How to Dispose of a Refrigerator the Right Way

Properly disposing of an old refrigerator requires some care to avoid environmental hazards, but it can be done safely and responsibly with a bit of preparation. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to dispose of a refrigerator the right way.

Remove Food and Shelving

The first step is to remove all food and perishables from the fridge and freezer compartments. This reduces odor and mess issues later in the process. Be sure to check small bins and drawers to remove any forgotten items.

Also remove any shelving, crisper drawers, storage bins, etc. Removing these will help lighten the load for transport and allow access for cleaning.

Clean the Interior Thoroughly

With the fridge emptied, focus on giving the interior a deep clean to deal with spills, stains and odors. Here are some tips:

  • Use hot water, baking soda and mild dish soap to tackle stains on the plastic walls and shelves. For stubborn stains, let the baking soda paste sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing.
  • Clean the shelves, bins and drawers separately by hand or in the dishwasher. Allow them to dry fully before replacing in the fridge.
  • Use an old toothbrush to scrub and disinfect the fridge and freezer gaskets. Pay special attention to any mold buildup in the folds.
  • Remove glass shelves carefully and clean separately to avoid breakage.
  • For odors in the fridge, leave a bowl of baking soda or activated charcoal inside and close the door for a few days. The odors will naturally absorb.
  • Clean the drain hole beneath crisper drawers with a pipe cleaner to improve drainage.

Once finished, allow the interior to fully dry before moving on. An old towel can help soak up excess water.

Remove Doors and Racks

To help lighten the refrigerator for transport, remove any doors, racks and removable parts.

  • For swing-open doors, simply lift up and out once the hinge pin is removed. French door models will need both hinge pins removed.
  • Wire shelves can be lifted out once any end caps or screws are removed.
  • For sliding shelves, unclip or unscrew the end brackets to remove the entire shelf in one piece.
  • Light covers and other removable panels can be pried off with a flathead screwdriver once any screws are taken out.

Make sure to save any small screws, caps or clips for potential reuse or recycling.

Dry Out the Appliance

With the fridge emptied and disassembled, allow ample time for any residual moisture to evaporate. Leaving the doors propped open allows air circulation. Placing a small fan pointed inside will help speed up the drying process.

This is an important step to inhibit mold growth. Even a small amount of moisture can promote mold once the appliance is stored or transported.

Prepare for Transportation

If the refrigerator doors were removed, lay them inside the fridge compartment or tape them securely onto the appliance. Wrap any loose shelving or components together using tape or plastic wrap.

Use moving blankets, furniture pads or other cushioning material to pad the appliance on all sides. This prevents dents and damage during transport.

Secure the fridge doors closed using tape, twine or zip ties. You want to prevent any shifting of the internal components during loading and unloading.

Transport Properly

Once secured, the refrigerator will need to be transported carefully:

  • Use an appliance dolly or hand truck to move the appliance over thresholds, steps and down stairs. The extra weight makes a fridge challenging to move by lifting alone.
  • Move the fridge vertically to prevent tipping. Trying to roll the appliance puts it at risk of falling over.
  • For lifting into a truck bed or van, use ramps whenever possible. Back injuries often occur when lifting heavy appliances.
  • Use tie-down straps to secure the fridge in a truck bed or van for transport. This prevents shifting that could cause damage.
  • Drive slowly and avoid quick stops/starts to prevent the fridge from falling over in transit.

Dispose Responsibly

When it comes time for final disposal, make sure you understand the best recycling and disposal options:

  • Curbside pickup – Some municipalities will collect large appliances left at the curb on designated pickup days. This is the most convenient option when available.
  • Drop-off centers – Many home improvement stores and metal recycling companies accept fridges for disposal. Some charge a small fee.
  • Special waste landfills – If recycling is not possible, household hazardous waste landfills provide safe disposal.
  • Sell for scrap – Old fridges can be sold to scrap metal dealers for a small amount of money. Call around for quotes.
  • Junk removal service – Junk hauling companies will pick up and dispose of old appliances professionally. This is convenient but can be costly.

