What To Do If Your Fridge is Left Open Overnight?

Refrigerators are very important appliances in every household kitchen as they are used to preserve fresh items for a long period of time.

If you find that your fridge was accidentally left open for a while, you might be worried about the food, but don’t panic right away.

Hopefully your fridge has a sensor that beeps if the door is left open, but if you don’t hear it go off or you are not home to close it, the door may have been open for a long period of time.

It happens on occasion and does not mean that all of your food is completely inedible now.

If your fridge door was left ajar for several hours or even all night long, how do you know whether or not your food is still safe to consume?

As long as the refrigerator is still working, most food products will be safe to eat even if the fridge was left open for a while. This is because the fridge is still working to keep the inside temperature regulated even as the cool air is escaping. Check the temperature of your fridge. If the temperature is above 40F your food may be spoiled, but if it is below 40F then your food is still safe to eat.

According to Gomathi, the refrigerator ranks second in the overall power consumption (13.7%) of common household appliances.

A fridge functions by using a thermally insulated compartment and a heat pump, which transfers the heat from the body of the fridge to its external environment.

This way the body of the fridge is cooled to a temperature below the temperature of the room.

A refrigerator maintains a temperature a few degrees above the freezing point of water.

The optimal temperature range for food storage is 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 3 to 5 degrees Celsius, according to Gomathi.

The risk with leaving your fridge door open for an extended period of time is that the food inside may become warm and it could spoil.

The first thing you need to check if your fridge door was left open is to see if the fridge is still working. 

If the fridge is still working normally and was open for 2 hours or less, you have nothing to worry about. 

What Happens If Your Fridge has Stopped Working

If for some reason your fridge has stopped working in addition to the door being left open overnight, you will need to throw out the perishable food.

This is because the temperature of the fridge will have increased to an unsafe amount and the food temperature would also have increased as a result.

Next you will need to figure out why it has stopped working and immediately transfer any unspoiled food into a different fridge to keep cool until you can get your fridge working again or even get a new one.

Formation of Moisture

If the fridge is accidentally left open for an extended period of time, the cool air from inside the fridge will naturally mix with the warmer air from outside.

Unfortunately, this mixing of air that is two different temperatures will result in moisture formation.

Open Fridge Door

While this won’t affect packaged food much, it may affect anything exposed, such as fruit and veggies.

The moisture in the fridge means that any of your food items inside will become wet. The fridge will keep producing cool air because it senses that the correct temperature has not been reached.

This means that moisture will continue to form until the fridge door is closed and the proper temperature can be reached again.

Fridge Door Was Open for Less Than Two Hours

If by accident someone left the fridge door open and you know it was for less than 2 hours, you can simply close the door and the fridge will eventually return to normal temperature.

Two hours is not enough time for the fridge to heat up enough where any of the food would be spoiled.

However, if the fridge was left open longer or all night long, you will need to check the temperature of the food to see if it is still safe to eat.

Also, different types of foods will spoil sooner than others, so you will need to be aware of what you have in your fridge.

Fridge Door Left Open 7 to 12 hours

Unfortunately, if your fridge is left open for more than 2 hours, the temperature will start to increase as the cool air is released. This means that your food will start to become warmer and at risk for spoiling.

The amount of time you can leave the fridge door open without food spoiling depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • How old the fridge is
  • How much food is in the fridge
  • The type of food that is in the fridge
  • The temperature in your kitchen

Over 4 hours will be more of a risk, so if your fridge is left open for 7 to 12 hours, it will be important to check on the temperature of your fridge.

If your kitchen is very cold such as in winter, the risk will be less.

However, if it is summertime and your kitchen is very hot, the risk will be much greater for food spoilage.

Fridge Left Open 24 Hours or Overnight

If your fridge door was left open for 24 hours or overnight, it will be imperative to check on the food before consuming any of it.

You will need to carefully observe individual food items to see if they are still good to eat.

Open Refrigerator Door

For example, items like bread, cheese, fruits, or vegetables do not spoil right away. But, raw meat or cream-based foods tend to spoil sooner rather than later. 

One way to tell if the food is safe to eat is by touching it. Does it feel cool to the touch? If so, it is likely safe to eat.

However, if the food item feels warm, then it may not be safe to eat. In order to prevent food poisoning, any food that feels warm should be thrown out as it may have spoiled.

You can test the temperature of your fridge by using a thermometer to be sure. If the fridge was open for over 2 hours, check the temperature before consuming any of the food.

If you find that the fridge was at or above 105F for over 2 hours, then it is recommended to not consume the food from inside. 

However, it mainly depends on the type of food you have in your fridge, so you will need to use your best judgment to determine this.

The temperature of the kitchen will also play a role in determining if the food is safe.

If the kitchen is hot then your food will be more likely to spoil, but if it is cold in your kitchen, the risk will be somewhat less.

The ProblemThe Answer
Fridge door open 2 or less hoursFood is safe
Door left open more than 2 hours and temperature above 40FThrow out any perishable food
Door left open 2 to 24 hours and temperature below 40FFood is safe

What to do If your Freezer Was Left Open Overnight?

If by chance your freezer door was left open for a few hours or overnight, it will be very important to check on the food inside.

If everything is still frozen, it is fine to close the door and continue to eat the food as normal.

However, if any of the items have thawed out completely, they will need to be tossed in the trash or transferred to the fridge to keep cool and then eaten soon. 

Depending on what the product is will determine your best course of action. Things that were frozen such as bread products, vegetables, cheese, or fruits will be safe to consume right away.

Alternatively, products like meat may need to be tossed out if they have completely thawed and are no longer cold. 

Final Considerations

Overall, it is important to keep your fridge door closed at all times.

Because fridges use a lot of energy, it is not only a waste of energy to have the fridge door open, but makes it harder for the fridge to keep the food at the appropriate temperature to prevent spoilage.

Furthermore, it could take a few hours or longer for your fridge to return to its normal temperature after the fridge door has been left open for a while.

If for some reason your fridge door is left open for a short time or less than 2 hours, you can rest assured knowing that your food is still safe to eat.

Unfortunately, if your fridge is open for 4 or more hours up to overnight, it may not be safe to eat all of the food in your fridge.

Depending on the temperature of the kitchen, the age of your fridge, and the type of food in your fridge, this will all need to be taken into consideration. 

Carefully check your food products before consuming them and if you are unsure, just throw out any questionable items.

It is better to not risk eating something that has spoiled so you can prevent food poisoning.

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