Let’s face it, if a refrigerator is not installed below a cabinet unit, the top of the appliance becomes valuable decorative or storage real-estate. However, after cleaning behind my fridge and finding one or two stray items that had fallen off without me noticing, I started to wonder how safe this practice is.
We’re going to look at why it is not good to store things on the refrigerator, the safety tips if you do, and what other alternatives you have.
Storing items on top of the fridge is not recommended by manufacturers. If you are going to use the surface for storage, avoid heat-generating items, items that can easily fall off (injury/fire hazard), and keep the maximum weight to about 45 lbs. Consider a floating shelf instead.
Should You Store Items on Top of the Fridge?
Most manufactures will say that you should not store items on top of the refrigerator, even though seeing that empty space in the middle of overfilled kitchen can be tempting.
You should always check your manual or ask your manufacturer directly, but generally, it is not recommended. In most manuals, you will find written warnings against storing items on top of the fridge, but they rarely explain why.
So, if all you need to follow this recommendation is good reasoning, I did a little research for you (and for me!).
Reasons Not to Store Things on Fridges
Heat-Generating Equipment Can Damage the Fridge
Storing heat-generating equipment is completely taboo when it comes to utilizing the space on top of a fridge.
If you are lucky, it will just make the refrigerator work extra hard to keep everything inside cool, and thus will use up more energy (and cost you more money) than it usually would.
The worst-case scenario, however, is that it will completely destroy both your fridge and the equipment.
Heat From the Fridge Can Damage the Items
Decorating your refrigerator with unnecessary items is not only bad for the appliance but also for the centerpieces themselves.
The generated heat could easily kill your plant, dry the bread and pastries or damage your brand new but very heat-sensitive electronics. In short, the fridge habitat doesn’t suit the majority of things you may be tempted to store up there.
Items Can Easily Fall Off
Opening and closing the fridge creates vibrations that can slowly move anything that is stored on the refrigerator. The items can fall down without any warning and could seriously harm your children, you, your family and friends, or even your pets.
A couple of years ago a wine glass that I stored on top of the fridge dropped down and fell on the ceramic stove. Both shattered. It ended up costing more than $500 to get it replaced.
Items can also slip down behind the refrigerator and cause damage to the mechanisms there.
To not have a midnight trip to the fridge end with a bump on the head, or valuable things shattering on a floor, it may be better not to store anything up there, or at least always keep an eye on them.
It Could Become a Fire Hazard
It is important to avoid storing easily flammable items on the top of your refrigerator. A more serious danger than them overheating on top of a fridge is them falling behind the appliance, unnoticed, and potentially becoming a fire hazard.
I’m not talking only about paper. Flour, coffee, and most powdered ingredients can flare up easily if their dust gets scattered in the air.
If an item like a kitchen towel falls behind a fridge, it could cover the ventilator or create an insulation layer for already warm coils.
Storing any liquids or bottles on top of a fridge poses a risk of them breaking and damaging some of the mechanical structures, or causing electrical short-circuiting.
All these scenarios can lead to a fire.
You Have to Take It All Down
You will occasionally have to remove all items from on top of the fridge. Not just for repairs but also for maintenance.
To keep your fridge functioning safely and efficiently, you should clean behind and below it regularly. This will stop dust from building up on the coils or blocking the ventilation.
However, you will be less likely to do the required cleaning if, in order to move the refrigerator, you have to take down and recompile half of your pantry together with a collection of cookbooks.
Most People Store Things on a Fridge Top
While you probably shouldn’t store things on a fridge top, almost everyone does. Luckily, it often doesn’t have any serious consequences. Maybe a higher electricity bill, but you would not make that link immediately.
Manufacturers know about this practice, and they don’t want to take responsibility for the potential dangers and damage associated with it. As a result, they do, and always will advise against it.
But perhaps, they take the fact that most people use the top of the fridge for storage it into consideration when designing their appliances.
Over the years, fridges have had some significant improvements made regarding their durability, energy consumption, and overall quality. Many modern refrigerators are very robust and have a great ventilation system. They are most likely able to support a few fridge-top items.
Precautions for Storing Items Atop a Fridge
If you are going to store things on top of your refrigerator, follow these safety tips to minimize the risks as much as possible.
Protective Layer Between Fridge and Items
The first and easiest thing you can do is to purchase a heat-resistant rubber mat (amazon link) to create a protective layer between the fridge and all stored items.
The mat will not only decrease the risk of fire but also stop things from moving thanks to its non-slip properties.
Reserve the space for not-too-heavy or easily flammable items, and definitely avoid anything heat-generating, including microwave, a small TV, etc.