No matter the method, verify that the fridge’s refrigerants will be professionally reclaimed to prevent release into the atmosphere. Letting these chemicals vent harms the ozone layer.

Why Proper Disposal Matters

Disposing of a fridge improperly can lead to environmental and safety issues, so handling it carefully is important.

Dangers include:

  • Release of refrigerants – Older fridges used CFCs and HCFCs that when released deplete the ozone layer and contribute to climate change. Modern refrigerants are less harmful but still need reclaiming.
  • Mercury switch leakage – If the compressor tilt switch breaks, it can leak toxic mercury. Proper recycling contains and reclaims this mercury.
  • Child entrapment – Kids playing in an abandoned refrigerator have suffocated after getting trapped inside. Always disable latches and doors before disposal.
  • Contamination – Rotting food, oils and bacteria inside an untended appliance can breed mold, maggots and other health hazards.

Following safe disposal procedures reduces these risks and protects the environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some common questions on refrigerator disposal:

How much does it cost to dispose of a refrigerator?

The cost to dispose of a refrigerator varies based on your location and method. Dropping off at a facility generally costs $20-$75. Hiring a junk removal service averages $100-$300. Options like curbside pickup or selling for scrap may have minimal fees.

Can you leave a refrigerator outside during disposal?

No, you should never leave an idle refrigerator outdoors even temporarily. It poses safety risks to children who may get trapped inside and the unit may leak hazardous chemicals.

Is it safe to throw away an old refrigerator?

Simply throwing an old refrigerator in the garbage is unsafe. It needs proper handling to reclaim refrigerants and hazardous materials. The large size also makes it inappropriate for normal waste collection.

What should you do with an old mini fridge?

Mini fridges can often be disposed of with regular trash pickup if they will fit in your bin. Check that all coolant has evaporated before placing it curbside. Some recyclers accept mini fridges too.

Can you sell an old refrigerator?

Older working refrigerators can sometimes be sold on classified sites. However, inefficient models have little resale value, so your best option is recycling drop-off which often pays by the pound of metal.


Disposing of an old refrigerator properly involves planning – removing shelves, cleaning the interior, securing components, safe transport, and responsible final disposal. With some time and care taken in these steps, you can keep environmental hazards to a minimum and give the appliance a fitting end-of-life. Being diligent about recycling also conserves resources and energy used in appliance manufacturing. By following this guide on how to dispose of a refrigerator the right way, you can check this chore off your to-do list in an eco-friendly manner.

How to Dispose of a Refrigerator [Infographic]

Here is a quick visual summary of the steps to dispose of a refrigerator properly:

Infographic with visual steps for emptying, cleaning, disassembling, transporting, and recycling an old refrigerator.

4 Best Options for Refrigerator Disposal

When that aging fridge finally dies, getting it out of your home and responsibly disposed of can be a challenge. What are your options for fridge removal and where should you bring an old unit? Here are the 4 best options for refrigerator disposal:

1. Curbside Pickup

Many municipal garbage collection services will collect refrigerators and other large appliances left on the curb on your designated pickup day. However, you normally have to schedule this service in advance and pay an additional pickup fee that averages $20-$50. They may also limit the number of large items per pickup. If available in your area, curbside retrieval by your regular waste hauler is the most convenient refrigerator disposal solution. Just be sure to remove doors, empty the fridge fully, and disable the lock to prevent kids from getting trapped inside.

2. Drop-Off at a Recycling Center

If curbside pickup is not an option, then drop-off at a recycling center is the next best solution. Many home improvement stores like The Home Depot and Best Buy accept old refrigerators for free recycling. Scrap metal yards will often take fridges too. These places already have the equipment to safely collect and process appliances. Just call ahead to get directions and find out if any fees apply. The national average is $30-$75 to drop off a fridge or other large appliance for recycling. Be sure to remove shelves and secure doors ahead of time.

