White vinegar in a glass bottle on white background

Many new refrigerators bought today have built-in water and ice dispensers.  These convenient features on the fridge allow us to stay hydrated and consume cold, clean water quickly and easily.

However, a less known fact about fridge ice makers and water dispensers is that they require routine maintenance on a semi-regular basis to keep functioning properly.

Hard water can cause excessive limescale build-up in the water lines in your refrigerator, and sometimes bacteria can build up in the lines as well, especially when they are not cleaned over a long period of time.

But not to worry.  In this article, we describe the process of cleaning out the water lines in your fridge, taking you through it step by step.

Why Clean A Refrigerator’s Water Lines

Before we get into the details of how to clean the lines and what you’ll need, let’s talk about why it’s important to keep your water and ice dispenser systems spick and span.

If you leave your water lines and filter unattended for long periods, one of your biggest problems will be limescale build-up from hard water.  Hard water is simply water that has a high concentration of dissolved minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium.

When hard water is run through the water filtration and dispenser system in your fridge, the high mineral content can lead to build-up inside the water lines, leading to reduced water pressure, and potential cloudy and odd tasting water.  Keeping the lines clean and fighting lime build-up will help prevent these frustrating and unappealing effects.

Another potential problem is bacterial or mold build-up.  Like any other appliance, small amounts of bacteria can grow in the water lines, and when left unchecked for long periods of time, they can grow to the point that they affect your water’s taste.  If you notice that your water tastes a bit like mildew, you probably have a bacterial or mold build up in your water lines.

Like all appliances, proper and timely maintenance can dramatically increase the lifespan of your refrigerator’s water filter and dispenser, and keep everything functioning as it should.

Supplies Needed To Clean Your Refrigerator’s Water Lines

Below is a quick list of the main supplies you’ll need to clean the water lines in your fridge.  As you can see, most of the items used can be commonly found in any household – the job is relatively straightforward.

  • Distilled white vinegar

  • Clean rags or cloths
  • An empty bowl
  • Funnel
  • Screwdriver
  • Clamps
  • Small wrench

How To Clean The Water Lines

Refrigerator door ice and water dispenser close-upNow that we’ve gathered the necessary supplies, let’s start the process of cleaning out the lines.  The first step is to shut off the water supply to the fridge and unplug the refrigerator.

If there is a water valve behind your fridge, then you can easily turn the valve off to stop the water flow.  If not, head to your basement or wherever your main water valve is located, and turn that to the closed position.

The second step is to use the screwdriver to remove the water line from the rest of the fridge.  Often, this will mean taking off the back lower screen of the fridge and then detaching the water line from the other components.  A small wrench can be useful here if required.

If you want to clean the dispenser reservoir too, now is the time to remove it (it’s usually found behind the crisper).  Drain all the water out, and run a vinegar solution through the reservoir of about 1 cup of vinegar per gallon of water.

Afterward, run clean water through the reservoir multiple times to ensure there is no lingering vinegar.  Because no one likes vinegar tasting water.

From there, run about 3 cups of distilled white vinegar through the water dispenser and icemaker lines.  Use the funnel to help get the vinegar into the lines, and let the vinegar sit in the lines for about 10 minutes.  Using the clamps can help ensure the vinegar doesn’t leak out.

After we’ve let it sit, it’s time to drain the lines.  For the ice maker line, we’ll want to drain the vinegar back out and then run clean water through it several times before reattaching it.

For the water dispenser line, we’ll run the vinegar all the way through the system, out of the water dispenser, and into an empty bowl or another receptacle.  Then we’ll also flush the line with clean water multiple times (probably close to 10 glasses of water for each of the lines).

From there, it’s time to hook both of the lines back up.  Once you’ve reattached the lines and everything is back in its original place, run about 5 or more gallons from the water dispenser into an empty jug, and dispose of the first batch of ice.  Again, this is to ensure all contaminants and vinegar have been flushed out of the system.

Cleaning A Refrigerator Water Line

We hope that we’ve made tackling the job of cleaning out the water lines in your fridge just a little bit easier.  Remember, regular cleaning and maintenance will help keep your fridge functioning well for longer, and ensure you’re drinking cool, clean water.

Happy cleaning!