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How to clean a refrigerator water line

Young woman getting ice water out of refrigerator

If your refrigerator isn't producing quality water or ice, there's likely something wrong with your water line. Dirty water lines can cause foul tastes, build-ups, and blockages, which may prevent your refrigerator from operating the way it should.

Asurion Experts are certified and experienced with every major appliance, so they not only know how to fix the problem but also can teach you how to do it yourself. Here are their tips to keep your refrigerator's water line clean.

What you'll need:

  • A cleaning rag
  • A bucket
  • A 16-ounce bottle of distilled white vinegar
  • A plastic funnel
  • A screwdriver
  • Two clamps

Now you're ready to start fixing your refrigerator water line and get that cold, refreshing h20 flowing again. While you're cleaning, keep an eye out for water lines that are leaking, old, or punctured.

Step 1: Disconnect your water line

Before getting started, unplug your refrigerator and shut off the water. This process shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes to an hour, so don’t worry about cleaning out your perishables. The water shut-off valve is usually located on the wall behind the fridge—if you don’t find it there, other common water shut-off valve locations are under the kitchen sink, in a cabinet near the fridge, or in the basement.

After the water is turned off, disconnect the water supply line from the back of your fridge—you may be able to do so by hand with a simple twist-off or you may need the help of a screwdriver or pair of pliers, depending on make and model of your fridge. Once loose, place the line into a bucket to catch any excess drainage. 

Step 2: Clean the water dispenser and reservoir

Once you've unplugged your refrigerator and disconnected its water line, empty the water out of your appliance by removing the bottom reservoir. Then, sanitize this reservoir by rinsing it with a splash of white vinegar. Next, use a clean rag soaked with a little vinegar to clean your water dispenser and wipe down the spout. Let both dry.

After they've dried, wipe both the reservoir and water dispenser down again with warm, soapy water to ensure that all of the vinegar is gone. After a final rinse, move on to step 3.

Step 3: Thoroughly flush your refrigerator lines

Connect the reservoir back to your refrigerator. Attach a plastic funnel to the reservoir tube, then pour enough white vinegar down the tube to fully saturate it. If your refrigerator has an ice machine, you should also pour vinegar into the icemaker's dispenser lines. You can continue to pour the vinegar through these lines a few times, then let it sit in these tubes for about 10 to 20 minutes by using your clamps to seal the end so nothing leaks. Once time's up, unclamp the tube and let the remaining vinegar trickle into a bucket.

Step 4: Rinse, repeat, and replace

After you flush your system out with vinegar, make sure to reconnect the water supply, turn it back on, and run water through the tubing until you're sure that there's no more vinegar in the system. Run a few extra glasses of water through the line before putting it back to be completely sure you've eliminated all remaining traces.

We recommend making a few batches of ice and throwing them out, too, as it's likely they'll taste like vinegar. Once you've done so, take out your refrigerator ice tray and soak it with warm, soapy water to clean it. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely before putting the ice bin back into the freezer.

After all your components are back where they belong, turn the water supply back on and plug your refrigerator in again.

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