3. Hire a Junk Removal Service

For a cost, you can hire large item junk removal companies like 1-800-GOT-JUNK to come to your home, haul away the refrigerator, and properly dispose of it. This convenient option avoids the work of loading and transporting the fridge yourself. On average, old appliance removal costs $100-$300 depending on your location and the distances involved. Do research to find reputable companies in your area that recycle responsibly. Make sure to get an upfront estimate.

4. Take to a Special Waste Facility

If you want to handle the disposal job yourself, look for a special waste drop-off facility in your region. These centers accept household hazardous items like old appliances that can’t just be thrown in a landfill. At these facilities, refrigerants, oils, and metals can be safely reclaimed or contained. Once cleaned of food, you can secure the doors and haul the refrigerator to the drop-off location. This disposal method is highly responsible but involves more time and effort on your part.

No matter which method you utilize, follow all preparation steps to make the fridge safe for transport. With smart planning, you can make sure your old refrigerator gets retired in an eco-friendly manner.

Dangers of Improper Refrigerator Disposal

Simply tossing your old refrigerator in the trash or abandoning it poses a surprising number of hazards both to the environment and human health. Here are some key dangers that improper disposal of an old refrigerator can cause:

Release of Harmful Refrigerants

The coolant chemicals used in refrigerators, such as CFCs and HCFCs, are potent greenhouse gasses that harm the ozone layer if allowed to escape into the atmosphere. Professionally recycling a fridge safely contains these refrigerants for reclamation rather than release into the air.

Mercury Switch Leaks

Many older fridge models utilized a mercury tilt switch in the compressor. If this switch breaks during improper disposal, it can leak toxic mercury into the ground or water table. Safe recycling carefully removes and contains the mercury.

Child Entrapment and Suffocation

Children playing around an abandoned refrigerator have been trapped and suffocated inside when the door closed behind them. Always remove refrigerator doors or disable the latch before disposal to prevent accidents.

Mold, Maggots and Contamination

Rotting food and moisture inside an untended refrigerator can breed mold, maggots and bacteria, creating health hazards. Proper cleaning and containment during disposal helps avoid contamination.

Unlawful Dumping Fines

Depending on your municipality, unlawfully dumping large appliances either on public property or outside of designated landfills can incur hefty fines. Irresponsible disposal into ravines, woods or ditches risks legal penalties.

Following hazardous waste disposal regulations keeps your community safe. Safety should be the top priority when getting rid of an aging refrigerator at end of life.

6 Steps to Prepare a Refrigerator for Disposal

Prepping a refrigerator correctly before disposal is crucial for safety. Appliances contain chemicals and components that require special handling. Here are 6 key steps to ready a refrigerator for disposal:

1. Remove All Food and Shelving

Leaving rotting food inside an old fridge creates horrible odors and poses contamination issues. Be sure to remove every last edible item, tossing anything expired. Also take out all removable bins, drawers, racks and shelves.

2. Thoroughly Clean the Interior

Give the interior surfaces a thorough scrub and disinfecting to eliminate spills, stains and sticky residues. Pay extra attention to grimy areas like bins and door gaskets. Allow complete drying.

3. Remove Doors, Racks and Components

Taking off doors, wire shelves, panels and anything not permanently affixed reduces weight for moving and prevents shifting during transport.

4. Dry Out Any Moisture

It’s crucial to allow all interior surfaces to fully dry in order to inhibit mold growth over time. Leaving doors open or using fans accelerates evaporation.

5. Protect Protruding Parts

Wrap doors, shelves and removable components together and secure with tape or plastic wrap to avoid damage.

6. Immobilize the Unit

Use straps, wood, padding and fasteners to immobilize the fridge and prevent shifting of heavy internal components during transport.

Following these preparatory steps minimizes safety issues and helps streamline the disposal process. Never skip on thorough cleaning and securing of an appliance headed for pickup.

