How to Fix a Refrigerator Door Seal
Refrigerator door seals, also called gaskets, can be one of the easiest repairs available. Order the correct replacement and easily install it.
Condensation or mold on the gasket of your refrigerator door means it's time for a new door seal -- an exceptionally easy repair. If you want to confirm the need for a door seal, try the dollar bill test. Close the door with a dollar in the hinge side of the door and try to pull the bill out. If it falls out, it's definitely time for a new gasket. If it drags or resists, you're OK.
To clean and maintain the seal, mix white vinegar and water 50-50 in a spray bottle, and add fresh juice from a lemon or lime. Gently turn the bottle to mix the ingredients. Open the refrigerator door, spray the surfaces of the seal and wipe them dry with a clean rag.
Study the Seal
You can take a quick look at your existing seal -- or seals; don't forget to do the freezer door as well if you have a side-by-side model. Gently tug up on the inside flange of the seal to see how it's kept in place -- it will likely be one of three common designs:
- You may see an incredibly simple arrangement such as the seal having an integrated center ridge that slips into a groove on the doorframe.
- A similarly straightforward design may entail a retaining lip that fits behind the door liner.
- On older models, you may have to remove trim or slightly loosen the screws on a retaining strip to pull away the old seal, or fit the clips on the retaining strip into slots on the door.
Even if your original door seal was entirely made of rubber, the replacement may have an added magnetic strip, which allows it to more snugly assume the correct shape.
Order and Replace
Hold off on actually removing the seal until you have ordered and received delivery of the correct replacement for your model. You can find the model label often on the edge of the door. After it arrives, lay out the new seal for 24 hours to allow it to assume the needed, roughly rectangular shape.
Unplug the refrigerator so that it doesn't try to cool with the door either open or removed during this process.
Lay the new gasket out in the sun or place it in a bowl of warm water to remove any wrinkles. Alternatively, put it in your clothes dryer for 10 minutes on the "Medium" setting, or set a hairdryer on "Low" and warm the gasket with it. Then arrange the new gasket in place over the old gasket to confirm you have the correct size for your model. Set the new gasket aside.
Peel back the inside edge of the old gasket at a midpoint on a long side of the door. Snip the gasket with a wire cutter or snips right up to the door liner. Pull out the gasket just enough to reveal the inner, embedded portion and cut through this final section. Tug on the gasket to remove it, taking care to pull it straight toward you so the inner and outer portions of the gasket stay in one piece. Work your way around the door.
If you have a gasket with a retaining lip, tape a putty knife at the 3/4-inch mark and insert it only as deep as the tape edge between the inner and outer door. Work the putty knife around the door to remove any pieces of foam that might block the new gasket.
Lay the new gasket on the door. Starting at one of the top corners of the door, press the edge of the new gasket in place, under the door liner, into a groove or under a retaining strip, for about 6 inches in each direction, and then work similarly on the opposite corner if you have placed the door horizontally on a work surface. Work next on the remaining two corners. If the new liner has a magnetic strip, press it in place with a blunt tool, such as a nut driver. If you are working on the refrigerator door in place, work on the top two corners and then down to the bottom corners.
Push or apply the rest of the gasket in place once you have the corners set.
Close the door and check the gasket. Set a hairdryer on "Low" and run it over the gasket to remove any gaps.
For best results, especially on large doors, remove the door from its hinges and set it on a work surface. This enables you to carefully apply the new gasket so that the sides don't droop from the weight of the bottom edge of the gasket.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.