Can Mold Grow in Refrigerator Water Dispensers?

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Mold can grow in your refrigerator's water dispenser.
Image Credit: Michael Reeve/iStock/GettyImages

If you've got black stuff coming out of your refrigerator water dispenser, it's time to get serious about cleaning it out. While most people don't give their fridge water or ice dispenser another thought, the reality is that they're the ideal breeding ground for fungi, mold and other micro-organisms you probably don't want to fill your water bottle with. So, what's the easy way to combat that grime?


What’s Going On?

Mold and bacteria are literally all around us. The air is alive with micro-organisms, like yeast and other bacteria, which are a healthy part of living. But when they get out of balance, things go awry. When that happens in places like your fridge's water dispenser, it means all kinds of funky things growing where they shouldn't.


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A big reason this happens can be cross-contamination. That water bottle mouth you're drinking from, little fingers touching the dispenser mouth and so on, these are all things that can lead to bacteria getting up into the water lines. Ensure no one touches the anything but the dispenser, and clean the area with nontoxic cleaners periodically, like vinegar.

Even if no one has been touching things, these spores can get into the line — so give it a good cleaning every couple weeks or month. A toothbrush and a glass of vinegar can help you clean up the easily reached parts of the dispenser.


Where to Start?

You'll need to refer to the owner's manual for your fridge to get specifics on how to empty the ice dispenser and access the water lines inside the fridge. If you don't have a manual, they're often easily found online. But once you have this information, you'll need things like scrub brushes, white vinegar and cleaning rags.


These are fairly general instructions, but referring to your manual will help you with a plan of attack for using vinegar to mitigate your problems.

Tackling Refrigerator Water Dispenser Mold

You may need to turn off the water line to your fridge and empty out the old ice in the ice maker. Any parts of the reservoir and ice maker that can be removed and cleaned, take off and scrub well in warm, soapy water. Note that the hardest-to-reach areas are where mold thrives. If you've got stubborn mold in there, dilute some bleach per bottle's instructions and allow it the parts to sit for a while in the bleach solution after you've cleaned it. Rinse well.


Vinegar is a safe product that is effective in both descaling your water dispenser and getting rid of mold in the fridge water line. Reno's Appliance recommends adding 3 cups of vinegar to the water line via the copper water supply pipe attached to the water tank — you'll likely need a funnel for this.

Turn your ice cube bin to "on" so the vinegar will run through the water lines and through the dispenser. Turn on the water dispenser and have a jar in place to catch the vinegar as it comes out of the system. Dispose of the vinegar and use a toothbrush and cloth to give the dispenser a good cleaning all over.


Before You Drink Water

You'll need to run a lot of water through the system before you're ready to sip water again. Just look for the telltale taint of vinegar in the water or its aroma, and once that's gone, you're ready to hydrate again.

This should be part of your regular household maintenance, at least once or twice yearly, if you'd like to avoid the problem in the future.



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