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A guide to keeping your water dispenser clean.

Courtesy of First American Home Warranty,


When you need a cool drink of water, your refrigerator water dispenser makes pouring a glass easy and fast. Naturally, with time, you may see some buildup on and around your water dispenser. You may even encounter a bad smell or taste in the water or notice that the refrigerator water dispenser is slow to pour. These are some of the signs that it's time to clean your fridge's water dispenser. It’s important to consult your refrigerator's manufacturer’s guide for tips or cautions before proceeding, but once you've taken that step, cleaning your refrigerator water dispenser is a simple DIY task. Read this helpful guide to learn how to clean a water dispenser. How Important Is It to Clean the Fridge Water Dispenser? Properly maintaining your refrigerator keeps it looking and smelling fresh and can help prolong its life. So, if you want to keep your refrigerator running well, and continue to enjoy clear, crisp water from your refrigerator water dispenser, you should make it a priority to clean them regularly. If your home has hard water, it’s even more essential to regularly maintain your fridge’s water dispenser. Hard water deposits in a refrigerator's water supply lines build up much more quickly than in homes with soft water, mostly because of the accumulation of minerals. If neglected, your dispenser’s performance and water quality will deteriorate. Best Time to Clean Your Refrigerator Water Dispenser Before you learn how to clean a water dispenser, there are a few common indicators you can keep an eye out for to determine when cleaning is needed. Funky Smell or Taste of Water or Ice When you're expecting quality-tasting water from your fridge dispenser and instead get a whiff or taste of something funky, it's not a pleasant experience. This is a sign that your refrigerator water dispenser needs cleaning. When water has a metallic smell or taste, that indicates calcium and magnesium have built up. Low-Pressure Output from Dispenser Excess mineral buildup can not only leave a foul odor but can eventually block water flow. If you notice your fridge's water dispenser has lower water pressure than normal, the excess buildup is likely the culprit. Alerts from Your Refrigerator Filter Alarm A good indication that your refrigerator water dispenser needs cleaning is when the filter alarm alerts you or the filter warning light shifts color. When you are ready to replace a refrigerator water filter, cleaning the water dispenser and water line are additional maintenance steps that help enhance the freshness of your drinking water. How to Clean Your Refrigerator Water Dispenser Now that you know what to look for, let's investigate how to clean a water dispenser. You will need a few basic home tools to do this job. Those tools include:

  • Small mixing bowl

  • Grease-fighting dish soap or white vinegar

  • Water

  • Small-wired bottle brush or pipe cleaner

  • Large glass or pitcher

  • Cloth rag

  • Funnel

Cleaning the Nozzle To get started, you need a solution that can help break up the grimy buildup. You may choose either a mix of:

  • Dish soap (a few drops) and a couple of tablespoons of water in a bowl or glass, or

  • White vinegar with warm water (in a 1:1 ratio).

A white vinegar solution is one of many natural and safe household cleaners, and the ultimate natural hard water stain remover you can use for this job. Take the small bottle brush or pipe cleaner and whisk together the solution you chose. If you use the dish soap solution, swish the brush around until you get a sudsy solution. Bring the solution and brush over to your refrigerator water dispenser. Insert the brush into the dispenser's opening, and work it up and down for several seconds. When you see some grime on the brush, rinse it clean and repeat the process with your solution. Continue scrubbing the dispenser until your brush comes out clean. If the outside of your dispenser nozzle has buildup, use the brush and solution to scrub the outside, then wipe clean with a clean rag or paper towel. Next, grab a large glass or pitcher and turn on your fridge's water dispenser. You want to run water through to properly flush the solution from the nozzle. Fill at least a pitcher of water or until the water runs clear. You should also check the water's taste to be sure it's clear. Pro tip: When you keep up with monthly cleanings, it helps your refrigerator water dispenser stay in proper working order, and it makes each next cleaning a lot easier. Homeowners with hard water may have to clean more frequently due to the quicker mineral buildup. Cleaning the Tray With the nozzle cleaned, look at the dispenser tray below (if your fridge has one). To clean this area, create a fresh batch of white vinegar solution in a small bowl. Dip a clean rag into the solution and ring it until it's damp. Wipe down the tray, making sure to get into every crevice to remove any residue. If the buildup is stubborn, you may want to soak the tray in a water and vinegar bath for up to 20 minutes. Once done soaking, rinse with lukewarm water and dry with a clean towel. Cleaning the Water Line To avoid working in small spaces, pull the refrigerator as far from the wall as you can. Unplug it and turn the water supply off. You can often find the shutoff valve in the bottom back corner. You'll want plenty of room so that you can access your refrigerator's water dispenser tube and clean the lines with vinegar. Not all models are the same, so check your manufacturer's guide about how to access the dispenser tube. Next, remove the tubing from the shutoff valve. (Be sure to have towels at the ready to absorb any excess water.) Insert a small funnel into the tube opening that leads to the water dispenser and carefully and slowly pour two cups of the white vinegar solution into the tube and down the water line. Allow the mixture 10 to 15 minutes to travel through the water line and give the vinegar time to do its magic. Quick tip: If you don't feel like standing for 10 minutes holding the tube up, feel free to prop it up, or better, tape it to the back of the fridge in an upright position. The key is to allow the mixture to flow down the water line, not up through the opening. After the waiting period, place a bowl or pitcher under the refrigerator's water dispenser nozzle and press to dispense water to flush the line. Continue to dispense until you get all the mixture out of the line. Quick tip: If you also need to replace your water filter, this is the perfect time to do so. After the line runs dry, discard the vinegar mixture, and reconnect the water supply to the valve. Turn on the valve to let water into the line. Plug your fridge back in and reposition it into place. Grab a pitcher or large bowl and place it under your refrigerator's water dispenser nozzle. Turn on the water dispenser to let fresh water run through the line and remove any leftover vinegar. You are all set when the water is either visibly clear or you stop smelling (or tasting) the vinegar. Many manufacturers recommend flushing the water line for dispensers about once per year but check your own guide to confirm. Protect Your Refrigerator with a Home Warranty When a kitchen appliance you rely on breaks down unexpectedly, it is often a huge inconvenience. And finding a contractor to fix it is no easy task either. You can whittle away the worries when you have a First American home warranty. With a home warranty plan, your covered appliances can be repaired or replaced, including the refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, and more. Our plans can also cover home systems such as heating, plumbing, and electrical. Find out what our home warranties can protect for you, and get a quick, personalized quote in no time. The contents of this article are provided for general guidance only. First American Home Warranty does not assume any responsibility for losses or damages as a result of using this information.

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