If you have a fridge leaking water inside or a fridge leaking water on the floor, it probably has a blocked defrost drain. A refrigerator is used every day and is one of the few appliances in a home that runs all the time, so any problems that develop can seem overwhelming. The good news is, repairing a problematic freezer defrost drain to get rid of that leaking water is usually not a difficult task.
If your refrigerator has an ice maker or a cold water dispenser, it's possible that the water supply line has a leak or has become kinked, resulting in your fridge leaking water on the floor from the back. The water line runs up the back of the refrigerator and is usually a 1/4-inch clear nylon pipe, though sometimes copper pipe is used. Before repairing or replacing the water supply line, make sure the shutoff valve supplying it is turned off.
If the water line has a hole or tear, you should replace it. Water leaking from the ice maker water line can puddle underneath and to the front of the fridge, making it appear as though there is water leaking from inside the refrigerator. The water supply line is connected with compression fittings to both the refrigerator and a shutoff valve usually located in the basement or under the sink. If a compression fitting develops a leak, tightening it with an adjustable wrench will usually fix it.
Unplug the refrigerator from the electrical outlet. This will usually involve pulling the refrigerator away from the wall to access the outlet behind it. Because of the weight and bulk of the fridge this may require two people. Dry the floor in the area with a towel.
Remove food and other items from the freezer so you have clear access to the freezer defrost drain access panel, located on the back wall of the freezer. Remove the access panel. It is usually held in place with one or more screws, but some access panels clip on.
Once the access panel is removed, the drain hole should be visible. Using a turkey baster or funnel, flush the drain with hot water to clear any debris in the line. If this doesn't work, use a solution of 2 teaspoons baking soda and 2 cups of hot water to flush the drain. You can also use this mixture to flush the freezer defrost drain once a year as a preventive measure against future problems.
If the clog is still solid after running hot water and baking soda through the drain, you can use a straightened coat hanger to break through the obstruction. Be careful to avoid damaging the hose. Once you've forced your way through the clog, use the turkey baster or funnel to flush our any remaining debris. When the drain is clear, you'll be able to hear water running into the drain pan below.
Once the defrost drain is clear, re-install the access panel in the freezer. Plug the refrigerator back in and push it back to the wall.
Gary Sprague is a retired master plumber who now works as a writer. He lives with his family in Maine.