For that matter, you should also refrain from placing your fridge next to an oven, a heater, dishwasher, water heater, overly sunny window, or any other heat-generating item or appliance. Positioning it near these items is an unnecessary load for your fridge, and it could lead to overheating.
Ensure Sufficient Space Behind and Next to Fridge
In a way, the refrigerator simply needs to breathe. Leaving enough space between the appliance and the wall behind it is of utmost importance, as the majority of mechanism and ventilation is placed on the back of the fridge.
Next would be the sides of a fridge and only then the top, generally speaking. So, in theory, if the fridge has enough space at the back and sides, putting the right items on top of it shouldn’t cause too much damage.
Presuming you follow other mentioned safety rules and are careful not to cover any ventilation openings (even if they’re on top).
That being said, if your refrigerator is surrounded from all sides and the majority of airflow happens through the top, it is seriously a bad idea to cover it.
Try not to place any items near the edge. Use the rubber mat to prevent sliding. If the goods you are keeping are easily breakable, like tableware, consider putting them all into a box instead of letting them lay freely on the fridge top.
In fact, it is generally a good idea to put the entire load of things you want to store atop the fridge into a basket (amazon link) or two and place it near the center of a fridge. That way, you are less likely to knock something down while searching through the pile.
Check Whether Your Fridge Is Steady on Its Feet
Before utilizing the space atop the fridge, inspect the bottom of it. Check whether the refrigerator is leveled with the floor.
Fix its legs if any of them are broken, not appropriately attached, or if anything is stuck beneath them. Look out for any damage or wiggling.
You can watch this video to see how to level a refrigerator.
Regularly Check Behind the Fridge
The easiest way to know whether there’s any paper, spilled flour, or forgotten dishtowel laying behind your fridge, waiting to cause trouble, is to have a look.
And if you do that regularly, you’ll be more likely to notice accumulated dust or overheating of the coils, and you can act on it before any problems arise.
Don’t Overload the Fridge
Try to do other things that can ease the load on your appliance. Don’t overfill it, avoid putting hot food in, or don’t leave it open for too long, just to name a few.
Also, be cautious not to put too many or too heavy items atop the fridge. This brings me to my next point.
Maximum Weight for Items on Top of the Fridge
The fridges are robust devices that often weigh more than 200 lbs just by themselves. It is not unreasonable to expect they can support a lot of weight.
However, there is one thing we can’t forget. They are electric devices first and foremost, and a large portion of their capacity is used up by cooling systems and other mechanisms, and of course, by all the groceries we store inside.
They are not built to hold a lot of weight on top of them.
Generally, you can get away with about 45 lbs (20 kg) placed on top, depending on the exact type and model of a refrigerator. However, it is certainly not recommended to store heavy things atop a fridge, and it will likely shorten its lifetime.
Best Items to Store on Top of a Fridge
After reading through all the safety rules and knowing all the items you should not store atop your refrigerator, you might wonder whether there’s anything you could keep up there.
Some of the best things to store up there are definitely groceries like pasta, dried lentils, salt, snacks, and even cereals. Or you can leave the space for a decoration that you can’t find another place for.
Alternatively, you could fill a basket with small things that you don’t use much but don’t want to part with (like birthday candles, Christmas cookie cutters, etc.) and hide them on top of the fridge until their time comes again.
Perhaps even putting dishcloths into one basket and keeping them on your refrigerator is not such a bad idea if you promise to make sure none of them will end up behind the appliance.
All these things are good because they are not too heavy or highly flammable, so if you store them properly, they shouldn’t cause that much harm.
Consider Installing a Floating Shelf to Use Rather
Perhaps the best solution is installing a floating shelf instead.
It will improve the overall aesthetics, allow proper airflow for the fridge, and protect the stored items from heat. On top of that, the shelf can accommodate things of your liking. You don’t have to follow safety rules or buy a heat-resistant mat.
You should still be careful. Make sure the items won’t fall behind the refrigerator and leave at least 1 inch of free space between the shelf and the fridge to allow for proper air circulation.
But other than that, your hand is free to decorate according to your wildest ideas.
Ensure Your Kitchen is Well-Organized
If you are storing things on top of your refrigerator, then perhaps improving the organization of other areas in your kitchen will help to make room in the more appropriate storage areas.
When I reorganized my deep pantry shelves, I found I had a ton more space to work with.
If you are looking for alternative spots for all your unwieldy kitchen utensils, then I recommend taking a look at my article on How to Organize Kitchen Utensils Without Drawers.