Long gone are the days of having to defrost a fridge manually by chipping away at ice that formed on the interior walls. You may remember having a manual defrost button in Whirlpool refrigerators many years ago. But modern refrigerators streamlined this task even more by employing a defrost feature that automatically cycles on and off to keep your fridge frost-free.
If you see ice forming on your refrigerator walls, you'll want to find the reason that's preventing your appliance from properly defrosting by using some common troubleshooting tips.
Defrost Heater and Defrost Thermostat
Working in tandem with each other, the defrost thermostat and defrost heater assembly keep the evaporator coils from becoming coated with frost. Monitoring the temperature of the coils, the defrost thermostat signals the defrost heater assembly to turn on when the coils reach a certain temperature.
If the defrost thermostat malfunctions, it cannot signal the heater to turn on and defrost the coils. And if the defrost heater assembly malfunctions, it will not work to thaw the coils regardless of whether the defrost thermostat is signaling it to do so.
You can test the defrost thermostat and defrost heater assembly by using a multimeter. Among other uses, a multimeter measures the electrical output of devices. Different multimeter models, including analog and digital types, vary in the way they test and display data, so be sure to follow the directions in your multimeter's user manual for its proper use. By using this tool, you'll quickly determine whether the thermostat or heater is defective.
Defective Defrost Timer
The defrost timer plays an important part in keeping a refrigerator frost-free. As the timer cycles on and off during the day, it melts frost that accumulates on the evaporator coils. But if this timer is defective, the refrigerator cannot enter a defrost cycle, so frost accumulates on the coils. Although you can find the Whirlpool refrigerator defrost timer location by checking your user manual, you'll need a licensed refrigerator technician to test the circuits in the timer to determine if it's defective.
Defrost Button in Whirlpool Refrigerator
If any of the defrosting components of your refrigerator malfunctions, quickly replacing the faulty part will prevent any significant frost build-up. But according to ENERGY STAR®, if your refrigerator or freezer has accumulated frost that's more than 1/4 of an inch thick, you should defrost your refrigerator manually.
Remove everything from your refrigerator, placing everything that needs to stay cool in an ice chest. Then, turn off or unplug your fridge. Open the doors and place towels at the bottom of all compartments to absorb the melting ice. When your refrigerator has completely defrosted, clean it with soap and water and follow the cleaning by rinsing any soapy residue with wet towels. Wipe down the insides until the interior is dry, and allow your fridge to air-dry for another hour before refilling it with food and turning it back on.
Contrary to other well-intentioned sources, ENERGY STAR recommends not scraping, chipping or prying frost off, which can damage the refrigerator's interior. It's also ill-advised to use a hair dryer to melt the frost, because not only can a dryer cause damage to the plastic walls of a refrigerator but it's also a shock hazard.
Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist and a professional writer who has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, horticultural articles, and magazine and newspaper columns. Her writing expertise covers diverse industries, including horticulture, home maintenance and DIY projects, banking, finance, law and tax. Blackstone has written more than 2,000 published works for newspapers, magazines, online publications and individual clients.