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How to Move a Refrigerator

Updated on July 16, 2011
Remove the contents and clean the interior.
Remove the contents and clean the interior.

Prepare the Refrigerator for the move.

If the refrigerator is going to be out of service more than a day or two, it is important to have the doors open slightly during storage, this can be achieved by placing a folded towel in the door before strapping it.   This will allow for air circulation and prevent mildew and mold from growing.  Also, if the refrigerator is out of service for long, it would be beneficial to clean the inside with warm soapy water and dry it.   If the refrigerator is out of service for more than a few days, any stains, drips, etc. will turn into mold.   It is much more difficult to clean the mold and mildew out of the refrigerator.

Can I lay a refrigerator down?

The age old question: Can I lay a refrigerator down to move it? The answer is still NO! I think that the reason that this question is asked so often is that it would be way more convenient to move a refrigerator or freezer laying down. I have done it following my own recommendations and have had good results.

Avoid laying a refrigerator down, the older the refrigerator, the worse it is to lay it down.

The refrigerator compressor uses oil to lubricate the pump. This pump runs at very high temperatures. The oil gains impurities as the compressor ages. It is this oil and impurities that can travel through the refrigerator tubes and clog the refrigerant paths making it impossible for the refrigerator to cool.

Okay, I know that sometimes you cannot avoid laying a refrigerator down. If it is impossible to move the refrigerator standing up, try to prop the top of the refrigerator up so that the top is a foot or so higher than the bottom, minimizing oil migration. Stand the refrigerator up as soon as possible, allow at least 24 hours before operating so that the oil has a chance to drain back into the compressor.

Another problem with laying a refrigerator down is that the compressor quite often is on a suspension system. Laying it down can compromise the suspension on the compressor disconnecting the springs or rocking the compressor possibly damaging the connections.

The risk involved in moving a refrigerator or freezer laying down is that it will no longer function.

Turn Refrigerator Cold Control to off.
Turn Refrigerator Cold Control to off.

Steps to take in moving a refrigerator:

  1. Turn the Temperature Control (Cold Control) to off, then unplug the refrigerator. Use tape to hold the power chord up and off the floor to prevent damage to the chord during the move.
  2. Disconnect the water source from the ice maker.
  3. Remove all contents. Do not move a refrigerator with any food items in it. This may seem simple common sense, but believe me, I have seen quite a few moved full of stuff with nasty consequences.
  4. Check for loose components, shelves, racks, or trays. Secure them by removing them, taping them down, or wrapping in towels and stacking them carefully.
  5. If the move will require extended time, allow the refrigerator to defrost completely and stand with the doors open turned off for as long as possible.
  6. Check the refrigerator's contact with the floor, normally the refrigerator is on rollers or wheels, they may need an adjustment to achieve contact with the floor. It is best to move the refrigerator a few inches onto paper to observe the function of the wheels. Use a flashlight and remove the front grill.
  7. Strap the doors on a side by side refrigerator, tape the doors on a top and bottom. Straps should be snug but not tight. Over tightening may pull the doors out of alignment and damage them. Care should be taken with the door handles, straps should not ride over the handles as this could cause damage.
  8. Inspect the refrigerator for obstructions underneath. Nothing should be sticking out or hanging down. If there is something, it could be a component hanging down, the component may need to be repositioned to avoid damage.
  9. A refrigerator should be hand trucked from the side only. On a side by side refrigerator, choose the side with the smaller door, normally that would be the freezer side of the side by side. On a top and bottom, choose the side with the handle and opening. This prevents the doors from falling open.
  10. Moving a refrigerator on a hand truck (appliance dolly) requires changing the center of gravity by leaning the refrigerator so that it is balanced on one side. This requires a careful balancing job. Leaning too far could cause the weight of the refrigerator to shift and go toward the operator and can tip the refrigerator over. Leaning not far enough can shift the weight of the refrigerator toward the bottom and it will be very difficult to keep the refrigerator in a leaning position. Using a helper here is recommended. Once the refrigerator is on the hand truck, the operator should test the limits of the balance to see what angles are required while moving the refrigerator.
  11. A helper should be used to help guide the refrigerator and help over thresholds and stairs. Lifting the refrigerator from the hand truck side throws the weight onto the operator. Lifting in this way should be avoided.

Stair Climber Hand Truck
Stair Climber Hand Truck
Professional Hand Truck with stair glide.
Professional Hand Truck with stair glide.

Moving a Refrigerator Up or Down Steps.

  • Great Caution should be used in moving a refrigerator up or down steps. A mistake here could cause damage to the refrigerator, property damage, and injury.
  • Practice with the hand truck,  go up the steps and down the steps.  Imagine that a refrigerator is on the truck.  Start at the top or bottom where the refrigerator is located and go to the other end of the steps with the dolly.   Do the stairs have a landing and turn half way?   Can you maneuver the truck the whole distance?  Go the whole distance with your helpers and communicate about the route and whether a rest will be needed half way down.  
  • Most hand trucks are equipped with a slider bar or brace used for sliding down the stairs. It is recommended that three people work together. One person handles the dolly, and two people stand below the refrigerator and guide and lift or lower the bottom as necessary. Caution: too much lifting will make the work of the dolly handler very difficult. Lifting here is a knack of just the right amount of lifting. This can be achieved with clear communication between the movers.
  • Be aware that lifting on one side of the refrigerator applies that amount of lift on the opposite side of the refrigerator with the dolly being the pivot point. Two people can provide way too much lift. Try to make the lift match the needs of the dolly operator. Practice on the bottom step a couple of times so that you can adjust your lifting force to the needs of the dolly operator.
  • Two people on the bottom prevents the loss of control of the refrigerator, if the dolly slips or the operator trips or falls, the two helpers can hold the refrigerator in one place until the operator regains control. The two helpers should be positioned on the lower corners of the refrigerator.


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    • Vonnavie Sanchez profile image

      Vonnavie Sanchez 6 years ago

      Great information. Good hub!

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      agusfanani Thanks for dropping by and your kind words.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 7 years ago from Indonesia

      Very good tips, Thank you.

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Hey dallas, we all have luck, you appear to have all to good luck. And I hope that is the last of the El Camino too. LOL

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Great ideas and comments! I have been "lucky" so far... I confess, I have laid down refrigerators with no "ill effects." I know you are not supposed to.. Once I had a new refrigerator laying down in the back of my El Camino and it fell out and skidded down the road. I think that was the last time for laying them down!

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Thanks Diane, I appreciate the comment and support.

    • Diane Inside profile image

      Diane Inside 7 years ago

      Nice hub, while most people don't take a second thought at such a seemingly normal thing to do, I mean fridges get moved all the time. But people don't think about preparing it for the move. Such as cleaning it etc. Nice hub.