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An expert guide to moving your fridge or freezer safely

Fridges and freezers can easily be damaged in transit if you don't follow a few precautions. 

person moving fridge with trolley
Last updated: 21 March 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

If you're moving house without bringing in the professionals, you're going to need to work out how to move your fridge and freezer safely. 

The challenge isn't just their big awkward shape and heavy weight – they're also full of delicate parts that are easily damaged.

But before you read on, it's worth considering if you're due for an upgrade. After all, there's no point moving a fridge that needs to be replaced in the near future. 

If you think it's time to upgrade to a more energy-efficient model, or you need a new fridge that's bigger or smaller than your current model, check CHOICE reviews to find the best fridges before you buy. 

If you're sticking with your current fridge, read on to find out how to transport it safely. 

Preparing a fridge or freezer before you move

Unlike, say, a coffee table, you can't just grab your fridge or freezer and go. As well as consulting your user manual for model-specific tips, here's our comprehensive checklist of things to prep ahead of the move:

  • Remove all food (transfer to a cooler for transport, or feast the week before).
  • Give it a thorough clean – odours will get worse once the fridge is turned off, so now's the time to disinfect. Read our expert tips on how to clean and maintain your fridge.
  • Remove interior shelves and wrap each shelf separately in towels, paper or bubble wrap to prevent breakages during transit. Label and pack them alongside your fridge. 
  • Turn off your fridge or freezer by following the instructions in the user manual. You may like to do this around 24 hours before you move to allow enough time to defrost, clean and dry it properly. 
  • Disconnect fridge hoses if you have a water filter or auto ice-maker, and purge water lines to prevent leaks later.
  • Defrost the freezer and remove excess ice to avoid leaks onto other furniture or boxes in transit.
  • Secure doors, and cover the unit in protective wrapping and moving blankets to avoid damaging it or your home on the way out.
  • Use adhesive tapes with care, as they can leave marks on surfaces.
  • Check your exit route and anticipate any tight spots with a measuring tape.
person cleaning empty fridge

Try to clean before you move – you may be too tired afterwards, as moving can be exhausting.

When should you turn it off before moving?

If you're moving a fridge or freezer into your new home, it's best to turn it off 24 hours before. This gives the fridge's evaporator time to defrost, which reduces the risk of any damage during the move. 

It also lets the oils and fluids inside settle and stops them moving through the compressor. 

If you're transferring your unit into storage instead, turn it off a week before to give it ample time to dry out – this, plus a good clean, will prevent a mouldy surprise greeting you when you open it months later. 

How to move a fridge or freezer safely

Fridges and freezers can be heavy and cumbersome, so never tackle this task lightly. Hopefully, you'll have an A-team of experienced removalists to do it, but if not, ask a strong friend or two to help you load it, clear obstacles and assist with steering, which can be difficult on stairs or sloping ground. 

When carrying a fridge or freezer on a trolley, try not to tip it back more than 45 degrees

To move your fridge or freezer, you'll need a moving trolley or dolly (essentially, a platform with wheels, which you can buy or rent) with a suitable weight-load rating to avoid damaging your floors. The best trolleys come with a ratchet strap to secure the unit and multiple jockey wheels to take on stairs. 

If you're using a trolley, our fridge expert Ashley Iredale recommends checking the base of the fridge first to find the strongest lifting point. 

ash next to ikea fridge

CHOICE fridge expert Ashley Iredale.

"It will depend on the model, but it may be better going from the side, not the back," says Ashley. "On some units, there's often not a lot of material at the rear base of a fridge and you could risk bending it. Sides are often sturdier, but make sure you use padding so you don't scratch the surface."

When carrying a fridge or freezer on a trolley, try not to tip it back more than 45 degrees. "Keeping the fridge upright keeps the internal refrigerant in the right place," says Ashley. 

"If you lean it over too far or lie it down, you're going to have to wait a while for the refrigerant to get back to where it belongs before turning it on."

If you're using a ute or trailer and the weather's looking iffy, use a tarp cover to keep it dry.

young people moving fridge into their house

If a fridge is tilted or laid down, it needs time to settle before you can switch it back on.

Can you lay a fridge or freezer down to move it? 

Fridges and freezers are best transported upright to keep the cooling refrigerant in its right place. 

But this isn't always possible, so you may need to lie it down, which requires some extra considerations at your destination. With a lot of padding underneath, lie your fridge or upright freezer down and secure it with straps so it can't move during transit. 

"Whether it's best lying on its back or side will depend on the specific model and style," says Ashley. "If you're lying a fridge on its side, put it with the hinge side at the top, as gravity will make it spring open the other way.

"If your unit's got an external heat exchanger on the back, then on its side might be best. But provided the back is flat and clear, then lying it on its back is probably safest."

For a big fridge with French doors, it may not be practical to lay it on its side, as these fridges tend to be wider than they are deep, meaning they could fall or their doors could swing open.

person putting shopping in fridge

Check your fridge manual for the safest time to restock it.

How long until you can turn your fridge back on after moving?

If your fridge or upright freezer was transported standing up, Ashley says you can turn it on straight away. 

But if it took a trip on its back or side, you need to give it time to stand up and let the refrigerant settle. If you don't do this, you risk damaging your fridge. 

"How long you should wait before turning your fridge on again will vary from model to model, so it's best to check your manual or ask the manufacturer," says Ashley.

You'll also need to check the manual to find out how long you should wait before restocking the fridge with food. Usually it's about 24 hours, but you should follow whatever your manual says. 

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.