture to the air and make it harder to regulate the temperature. Moist air can also lead to ice buildup, which can impact your fridge’s ability to cool properly. 

How Long Do Mini Fridges Last? 

If you take proper care of it, your mini fridge can last just about as long as a standard refrigerator. That means it should continue to work for about 10 years. However, some will have problems sooner than others. 

The exact life span will depend on the make and model you have, how you use it, and how well you take care of it. It’s possible to have a mini fridge for 15+ years in some cases, while other people may need to get a new one after 5 or 6 years. 

Conclusion 

A mini fridge is a great thing to have if you don’t have space for a large, full-sized refrigerator. However, these small appliances can still have problems, especially if they aren’t used correctly.

You can avoid a lot of issues by placing your mini fridge in cool location and loading it properly.

Keep the unit clean and minimize how often you open the door for best results. It’s also a good idea to invest in a refrigerator thermometer so you know the temperature inside your fridge at any given time.