Depending on how large your family is, and the size of their appetite, your refrigerator door is probably opened and closed at least a dozen times a day. That can be a lot of wear-and-tear, not only on the door hinges but also on the door seal. The refrigerator and freezer door seals, or gaskets as they are commonly referred to, do more than just cushion the doors when they’re being closed; the seals directly affect your refrigerator’s operation and efficiency.
How does a door seal work?
The seal, which is made of rubber, has a thin magnetic strip embedded inside that helps the seal cling to the metal cabinet frame. When the refrigerator or freezer door is fully closed, the seal will prevent warm, moist air from entering the cooling compartments. Without a good seal, the compressor will cycle on too often, reducing the efficiency of the appliance. A poor seal can also cause frost build-up in the freezer, reducing the air flow between the freezer and refrigerator compartments which is necessary to keep the temperature low enough to properly preserve the food. Over time, the magnetism of the embedded strip can weaken or the seal may become torn. When this happens, you should replace the door seal with a new one to help keep your refrigerator operating efficiently.
How to replace a torn or worn refrigerator door seal
- A push-in seal which has a ridge that is secured in a groove or channel around the perimeter of the door.
- A snap-in seal which fits behind the inner door liner and is held by a retaining lip.
- A screw-in seal which is secured between the inner door liner and the outer door panel with screws.
For the first two styles, you can simply pull the old seal out of the channel or away from the inner door liner starting with a corner. If your refrigerator has a screw-in seal, you will need to loosen the screws around the door liner in order to pull the old seal free.
Since it’s not always practical or economical to ship new door seals in a box the size of a refrigerator door, the seals may be folded and placed in small boxes for shipping. This can cause the magnetic strip to twist and kink. Before you install a new seal, you should remove it from the packaging and lay it on a flat sturdy surface for 24 hours to help the seal regain its original form. You can use a hair dryer set on low to help make the seal more pliable or soak it in a bathtub filled with hot water.
- A push-in style seal can be installed by aligning the ridge on the backside of the seal with the channel in the door and pushing the seal into place. Starting at a corner will make the alignment easier. Also, if recommended by the owner’s manual, you may need to apply some vinyl cement to the channel first to fully secure the seal.
- A snap-in style seal can be installed by inserting the inside edge of the seal behind the retaining lip of the inner door panel. Again, starting on a corner will help ensure the seal is properly positioned.
- When installing a screw-in style seal, position the upper half of the seal first and secure by tightening the screws, then position and secure the bottom half. This will prevent the door liner from shifting too much during installation.
Once the seal is fully installed, close the door and check that the seal is seated evenly around the entire door. Be aware that there may still be spots where the seal does not rest flush against the cabinet frame. This is a common occurrence with new door seals. The magnetic strip will eventually pull the seal to the cabinet eliminating any waves or gaps, although it may take two or three days for the magnetic strip to set.
Additional refrigerator door seal tips
- You can use a hair dryer set on low to help remove waves or gaps on an installed door seal.
- Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the seal on the hinge side to help prevent the seal from folding in when the door is closed.
- As part of your regular refrigerator maintenance, be sure to clean off any debris from the door seal to ensure it rests flush against the cabinet frame when the door is closed.
Find the right door seal with Repair Clinic
To find the right door seal that fits your refrigerator, enter the full model number of the appliance in the Repair Clinic search bar, then choose “Gasket & Seal” from the navigation filters on the left side of the page to narrow your search. The website stocks Frigidaire door seals, Whirlpool door seals, Kenmore door seals, Samsung door seals, LG door seals, and more, but you’ll want to make sure you’re purchasing the exact door seal that matches your model.