Refrigerator Disposal Regulations

Various environmental regulations apply to the disposal process for refrigerators and other appliances containing hazardous materials. Being aware of the rules is key for legal compliance. Here are some key disposal regulations:

Ozone-Depleting Refrigerants

The now-banned CFC and HCFC coolants used in early fridges are classified as hazardous waste. These must be reclaimed by certified professionals rather than vented into the atmosphere.

Mercury Content

Many states ban disposal of items containing even small amounts of mercury in landfills. Older fridge switches may contain mercury and require specialized hazardous waste disposal.

Transportation Requirements

Appliances being transported to a disposal site may be subject to road regulations regarding load securing, covering and containment to prevent debris.

Regional Landfill Restrictions

Some municipalities prohibit disposal of unattended large appliances in landfills without proof of evacuation of coolants/hazardous materials.

Scrapping/Salvaging Laws

In some areas, removing or selling components of an appliance already slated for disposal is prohibited as theft of waste material.

Permits and Documentation

You may need documentation from a qualified appliance recycling facility proving proper disposal before hauling units yourself.

Being aware of these various rules ahead of time helps avoid violations and supports safer disposal practices. Check your regional environmental agency website for details on local appliance disposal regulations.

Illegal Refrigerant Venting: Environmental Impact

While today’s refrigerants like HFCs do far less damage compared to banned CFCs when released, improperly venting them still gradually impacts the atmosphere. Here is an overview of the key environmental consequences if refrigerant gases are allowed to escape into the air during irresponsible disposal:

Ozone Layer Depletion

CFCs and HCFCs were phased out precisely because they substantially depleted the ozone layer when leaked, increasing human UV exposure. Modern refrigerants cause significantly less ozone loss.

Contribution to the Greenhouse Effect

HFC refrigerants have very high global warming potential (GWP) values if vented. While minimal compared to overall climate emissions, uncontrolled release of coolants does slightly increase the greenhouse effect and heat retention.

Air Quality Impacts

Refrigerant gases can displace breathable oxygen if released in extremely high concentration in confined spaces. Normal venting during disposal poses little air quality risk however.

Accumulation in the Atmosphere

While next-gen refrigerants break down more quickly than CFCs when leaked, they can still persist in the atmosphere for 15 years or more, gradually impacting climate and air quality.

Hindering Future Recycling

Venting coolants during disposal decreases the potential to reclaim and reuse these gases, necessitating more new refrigerant production over time.

Proper disposal is crucial for avoiding even the small environmental consequences of refrigerant release. Responsible recycling contains these gases and mitigates environmental impact.

Why Remove Refrigerator Shelves Before Disposal?

Taking the time to remove glass and wire shelves from the refrigerator before getting rid of it provides some key advantages:

  • It reduces weight for easier moving of the appliance.
  • The fridge will take up less space in a truck or dumpster without shelving sticking out.
  • Separating shelves prevents them from breaking or bending during jostling and transportation.
  • Individual shelves are easier to secure to avoid shifting and damage.
  • Removing components allows better interior access for cleaning and drying out compartments.
  • Shelf removal lets you recycle glass and metal shelves separately from the appliance body.
  • Eliminating protruding shelves lessens risk of injuries when handling the discarded fridge.
  • Detached shelves, especially glass, are less likely to break and scatter debris during disposal.

A minute spent removing screws or clips to take out shelving saves hassle and prevents accidents down the road. And salvaging usable shelves keeps useful materials out of landfills.

How Deep Cleaning Saves Money on Fridge Disposal

Putting some elbow grease into fully cleaning out an old refrigerator before disposal can really save you money and hassle when getting rid of the appliance. Here’s how:

Less tipping fees – Landfills and recycling centers often weigh appliances before charging tipping fees. Removing shelves, drawers and heavy food debris reduces the overall weight and decreases your disposal costs.

**Higher scrap