Refrigerator maintenance should be a top priority as you build your restaurant business. Commercial refrigeration maintenance allows you to keep food for longer while saving on overhead and allowing your customers to enjoy the freshest food possible.

If you want to keep your restaurant refrigeration equipment running optimally, you need to rely on proper maintenance.

commercial refrigeration equipment

7 Refrigerator Maintenance Tips for Commercial Refrigeration Equipment

A refrigerator for restaurants needs to be cleaned consistently. Proper handling will always keep your food guarded and reduce your overhead from food waste. 

If you want to keep your commercial refrigeration systems running in tip-top shape, these seven tips will help:

1. Clean the Unit’s Interior and Exterior

Your restaurant’s refrigerators should already be consistently cleaned. You want to conduct a full weekly or biweekly cleaning of your entire refrigeration unit. Create and follow a schedule that includes:

  • Scrubbing down the surface
  • Removing shelves and cleaning them
  • Cleaning exterior view units using a cleaning solution that kills germs and bacteria

You can use soap and water, or a hot water and vinegar solute for the interior of your refrigerator. You want to make sure that you remove all drawers and shelving, and soak them in a cleaning solution of your choosing. Commercial cleaners can be purchased for this purpose.

2. Clean the Condenser Coil Routinely

A major part of refrigerator maintenance includes maintaining some of the many coils that are in your machine. One of the most prominent coils will be your condenser coil. It should be cleaned according to the commercial refrigeration equipment manual you received when buying your unit.

The general rule of thumb is to maintain your coil every three months.

You'll need to disconnect your unit’s power and use a brush that has stiff bristles. The stiff bristles will get inside of the coils to remove any dirt or debris trapped in. 

Degreasing is recommended, but you will want to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure you’re degreasing the unit properly. When your condenser coil is cleaned and maintained, your refrigerator will have an easier time keeping cool.

refrigerator for restaurants

3. Inspect the Evaporator Coil

The next coil on your list that you’ll want to inspect is the evaporator coil. This coil will be near the evaporator fan. What the coil does is absorb the heat so that your refrigerator’s interior stays cool. 

You'll want to shut the unit off and inspect and clean the:

  • Fan
  • Coil
  • Surrounding area

A proper cleaning scheduled into your business’ regular refrigerator cleaning schedule is the best way to ensure that your evaporator coil remains operational and optimal for longer.

4. Clean Drain Pans and Tubes

Sludge and slime may not be a major concern with your residential refrigerator, but it can be a major issue in a commercial setting. The good news is that the accumulation will occur in the drain pans and tubes.

You should add cleaning the drain pan and checking any tubes that may experience accumulation to your maintenance list.

General cleaning guidelines include:

  • Cleaning your pan once per month
  • Using warm water with soap or vinegar to clean
  • Checking tubing every month

You'll also want to be cautious of any calcium that may build up in your hoses. Cleaning will reduce the risk of clogs and will also double as a great time to inspect your refrigeration unit.

5. Inspect Your Air Filters

Air filters will accumulate a lot of buildups because they’re a vital part of your ventilating process. In a commercial kitchen, checking your air filter must be on your refrigeration preventive maintenance checklist.


Your air filter is exposed to:

  • Dust
  • Dirt
  • Grease

If you run a fryer or griddle, the grease will eventually end up in the air filter, greatly impacting your overall ventilation. You'll want to be sure to:

  • Use a shop vacuum to remove dust
  • Use a shop vacuum to remove debris

Degreasing solutions should also be used, following the refrigerator’s manufacturer guidance, to eliminate thick grease buildup. If the grease is allowed to accumulate in high amounts, you can damage the filter and will need to replace it.

While you’re examining your filter, be on the lookout for damage and replace the filter as necessary.

commercial refrigeration systems

6. Inspect Your Gaskets

Your refrigerator’s doors have gaskets that seal in the cold air. When these gaskets crack or split, the sealing of your door will not be tight. Cool air will slowly seep out through these cracks, posing two main risks:

  • Interior air remaining too warm
  • Refrigerator working extra hard

Inspect your gaskets and replace them as needed. If the gaskets still look to be in good working order, you can simply clean them. Cleaning, especially when removing dirt and grease, will extend the lifespan of your gaskets.

Grease and dirt will slowly start to erode your gasket’s usefulness, leading to the gasket splitting and cracking over time.

7. Check for Liquid Accumulation

Inspecting is one of the best ways to begin troubleshooting commercial refrigeration systems. When you conduct a thorough inspection, you’ll be able to find issues that you may otherwise overlook.

You'll want to be cautious of any liquid accumulation that builds up.

Wipe down the liquid and pay attention to the location of the liquid for future inspection. If you find that liquid continues to accumulate, you’ll want to find the source of the moisture build-up and make any repairs necessary.

Drying the water can help reduce slips and falls and reduce any hazards caused by the water.

Check for moisture build-up at least once per week.

If you have a cooler, it’s also smart to not overpack your space. A lot of owners will fill their cooler to the ceiling with inventory and allow for little space inside of the cooler. When you don’t allow for enough space, you’re going to cause:

  • Strain on the motor to keep the interior cool
  • Strain on the condenser and other coils
  • Units to run harder and for longer periods 

When you allow for space in the interior of the cooler, you’re allowing for air to flow more freely and ensuring that you're not overloading the interior of your cooler. While you don’t need to leave an abundance of space, you definitely don’t want to leave too little space and cause your unit to prematurely fail.

Routine maintenance is also an integral part of every maintenance plan. While you can perform most basic maintenance tasks on your own, hiring a professional allows someone with experience to check your unit and service it as necessary.

Servicing may cost money upfront, but you’ll be able to enjoy long-term benefits from being able to confidently keep your refrigerator running for longer.