Why Is My Fridge Leaking Water Inside? 5 Most Common Causes & Fixes


Your refrigerator is one of the last things in your home you want to have issues. Not only is a fridge an expensive major appliance, but if damaged, it can ruin the food inside as well. 

Water leaking inside a fridge can be the result of a blocked defrost drain or a dirty drain pan. It can also come from a damaged or loose water supply line. These issues are often fixable without a specialist. However, it’s important to act quickly if you notice a leak inside your refrigerator in order to protect its contents.

Finding The Source Of The Leak

Naturally, before you can fix the leak, you have to find its source. Once you’ve found it, then you can proceed to remedying the problem. If none of the areas below seem to be the cause of your problems, contact your local appliance servicer.

Removing The Drain Pan

The easiest place to look for the source of the leak is the drain pan. It can have debris build up that leaves water inside your fridge, or it can overflow out of the bottom. This makes it look like the water is leaking inside the fridge, even though it technically isn’t.

The drain pan is typically located at the bottom of the fridge behind a grill at the front. It’s always a good idea to check your refrigerator manual for more specifics, though.

Remove the grill with a screwdriver if necessary and slide out the pan. If the pan isn’t full of debris or visibly cracked, check the water line next.

Checking The Water Line

A water line is a feature of refrigerators that have an ice/water dispenser at the front. If you don’t have one, you can move on to accessing the defrost drain.

If you have one of these dispensers, pull your fridge out from the wall so you can view the back. The water line is typically a 1/4-inch plastic pipe running up the back of the fridge.

Check the pipe for any holes or tears. Because these aren’t always visible, you need to feel for any damage with your hands. Then check the compression fittings that connect the pipe to the fridge and water valve.

If there’s no pipe damage and no leak from the fittings, your problem may be with the defrost drain.

Accessing The Defrost Drain

This should be the last area you check because it’s the most difficult to reach. You also can’t know if it’s the cause of your leak until you flush it out.

Checking the defrost drain requires gaining access to an access panel at the back of the freezer. To do so, you’ll have to remove all of the food from inside the freezer and unplug the fridge. 

Try putting the food in the bottom fridge section temporarily or in a stand-alone freezer while you work.

How To Fix The Most Common Causes Of Leaks Inside A Fridge

Once you’ve determined the most likely cause of your leak, follow these short guides on how to repair them. All of the following solutions can be done on your own without professional help.

However, if you find that your fridge is still leaking, the problem may be more specialized. If so, contact the manufacturer of your fridge or find a local plumber to help you.

What You’ll Need:

  • Dirty Drain Pan
    • Water
    • Vinegar
    • Dish soap
    • Sponge
    • Paper towels
  • Loose Compression Fitting
    • Adjustable wrench
    • Compression fitting
  • Damaged Plastic Water Line
    • Measuring tape
    • ¼-inch plastic tubing
    • Coupling connectors
    • Pipe cutter or shears
  • Damaged Copper Water Line
    • Measuring tape
    • ¼-inch copper tubing
    • Copper tubing cutter
    • Sandpaper
    • Brass unions
    • Adjustable wrench
  • Clogged Defrost Drain
    • Screwdriver (optional)
    • Hot water
    • Turkey baster or funnel
    • Metal coat hanger or thin rod (for solid clogs)

1. Dirty Drain Pan

  1. Remove the drain pan completely from your fridge and empty out the water. Gently scrub away any buildup with a sponge and a mixture of water, some vinegar, and a little dish soap.
  2. Thoroughly dry the pan with paper towels and replace it in your fridge.
  3. If there’s a panel in front of the pan, wipe away any hair and dust before replacing it. Doing so will keep the humidity down inside the pan and lessen the water build up.

2. Loose Compression Fitting

  1. Pull the fridge away from the wall and unplug it.
  2. Find the loose and leaking compression fitting and use an adjustable wrench to tighten it.
  3. If the fitting is damaged, remove it completely and attach a new compression fitting.

3. Damaged Plastic Water Line

  1. Pull the fridge away from the wall and unplug it.
  2. Measure the length of the damaged pipe and cut your replacement pipe to size.
  3. Push each end into a coupling connector until snug.
  4. Shut off your fridge’s water valve and cut away the damaged tubing. Push the new ends into the fittings to connect the new and old pipe together.
  5. Turn the water to the line back on to make sure there are no more leaks.

4. Damaged Copper Water Line

It’s possible to repair a copper water line by yourself, but it requires more specialty tools and knowledge. For instance, you need to be comfortable cutting copper pipe and using brass unions.

If you’re uncomfortable working with metal tubing or the required tools, don’t hesitate to call a professional.

  1. Pull the fridge away from the wall and unplug it.
  2. Measure the length of the damaged tubing and cut your replacement pipe to size with a tubing cutter.
  3. Smooth out the rough edges of the new tubing with sandpaper.
  4. Slide the ends of the tubing into the brass unions and tighten them with your adjustable wrenches.
  5. Turn off your fridge’s water valve and cut away the damaged tubing. Push the new ends into the brass unions to connect the new and old pipe together.
  6. Turn the water to the line back on to test the connections. If needed, make adjustments to the brass unions.

5. Clogged Defrost Drain

  1. Remove all food and items from your freezer.
  2. Pull the fridge away from the wall and unplug it.
  3. Unscrew or unclip the access panel at the back of your freezer. This will expose the defrost drain.
  4. Fill a turkey baster with hot water, then flush the drain of any build-up and debris. If you don’t have a turkey baster on hand, you can use a funnel. To do so, fill a small container with hot water and put the funnel into the drain. Then pour the water into the funnel.
  5. Flush the drain again with a mix of baking soda and hot water if the blockage is still present.
  6. If there’s still a solid clog in the drain, use a metal coat hanger or thin rod to loosen it. Be careful not to damage the drain line.
  7. Give the drain a final flush with hot water to clear up any remaining residue and debris.
  8. Replace the access panel and return all of your items to the freezer. Plug your fridge back into the wall.

How To Prevent Water Leaking Inside Your Fridge

You should keep an eye on various parts of your fridge throughout the year. Doing so makes it easy to prevent and detect leaks.

Check your drain pan every few months to ensure there’s no buildup of debris. You should also give it a good cleaning once a year or so.

Then, if you have one on your fridge, examine your water line for damage or blockages every 12 months. Finally, check your defrost drain each time you defrost your freezer.

You should defrost once the ice in your freezer builds up to about 1/4-inch thick. The time this takes on your fridge may vary, but 12 months is a typical period.

Final Takeaways

If it seems like you have water leaking inside your fridge, it could be one of a few common issues. Before you spend money on appliance servicing, check your drain pan and any water pipes connected to your fridge.

You can also flush out your defrost drain in case it has any clogs causing the leak. It’s important to maintain your refrigerator regularly so you can prevent leaks before they happen. At the very least, you’ll be able to catch and repair the leaks before they can do too much damage.

Katherine Ann

Katherine is a freelance writer who enjoys DIY home décor and refurbishing tired furniture. In addition to writing for PlumbJoe, she blogs about books and movies and writes creatively in her spare time.

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