How To Maintain Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers
Refrigerators and freezers are essential components of any commercial kitchen. They prolong the shelf life and quality of products and keep a larger stock of items in-house, but if not properly maintained can actually cost your business more money than it saves.
In order to maximize your profits (and peace of mind) here are some helpful maintenance tips on how to maintain refrigerators and freezers.
Why you need to look after commercial refrigerators and freezers
Simply put, quality and efficiency.
There are a number of ways in which fridges and freezers can slow down or not operate at peak capacity. That can lead to machines laboring, which in turn can cause the following issues:
- Puts undue stress on various pieces, leading to more frequent (costly) replacements.
- Causes your unit to chew through more electricity, resulting in higher utility bills.
Having the machine not running properly also means a lesser output inside the unit, leading to:
- Quicker degradation and spoilage of food.
- Potential chemical tainting the taste of your ingredients and prepared items.
No matter how you frame it, ignoring your fridge maintenance eventually ruins your products and will cost you far more money than the price of routinely keeping the units in tip-top shape.
What to check on fridges and freezers
First and foremost, before you check, repair and/or clean your refrigeration unit, it is imperative you unplug the machine. This prevents any chance of electrocution or damage from being around an active motor or fan.
Frequency: You should wipe down/disinfect your refrigerator at least once per week, while inspecting the unit for deficiencies and deeper cleaning needs at least once per month and doing a full, thorough examination every three months at a minimum.
Extra focus should be put on:
- Condenser coils and fan blades: Which accumulate dust, grease and other substances which slow them down.
- Gaskets and door seals: Any cracks, leaks or inconsistencies means your unit isn’t maintaining temperature as easy and is using more energy than needed.
- Inner contaminants: Expired/moldy food, spills and excess moisture can lead to freezer burn (which can damage your surfaces) or taint other fresh food products.
- Drain lines and tubing: Can build up garbage, mold and grease — if these clog up, it will again force your fridge or freezer to work harder.
- Ice makers: Ensure the filters and ice-making components are clean and in good condition to guarantee your unit is creating the highest-quality ice for your guests.
- Don’t stuff it: Overcrowding your freezer and fridge can also be counterproductive. Having too much product in the unit can diminish the air circulation and flow, which can lead to the machine not cooling your food as it should — and again leading to more spoilage.
- Hire a professional: Necessary once or twice per year, call on a repair specialist to thoroughly inspect and diagnose any potential pain points with your unit.
Refrigerator and freezer cleaning best practices
- Before doing any walk-in cooler cleaning, it’s best to empty all the contents of the fridge (and place them either in another fridge or a temporary cooler). This makes it easier to sort and reorganize your products, as well as identify and dispose of spoiled food.
- Clean up any food spills or sticky messes (to prevent freezer burn, mold or rust forming).
- Wipe down all surfaces with warm water and soap (or a vinegar-based solution), using softer fabrics (think microfiber cloths, soft sponges or even toothbrushes) and avoiding highly-abrasive chemicals and materials.
- Disinfect all the surfaces with a food-safe sanitizer.
- Clean the condenser, coils and fan by brushing off any dust and dirt, then using a vacuum to remove it from the area.
- Mop the floor under and around your fridge, to prevent mold and bacteria from building up.
- Be sure to dust and wipe down the top of the unit as well.
- Use surface-appropriate (usually for stainless steel) chemicals, or a baking soda-based solution, to wipe down and sanitize the exterior surfaces as well.
Even if you properly maintain a commercial freezer and refrigerator, sometimes parts do break down.
While some basic parts can be sourced online (through a wholesale or the fridge supplier), for critical components it’s best to order through a registered specialist — or if your unit is still under warranty utilize that to replace any parts as needed.
Proper preventative maintenance of your commercial refrigerators and freezers requires routine, diligence and commitment… but it’s not difficult and the result is a far better situation — for your products, your time management and your businesses’ bottom line — than what happens if you neglect to keep your cooling units in the best possible shape.
Written by Jared Hochman