Why Do You Have To Wait To Put Food in a New Refrigerator?

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Installing a brand new refrigerator is super-exciting – it’s so beautiful and clean and wonderful! The urge to start arranging the shelves and organizing your food can be hard to resist. Why should you wait? 

You have to wait to put food in a new refrigerator because it needs to cool down completely and to make sure it works. The fridge needs to stand up straight for 24 hours before plugging in to prevent damage to its cooling system if it has been lying on its side or back. 

If you’ve bought a new refrigerator, it’s important to follow a few simple steps before plugging it in. I’ll cover those steps here and explain why each matter. 

How Long To Wait Before Turning on a New Refrigerator?

You can turn on a new refrigerator if it has been standing upright during transport and installation. Plug it in immediately so it can begin cooling. If a refrigerator lays on its back or side for any amount of time, let it stand upright for that same amount of time before plugging it in. 

For example, if the refrigerator traveled in a truck on its side for two hours, do not turn it on until after it’s had at least two hours of standing upright. If you’re not sure, let it stand unplugged for 24 hours. 

It’s Best To Keep a Refrigerator Upright As Much as Possible

Some refrigerators, like those with french doors or the freezer on the bottom, should never be placed on the back or sides. They can be tilted to pass through doorways or around corners if needed. 

Other styles, like side-by-side or freezer on-top styles, can be safely set on the side. If you just need to clean or make an adjustment quickly, a few minutes of upright standing before plugging it in should be fine. 

If set on its side for an extended amount of time, the compressor’s oil will run into the cooling lines, which can cause clogs or break the compressor if plugged in too soon. The oil needs time to flow back into the compressor where it belongs. 

The other components of the cooling system are designed to remain upright and may be easily damaged as well. 

How Long To Wait Before Putting Food in a New Refrigerator?

You must wait at least 2 hours before putting food in a new refrigerator. It needs to cool down completely before placing any food in it, which can take up to 24 hours. The manual will give the ideal temperature. Use a thermometer to check if your refrigerator is cold enough to add your food. 

After you’re sure your refrigerator is ready to turn on, plug it in. It will begin cooling from room temperature to its preset temperature. The cooling system works at a constant pace, so turning the temperature setting down will not force it to cool faster. It will just take longer to reach the desired temperature. 

The ideal temperature for a refrigerator is 40°F (4.4°C) or less. The ideal temperature for a freezer is 0°F (-17.8°C). 

Why You Should Wait To Use Your New Fridge

Your fridge will work harder if you put food in it during the initial cool down, and the compressor works harder. The compressor is the pump that circulates the coolant in the cooling lines. It’s easiest to cool empty air in the refrigerator. 

Adding food too early means the compressor has to chill both the air and the food, so it takes longer to reach the low-temperature setting. Bacteria will also start growing because even if the food is already chilled, putting it into a warm refrigerator warms it up. 

Then it needs to be cooled down again. 

Bacteria occur naturally in food and need warmth to grow. If food begins to warm up while the refrigerator is trying to cool down, the chance for bacterial growth and food spoilage goes up. Your chance to get food poisoning from eating bad food also goes up. 

If you wait until a refrigerator completely cools down before adding food, chilling begins immediately, and bacteria have less chance to grow. 

Things To Do Before Putting Food in a New Refrigerator?

Before putting food in a new refrigerator, you’ll want to clean it before plugging it in. Consider how to arrange your shelves so that you can fit all of your food and beverages neatly. Also, make sure you hook up the waterline and install any accessories. 

Clean the Refrigerator

A brand new refrigerator, no matter how securely packaged, needs a thorough, sanitizing clean. Do a total clean before plugging the new fridge in so it isn’t wasting energy cooling the entire room. 

You can opt for chemical cleaners, but baking soda and vinegar will naturally clean, sanitize, and deodorize your fridge. 

To make a vinegar wash: 

  1. Mix 1 cup (0.24 L) of white vinegar and 1 cup (0.24 L) of water in a spray bottle. 
  2. Spray on and wipe off to clean. Other kinds of vinegar have color and may stain the white surfaces inside a refrigerator. But they kill bacteria and viruses too. 

To make a baking soda wash: 

  1. Mix ½ cup (0.12 L) of baking soda with 4 cups (0.95 L) of warm water in a spray bottle. 
  2. Spray surfaces and wipe them down. Or, spray surfaces with vinegar solution and sprinkle baking soda on top before wiping away with a damp rag. 

To clean a refrigerator, follow these steps: 

  1. Wipe down the outside. Start at the top and work down on the front and sides. Don’t forget to do the doors’ top, bottom, and side edges. Also, get into the cracks of the door seals.
  2. Remove the shelves and drawers. Spray them down and rinse well in warm water. Set aside to dry completely.
  3. Wipe down the inside of the fridge. Start with the top and then do the sides and back. Clean the bottom last. Don’t forget the outer edge where the door seal presses closed. 
  4. Wipe down the inside of the door. Clean all of the built-in shelves and the butter and egg keeper covers. 
  5. Dry everything thoroughly with a dry cloth. 

Organize the Shelves and Drawers

A little bit of planning can make your new refrigerator easy to use and prevent food waste and cross-contamination. 

One strategy that works well is to put ready-to-eat foods on the upper shelves and food that needs to be cooked into meals on the lower shelves. Your crisper drawers are designed to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer, so plan which drawer will hold these items. 

Make sure raw meat juice can’t leak onto other foods. 

Keep meat in the bottom of the fridge, or capture the juices. Do you want to keep it in another drawer? Or, would you prefer food storage containers to hold on a shelf instead? 

If you’re a meal prepper or buy beverages in tall bottles, it’s a good idea to position at least one of your shelves with lots of overhead space. For the other shelves, buy snap-on storage that uses the open space underneath to minimize wasted space. 

The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator, so be sure to keep less-perishable items like condiments on these shelves. Milk, eggs, and other perishables do better in the colder areas of the fridge. 

Assemble and Install Any Accessories

Your new refrigerator may come with additional accessories like an egg keeper. Be sure to clean these items thoroughly and install them in the fridge. Then hook up the water line to the ice maker. 

Remember to throw out the first three batches of ice. This way, you can be sure your ice comes from fresh, clean water. 

For a more organized and efficient fridge, check out these nifty accessories sold by Amazon.com: 

  • MayNest Refrigerator Liners: These liners are helpful if you want clean shelves and drawers. You can cut them to any size, and they’re washable, non-toxic, and non-slip.
  • NonScents Refrigerator Deodorizer: Say goodbye to nasty odors or stale fridge smell seeping into your food and drinks. Just stand one of these little gadgets inside your fridge and enjoy the freshness for up to 6 months.