How to Move a Refrigerator Safely, According to Pro Movers

updated Jun 24, 2024
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Professional movers are well-versed in the problems that can arise when moving major appliances like refrigerators. They can leak, collect mold or mildew, destroy floors, and scratch walls — and if you’re moving it yourself, there’s a greater risk for all of the above. If you have to figure out how to move a refrigerator on your own, like if you’re upgrading your appliances, without the help of a professional mover, make sure you follow these directions to do so safely (and if you need to move other appliances, we’ve got that covered too).

How do I prepare my refrigerator for moving?

Credit: Anita Chomenko

Empty out the fridge.

This may seem obvious, but first you should remove everything from inside the fridge. Start a week or so before you plan to move the appliance, eating all the refrigerated food you don’t necessarily want to take with you. Don’t forget to find storage for all the things you can’t get to, either by sharing them with someone else or packing them in a cooler during the move. Then, take out the fridge’s shelves and drawers.

Credit: Anita Chomenko

Disconnect water lines and wiring.

The newer a fridge, the more technologically advanced it is. If it has in-door screens or an ice or water dispenser, disconnect the water lines and wiring. Pay special attention to the water line.

“It’s usually fairly simple to disconnect the water lines, but as a mover, we’re a little hesitant to mess around with something that involves water,” says Isaac Pulkkinen, a mover and trainer with Gentle Giant. “If it’s not shut off properly, you can cause a lot of damage. In some cases you may need a plumber to get it shut off properly.”

Most movers won’t even touch the wiring or water lines due to liability issues, says Gabe Misinksi, a lead mover at Olympia Moving & Storage. Movers will provide you with the tools, but often won’t do it themselves.

Credit: Anita Chomenko

Defrost the fridge, if necessary.

You won’t necessarily need to defrost your fridge for the move.

“If your fridge is going into storage, you need to defrost it,” Misinksi said. “If it’s just a short local move, whether you need to depends on the weather.”

Short means no longer than six or eight hours for the entire move. In the wintertime, it won’t be a problem. But in the summer, the fridge will start to defrost in the truck and leak water. If you do need to defrost your refrigerator, make sure you’ve left enough time before the move to take care of it.

How to move a refrigerator to clean behind it

To clean behind a refrigerator, you don’t need to necessarily empty it or unplug it, unless you find that the contents within the fridge are making it too heavy to scoot out. Most people can gently scoot a refrigerator out by pulling it right and left back and forth until it slides out. Once you create an opening to the back of the fridge, you can extend the hose of your vacuum to get into the back corners and floor to vacuum up any lingering dust. 

If you find that scooting it out isn’t working, enlist a buddy who can help you tilt the fridge to one side as you place furniture sliders under each corner of the fridge.

How long should a fridge be off before moving it?

A fridge can defrost in as little as a few hours depending on the size, but you’ll want to be proactive about this so it doesn’t leak out into the truck unexpectedly and ruin your stuff. Prop the doors open, fill the empty fridge with old towels, unplug it, and let it sit for 48 hours. Replace the towels as needed to soak everything up.

Remove the doors, if necessary.

Once the fridge is defrosted and dry inside, you’ll probably need to remove the doors — either on the fridge or on your home. Pulkkinen notes that newer fridges are quite large. Some are larger than a standard door size, and they’re only getting bigger. If you can’t easily maneuver the appliance out the door, take your doors off the hinges.

Credit: Anita Chomenko

Protect the floors, walls, and refrigerator.

Especially if you have a rental, you’ll want to make sure you put rubber mats on the floor wherever the fridge will be rolled. Those suckers are really heavy, and can scratch floors instantly — regardless of if you’re using a four-wheeled dolly (which is preferable) or just pushing it along on its own (which you shouldn’t do if you value the appliance). Shrinkwrap the fridge itself to avoid scratches, and hang some moving blankets just in case you bump any drywall.

Credit: Anita Chomenko

Physically move the fridge with a dolly.

According to Pulkkinen, you don’t want to move the fridge without some sort of mechanical assistance — and that assistance should always be in the form of a dolly. 

The first thing you should do is pad the metal on the dolly so it doesn’t scratch the fridge. Slide the dolly under the fridge and wrap ratchet straps around the appliance to secure it to the dolly. Then, brace the dolly with your foot so you can tip the fridge toward you. You will have to repeat this process until you find the correct center of gravity.

When you’ve got it right, the fridge will tip back evenly, and you’ll be able to push it forward — holding onto the fridge itself rather than the dolly so you don’t get hurt. Keep your eyes on one side of the fridge, rather than peeking around both sides throughout the move. It’s best to have a second person guiding you here.

Credit: Anita Chomenko

Secure it safely in the truck.

Once you wheel the fridge out to your truck and get it inside, secure it tightly to the wall of the truck using rope or ratchet straps. Refrigerators have limited-mobility wheels, and you don’t want it rolling across the truck and falling over onto your expensive coffee table.

Can you lay a fridge down to move it?

Technically you can, but you definitely don’t want to lay the fridge flat to move it.

“There are fluids in the compressor of the fridge, and if the fridge is tipped or laid flat for an extended period of time, they can migrate to where they’re not supposed to be,” Pulkkinen said. “It’s not that you can’t do it. But if you do, you should not plug it in immediately. You can burn out the compressor that way.”

Credit: Anita Chomenko

Reassemble and reconnect in the new house.

Assuming you first measured the space for the fridge in your new abode (and it fits), wheel it inside. When you lower the fridge on the dolly into your appliance’s new space, lower it slowly, using your own weight as a counter, so it doesn’t slam down. Reconnect the water line and wiring, plug it in, and restock with food.


Can I move a refrigerator without a dolly?

According to Whirlpool, you should never move a fridge without a dolly. You should also never attempt to move a fridge alone. Make sure you also have straps to secure the fridge to the dolly to avoid any accidents. 

Do refrigerators have wheels?

Most fridges have wheels or rollers that allow you to scoot them out easily. The difficulty comes from moving a fridge from place to place, because it’s so heavy. Experts recommend using a dolly to move a fridge from home to home.