Can You Leave a Mini Fridge Unplugged? (Mistakes to Avoid)

Can You Leave a Mini Fridge Unplugged

A mini fridge can be a convenient addition to any home, but many people wonder if they can be unplugged when not in use. Whether you’re looking to save energy or simply want to free up an outlet, it’s important to understand the implications of unplugging your mini fridge.

You can leave a mini fridge unplugged, but there are some important factors to consider. If the mini fridge is going to be unplugged for an extended period of time, it’s important to properly clean it and allow it to defrost. This will help to prevent mold, odors, and other issues from developing.

Of course, mini-fridges come in all kinds of forms, and not all are created equal.  In this article, we’ll discuss when you can and can’t leave your mini-fridge unplugged and what to look for when you do unplug it.

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Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!

Leaving your mini-fridge unplugged while you’re away just makes sense, but you need to clean and prepare it correctly. Otherwise, you’ll come back to a smelly mess.  

So, you already know to clean out any perishables before you unplug a fridge, but what else do you need?  Here are our go-to’s for cleaning out a mini-fridge:

1. Towels – Keep the water cleaned up and off your floors!

2. Rubbing Alcohol – Help defrost your fridge quickly!

3. Baking Soda – Keep it smelling clean and fresh!

Mini Fridges

Mini-fridges can be very convenient for snacks and drinks when you live far away from a kitchen (looking at you, college people), but mini-fridges are strange little coolers.  What are their rules?  We’re talking about how to care for a mini-fridge first!

How Do You Store a Mini Fridge When Not in Use?

To store a mini-fridge, start by emptying it and unplugging it.  Leave the refrigerator (and freezer, if applicable) doors open to completely thaw.  You may want to leave a towel in the bottom to catch any water as ice melts.

Once the fridge has reached room temperature, wipe it out to ensure it’s dry and sanitized.  Then, if you’re going to be moving the fridge, remove any drawers and wrap up the cord, taping it to the side of the fridge so it does not get caught during the move.  Make sure to transport the mini-fridge upright. It should never be on its side.

How Long Should You Leave a Mini Fridge Unplugged?

There is no limit to how long you can leave a mini fridge unplugged if you’ve properly cleaned it and prepared it for storage.  Whenever you unplug a mini-fridge, it should be cleaned, sanitized, and the doors should be left open.

Leaving a mini-fridge’s doors open while unplugged helps prevent mold and mildew build-up.  If you’re going to be away from the mini fridge, be sure to unplug it between 24-48 hours before you leave so it has time to defrost, and you can dry it before you go.

Is It Safe to Unplug a Mini Fridge?

Not only is it safe to unplug a mini-fridge, but it’s also recommended that you do so before leaving it for long periods.  Not unplugging it may lead to unintended consequences from unmonitored electronics, such as a fire.

Be sure to empty and unplug the fridge a day or two before leaving so it has time to defrost and dry. Before leaving, ensure that the door to the fridge will remain open while you’re gone. Once you return, you can immediately plug your mini-fridge back in, and it should be cool within a couple of hours.  

Do Mini-Fridges Need to Be Plugged In?

If you’re storing food, mini-fridges need to be plugged in, in order to stay cool.  If you’re not using the mini-fridge, it can remain unplugged.  While it’s not in use, be sure to keep it dry and keep the doors open. 

Mini-fridges, like all other electronics, need to be plugged into a working outlet in order to run correctly. Therefore, it’s recommended that you unplug it while not in use to save electricity.  

How Long Can a Mini Refrigerator Stay Unplugged?

You can leave your mini-fridge unplugged for as long as you want if you’re not trying to keep food cold.  However, if you want to defrost a mini-fridge with food in it, do not leave it unplugged for longer than four hours.

After four hours, most foods will be hitting the danger zone, which is typically when food is sitting at a temperature between 41 degrees and 135 degrees Fahrenheit.   These temperatures are perfect for harboring dangerous bacteria.

Do You Have to Wait 24 Hours to Plug in a Mini Fridge?

