Sometimes, you will need to open the fridge door to pick up that snack from the fridge or put new food items inside. But, just how long can you leave the fridge open? I mean, you don’t want any food items in the refrigerator to go bad, or worse, cause you chronic food poisoning due to the accumulation of bacteria when the temperatures in the interior of the fridge increase.


At the same time, you can’t completely avoid opening the refrigerator. When you go to the grocery store or the mall, you will need to keep these items in the fridge. And this means leaving the refrigerator door open for a while. Similarly, when picking several items from the refrigerator, you might be tempted to keep the door open.

The big question is, how long can you leave the fridge door open without risking food spoilage or extra energy costs? Read on to find out!


How Long Can You Leave the Fridge Open?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the refrigerator door can be left open for 2-4 hours without the risk of food spoiling. However, if the door is left open for longer, it leads to increased temperatures in the fridge, leading to food going bad when the temperatures go over 40°F. Still, whether the food stored inside gets spoiled or not depends on the type of food. For example, eggs, milk, or foods cooked with these spoil very quickly, usually not exceeding four hours. However, while fruits and vegetables may lower in quality, they still remain edible within the time frame.

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What Happens if You Leave the Refrigerator Door Open?

When you forget to close the refrigerator door for too long, several things are bound to happen:


1. Temperatures Inside the Refrigerator Increase

Refrigerators help keep foods at cool temperatures, ensuring they remain fresh for as long as possible. The cold temperatures prevent any growth of bacteria or germs that could lead to food spoilage and wastage.

When the refrigerator door is left open for a long time, the cold air is released in the air. This causes temperatures inside to start increasing, in turn causing the food to become warm. And since warm temperatures provide a conducive environment for bacteria to grow, the food goes bad easily.


The spoilage of foods items stored in the fridge depends on two key factors:

  • How long the refrigerator door was left open – If the door was left open for a short period of time, high chances are that the refrigerator still retained its cold temperatures. In such a case, the cooling stays a bit longer, preventing food from getting spoiled.
  • The type of food stored inside the fridge – Certain kinds of foods are sensitive and tend to spoil quickly when the fridge door is left open. For example, while fruits, vegetables, and bread rarely go bad when the door is left open for 2-4 hours, eggs, milk, and foods with cream have a short tolerance rate, which means that they spoil quickly.

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2. Moist Begins to Form

When the refrigerator door is left open, warm air flows inside. This warm air mixes with the cool breeze in the fridge, leading to condensation and the formation of moisture. When moisture occurs in every part of the refrigerator, it causes the food items to turn wet. In turn, the sensors lose the ability to detect the right temperatures required inside the appliance.

This causes the compressor to work continuously, using more energy in the process. Besides, the more the sensors do not detect the right temperatures, the more moisture is created in the fridge, leading to an unending cycle of moist formation.


3. Cooling Again Takes Much Longer

Once you notice that you left your fridge door open, you should close it immediately. However, remember that when the door was left open, warm air got inside, increasing the overall temperatures of the interior. And when you close the door again, the fridge starts working to restore the normal cold temperatures required inside.

However, cooling the inside of the refrigerator may take longer than usual. This is usually due to the frozen coils and the defrosting process that starts before the appliance regains its normal temperatures. In fact, if the door is left open for more than 4 hours, the cooling process may even take up to 24 hours!


4. The Compressor May Fail

Leaving the refrigerator door open for a long time increases the risk of the compressor failing. As warm air flows into the fridge, the compressor works harder to restore the cool temperatures of the interior. Also, since the sensors do not detect the correct temperatures, the compressor works continuously, which could lead it to fail.

However, this tends to happen in the old model refrigerators. Therefore, if yours is a modern refrigerator, you need not worry much about your compressor failing.


Does Leaving the Fridge Door Open Waste Electricity?

Sometimes, it is almost impossible to avoid opening and closing the refrigerator door many times throughout the day. For example, you might open the door to give the appliance a quick clean, fill it with groceries or even hold onto it while deciding what you want to eat. In such scenarios, does opening the door waste electricity?

The good news is that such an occasional opening of the refrigerator door does not hugely affect your electricity bill. In fact, research shows that keeping the door open as you rummage only accounts for 7% of the appliance’s overall energy use.

Therefore, stop obsessing over the few seconds you leave your refrigerator door open since it has little impact on your electricity bills. However, avoid leaving the door open for a long time since this will lead to the compressor working harder and continuously, in turn increasing your energy bills.



So now you know the answer to the question, how long can you leave the fridge open? To minimize your overall energy bills and improve the functionality of your refrigerator, avoid leaving the door open for a long time. And if you realize that you accidentally left it open, close it immediately. Keeping your refrigerator door closed will ensure that the appliance works well, serving you in the best way and for the longest time possible!

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