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Refrigerators

What to do when your refrigerator door won't stay closed

Keep the cold in with these remedies.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You open your refrigerator or freezer door to grab something, close the door and come back later to see there's a gap. The door didn't fully close and now your food isn't as cold as it should be.

It's a frustrating situation, but one that's not hard to fix. Here's what to do when your refrigerator's doors won't close.

Common reasons the door won't stay closed

You've already checked that something in your fridge isn't pushing against the door, but the door still won't stay shut. There are few common (and easy to fix) reasons it happens.

  • There's too much weight in the door. Remove any heavy items, like gallons of milk or juice, to reduce the weight.
  • The fridge isn't level. If the front of the refrigerator is tilted forward, the doors won't stay closed. Use a level to check the fridge and then adjust the the feet.
  • The hinges are out of alignment. Years of use can strain your fridge's hinges, pulling them down. Tighten and adjust the hinges with a screwdriver.

If none of these are the culprit, it's time to inspect your refrigerator's door seal.

Check the seal

The seal around your refrigerator or freezer door -- also called a gasket -- does exactly what the name implies. It seals in the cold air so foods stay fresh. A malfunctioning seal will prevent the unit from maintaining safe temperatures, not to mention raise your electricity bill as the appliance works harder to stay cold.

Your seals isn't a fancy contraption. It's basically a strip of rubber that fits tightly into a groove around the door's edge. Sometimes, the gasket wiggles loose from the grove and just needs to be pushed back in.

Take your hand and run it along the edges of the door while it is closed. When you feel a little gust of cold air, you've found the loose area. Using a cotton swab, push some petroleum jelly into the groove underneath the loose rubber. This will make it easier to push the rubber back into place and will help seal any leaks. Then, just push the seal back into the channel. 

Clean the gasket

Sometimes when a door won't close or seems to pop open on its own, the problem is a dirty seal. In a bowl, mix warm water with a drop of dish washing liquid. Dip an old toothbrush into the mixture and use it to scrub the gasket. Be sure to get the grime on every side of the seal. Then, wipe down the gasket with a damp towel.

To prevent grime on the seal from ever being a problem again, be sure to wipe it down once a week.

Read more: Here's how often you should clean your fridge.

Replace the old seal with a new one

Often times, you just need to start fresh with a new seal. Every 12 months or so, check to see if your refrigerator gaskets are in good condition. One way to tell if a seal is bad is the paper test. Put a piece of paper between the door and the fridge, close the door and then pull. If the paper slips out easily, it's time to replace the gaskets because it isn't sealing.

testing-gaskets.jpg

Test the gasket with a piece of paper.

Alina Bradford / CNET

The seal is also beyond help if it's:

  • Cracked
  • Torn
  • Bent or warped at the corners
  • Hard instead of pliable

Ordering a new gasket is simple. First, you need to know what brand and model of appliance you have. If you don't know, take a look at the back. There's usually a plaque or sticker with the model number and other information.

Next, go to the manufacturer's parts website, enter your unit's information and the seal you need should come right up. You can also go to your local appliance repair shop and they can order a replacement part for you. 

Once you have the new seal, take it out of the packaging, put in in a sink or tub and let it soak in warm water while you remove the old gasket. This will make it more pliable for the install and will straighten any bends created by shipping.

Now there's no one way to replace a gasket. Be sure to check your owner's manual (usually available on your fridge manufacturer's website) to make sure there aren't any extra steps. Some higher end appliances have buttons, snaps, or extra grooves. I'm going to give you the step-by-step process of changing out a more common type of gasket. 

To remove the old seal, start at the top. Grab the edge that's on the inner side of the door and pull it upwards. You should see a retaining plate that is attached with hex screws under the gasket. Use a screwdriver to loosen the screws around the seal. Then, the gasket should pull right off.

seal

Pull the seal up from the inside.

Alina Bradford/CNET

If you don't see any screws, don't panic. Just pull on the seal until it pops out of the grooves.

Putting on the new seal is exactly the same, but in the opposite order. Stick the longer lip of the seal behind the retainer or into the top groove, starting with the corners. Once you have the lip in all the way around the door, tighten the screws and pull the seal over them. 

If there aren't any screws, chances are there is a second groove in the front and your seal will have a smaller lip that will wedge into it.

Give the door a try. If it closes and you don't feel any drafts, you were successful. If you feel a draft, make sure the lip is behind the retailer wall. You may need to re-loosen the nearby screws and try placing the lip back in. If there are still gaps or warping, warm the seal with a blow dryer. This should mold it into place.

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Read more: Here are 3 common refrigerator problems you can easily fix yourself.

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