If your mini-fridge was transported on its side, it’s best to wait 24 hours to plug it in so the coolant can settle.  However, if it wasn’t transported on its side, you can plug it in immediately.

Not waiting to plug in the mini-fridge after it’s been on its side can lead to oil entering the compressor, which can cause the compressor to fail or even explode. If this occurs, you’ll need to purchase either a new compressor or an entirely new mini-fridge.

Do Mini-Fridges Run All the Time?

Mini-fridges work almost exactly like full-size fridges.  As such, they run on a cycle, just like full-sized ones. Most mini-fridges are only running the compressor about 50 percent of the time.

If you notice your mini-fridge is running more than that, it may be because there’s an issue. For example, you may find that your mini-fridge isn’t sealing correctly, so it must constantly run to control the temperature.

How Long Do Mini Fridges Last?

Your mini-fridge should last ten or more years with proper care and maintenance.  You just need to defrost it regularly and keep the food inside fresh.  You should clean out your mini fridge once a week.

Food can go bad quickly in a mini-fridge. So if you’re noticing bad odors coming from your mini-fridge, take the time to clean everything out and discard any out-of-date foods.  You may also want to use baking soda to help absorb odors. 

You might also enjoy our post on Can You Put a Refrigerator on its Side?


If your mini-fridge is empty, it makes sense to unplug it and save electricity.  But, you know that turning things off and on again can be bad for it.  So, what about your mini-fridge?  Will it survive being unplugged? We’re discussing it now! 

Does Switching a Mini Fridge Off and On Damage It?

Repeatedly switching a mini fridge off and on can damage the compressor over time. This is because each time it restarts, the compressor is forced to start again, which can wear it down over time.

Additionally, if you’re storing foods that need to remain cold, switching your fridge off and on repeatedly can lead to your food being at dangerous temperatures for extended periods of time, which can cause you to become ill should you consume said foods. 

Can I Unplug My Mini Fridge for Five Minutes?

Once you’ve unplugged your mini-fridge, it should stay unplugged for at least five minutes to avoid a surge when you plug it back in.  Otherwise, you may accidentally blow the compressor.

Other than that, you can leave your fridge unplugged for as long as you like, assuming you’re not trying to store cold foods within.  If, however, you do need to keep food cold, it’s recommended you plug it back in within four hours to prevent harmful bacterial growth.

How Long Can a Mini Fridge Be Unplugged For?

Assuming the mini-fridge is empty, dry, and clean, it can be unplugged for years if necessary. Likewise, they can be stored, unplugged, and doors open for as long as necessary, then plugged in again when needed. 

However, if your mini-fridge has food, it should not be unplugged for more than four hours at a time. After four hours, the perishable foods will need to be thrown away.  Consuming foods that have been sitting out that long may lead to sickness.

Can I Unplug My Mini-Fridge at Night?

If you have perishable food in your mini-fridge, you cannot unplug it for long periods or overnight.  Anything over four hours can lead to bacterial growth, and if you consume those foods, you’ll end up with food poisoning or worse.

While it’s tempting to save on electricity by unplugging a full mini-fridge, it’s too dangerous to be a possibility.  The only time you should have unplugged your fridge for that long is if it’s empty and clean.

Can I Unplug My Mini Fridge and Plug It Back In?

Once you unplug a mini-fridge, you shouldn’t plug it back in for at least five minutes.  You want to give the electricity time to settle before attempting to restart it.  Failure to wait five minutes can lead to the compressor breaking.

If you’re just trying to reset the fridge and force it to cycle, waiting five minutes before plugging it back in is all you should need. However, if it’s still not running properly after that, you may need to get a new thermostat.


Now that we’ve discussed saving electricity, let’s think about the other main reason for unplugging a mini-fridge, it needs to be defrosted.  Defrosting doesn’t have to be scary.  Let’s talk about it now.

Should an Unplugged Mini Fridge Be Left Open?

