You may not think about refrigerator leaks leading to mold growth. Usually when we think about leaks causing mold, we think about things like a leaky roof or leaky pipes causing mold to grow in the home. There are a number of things that can cause water to leak inside or outside the fridge, though, including a refrigerator water line leak, all of which can lead to mold just like any other leaky appliance.
Mold inside your refrigerator can cause a bad odor and lead to food spoilage. If you eat food that has been contaminated by mold, serious illness can result. When in doubt, throw out any food that has been exposed to mold.
Mold in your kitchen can lead to numerous health problems if you come into contact with or inhale mold spores or mycotoxins produced by the mold. Mold related health problems range from allergic reactions to asthma attacks to respiratory infections like pneumonia and can be quite serious in some people.
Many causes of leaks in your refrigerator are fairly simple to fix, but if you need help, contact an experienced repairman.
If you have a freezer-on-top fridge and it is a frost-free model (as most are these days), then a blocked defrost drain is a likely cause of leaking inside the fridge. Food debris or plain old ice can build up and block the drain, causing water to spill over into the refrigerator. Water may pool on a shelf or on the bottom of the fridge. Usually it is only a small amount of water but you should not ignore it. Mold may grow slowly in the cool environment of a refrigerator but excessive moisture can still lead to the development of mold. It can also cause your food to spoil and, if the defrost drain is blocked, it means your freezer cannot defrost properly.
If your refrigerator/freezer dispenses ice and water, there is a plastic water tank which can crack and leak. This is a common cause of refrigerator leaks because plastic cracks easily. Often cracks in the water tank are very small and hard to see. If there is a crack in the water tank, the tank will need to be replaced. It cannot be repaired because glue won’t stick well to the plastic.
If your refrigerator/freezer dispenses ice and water, there is a valve called the water inlet valve that opens to allow water to reach the icemaker and the water dispenser. If the valve doesn’t fit well or if it is cracked, water will leak out. If it is cracked or if it is loose and cannot be adequately tightened, it should be replaced.
If your refrigerator/freezer dispenses ice and water, there is a water supply line that carries water to the ice maker and water dispenser. Leaks anywhere along the line can lead to water pooling beneath, behind or beside your refrigerator. If you have a refrigerator water line leak, the water supply line will probably need to be replaced.
If you notice water inside your fridge or on the floor around your refrigerator, clean it up right away. In addition to leading to mold growth, leaving water on the floor can damage the floor covering and even the floorboards beneath that.
Cleaning up the water alone is not enough, however. You’ll need to determine where the water is coming from and make any needed repairs in order to prevent continued leaking and a potential mold problem.
If you’ve got a small amount of mold in your refrigerator, you can probably handle the job yourself. Remove and discard any affected food. Clean the moldy area with a good all-purpose kitchen cleaner, rinse well, and dry.
If you’ve got mold on your kitchen floor or wall as a result of a refrigerator leak, the cleanup process will be a bit more involved. You can find some helpful mold removal tips here. Note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends consulting your physician before cleaning up household mold if you have health problems that might be made worse by exposure to mold, like asthma or allergies.
If your refrigerator is leaking and you’re not sure why, or you need help making the necessary repairs, it’s time to call in an experienced professional. Follow this link to get a list of qualified repairmen in your area.
EPA - Mold Cleanup