Once you’ve unplugged your mini fridge, you need to clean out any food still inside.  Once that’s completed, lay a towel down at the bottom to catch any drips from defrosting the insides.  Finally, leave the doors open to prevent mold and mildew buildup. 

While it may seem inconsequential, it’s actually very important to leave a mini-fridge door open once it’s unplugged.  Having open doors helps keep the temperature even and ensures mold and mildew are less likely to invade the fridge. 

How to Defrost a Mini Fridge Quickly?

The first and most important thing when you’re defrosting a mini-fridge is to remove and cold store all perishable items in the mini-fridge.  Then, unplug the fridge and keep the doors open. 

If you want to speed up the process a bit, you can (carefully!) place a container of hot water inside the freezer or refrigerator unit to encourage any ice build-up to melt.  You can also scrape some of the ice yourself; just be sure to put a towel down first!

How to Defrost a Mini Fridge Without Making a Mess?

After emptying out your mini-fridge, unplug it, then immediately lay down towels at the base of the mini-fridge.  The towels will soak up water as it melts off the fridge and save you a lot of mess!

You can also soak your towels in hot water, then pour on a little rubbing alcohol and wipe down the sides of the mini-fridge.  This will help clean it and remove any ice crystals that have formed.

Best Way to Defrost a Mini Fridge?

The best way to defrost a mini fridge is to remove and cold store any items currently housed in the fridge.  Then, unplug the mini-fridge and lay towels on the inside to absorb any melted ice. 

Make sure that the mini-fridge doors remain open at all times.  This will help it defrost faster and can help prevent mold and mildew build-up.  Once all the ice has melted, wipe up any remaining water immediately.

How Long Does It Take To Defrost a Mini Fridge?

To fully defrost a mini-fridge and prepare it for storage or to remain unplugged takes at least 24 hours.  This is because you must ensure that the fridge is completely dry before you leave it unattended.

If, however, you’re just doing a basic defrost to prevent frost build-up, it can take only a couple of hours. Here’s how to do it:

  • Clean out the food and store any perishable food elsewhere.
  • Unplug the mini-fridge (leave the door open!)
  • Place towels in the bottom to catch water.
  • Scrape off any ice crystals that have formed in the fridge.
  • Clean, sanitize, and dry out the mini-fridge.
  • Plug the mini-fridge back in.
  • Close the fridge/freezer door.
  • Allow the mini-fridge to come back below 40 degrees F before replacing cold foods.

Related Questions

How Long Does a Small Fridge Usually Last?

Most refrigerators, regardless of size, last for ten years when properly taken care of.  This means defrosting, cleaning, sanitizing, and keeping it cold while in use.  However, unplugged, it can last for years and still be useful once plugged back in.

If you haven’t used your mini-fridge in years but need it again, you’ll need to clean it first.  Start by wiping down the insides and ensuring there is no mold or mildew build-up. Then, plug it back in and allow it to cool completely before adding perishables.

How Much Money Does a Mini Fridge Add to an Electric Bill?

Mini-fridges are still considered a large appliance, but thankfully their bills typically aren’t too large.  They use about 65 watts during use, and over the course of a year, that will cost about $30, depending on your electric rates. 

Of course, if you have an older model mini-fridge, it may use slightly more electricity to run, and you may be looking at a bill closer to $50 more than you’re used to. But, on the other hand, new models may only run you $20 for the year.

How Much Does a Mini Fridge Cost to Run a Month?

Your mini-fridge alone costs between $2.50 and $5.00 in electricity per month.  This number depends on a few factors, such as the number of kilowatts your mini-fridge uses per hour and your current energy rates. 

The higher your mini-fridge kilowatt usage per hour, the higher the monthly costs will be.  If you have an energy-efficient model, they will use fewer kilowatts an hour, saving you a few dollars every month.

Final Thoughts

A mini-fridge is a must-have for any dorm room, first apartment, or home movie theater.  The good news is you can safely store your mini-fridge by leaving it clean and unplugged.  We hope this article eases your fears about your mini-fridge storage!

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