Left Your Refrigerator Door Open? Find Out if Food Is Safe

Researched & Written by Craig

Seeing an open refrigerator door when you walk in the kitchen is worrying. Is your food still safe to eat? Make sure you check out this article to find out!

Let’s start with a quick answer. Use the following table to find out if your food is safe:

The Situation The Outcome for Your Food
The door was left open but the temperature remains below 40°F The food is safe
The door was left open but the temperature is above 40°F You should throw away perishable food
The door was left open for less than 2 hours The food is safe

Finding the refrigerator door open is frustrating. It could also be a very expensive mistake to make. Are you ready to find out more about leaving the fridge open and food safety? Then make sure you check out the extended food and fridge temperature guide below.

Finding gone-off food in fridge
Leaving the fridge door open can be a costly mistake, let’s find out if your food can be saved!

Left Your Refrigerator Door Open? Find Out if Food Is Safe

Have you just caught sight of your fridge door left ajar? Then you are no doubt feeling shocked, worried, and irritated. What’s even worse is when someone has left the door open overnight. How can you tell if your food is still safe?

What should you do if you find your fridge door open?

The Temperature Is Below 40°F

Have you left your refrigerator:

  • Slightly open for a few hours?
  • Plugged in and running normally?

If the temperature inside the refrigerator still under 40 degrees Fahrenheit, then the food will be safe to eat. Your fridge will no doubt have been working extra hard to keep the temperature down during this time. But if it’s not a hot day out and your fridge is relatively new, it was no doubt up for the challenge.

The Temperature Is Above 40°F

Have you left your refrigerator:

  • Slightly open for a few hours?
  • Plugged in and running normally?

Does your food feel warm? Or does the temperature inside the fridge read above 40 degrees Fahrenheit? Then you should throw away your perishable items.

You should also throw them away if you cannot tell what the temperature is inside the fridge. When it comes to expired food, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Some fridge models will not be able to keep the food safely cool for more than 2 hours. That is even true when the fridge is running but could especially be the case if:

  • The fridge is old
  • It’s a hot day outside
  • You don’t have a lot of food in the fridge
Depending on how old your fridge is, food could become unsafe in less than two hours

The Door Was Open for Less Than Two Hours

Has someone in the house left your refrigerator door open? Before you start interrogating the suspects to find the guilty party, check how long it’s been open. If someone has left it ajar for less than two hours, you’re in luck! You can close the door (and the investigation) with a clean conscience.

The average time you can leave a fridge open without food spoiling is between two and four hours. The factors that affect this time are:

  • The age of the fridge
  • The type of food in the fridge
  • How full the fridge is
  • The temperature in your kitchen

Let’s have a look at these factors in more detail:

Factor The Effect It Has on the Fridge’s Temperature
The Age of the Fridge – Newer fridges maintain their temperature well even if you leave the door ajar for a few hours.
– Older fridges are not so good as staying cool. How well your fridge keeps cool also varies from model to model.
The Type of Food in the Fridge – If you’ve packed your fridge mainly with perishable items, the food will go off faster. This is because perishable items do not tend to hold their temperature well.
How Full the Fridge Is – The fuller the fridge, the cooler the food will stay. If the food is all bundled together, it will prevent warm air from circulating around it.
The Temperature in Your Kitchen   – If it is warm in your kitchen and the fridge door is ajar then the food will start to spoil faster.
– If it is cool in your kitchen it will take longer for the food to go off.

Does Leaving the Fridge Door Open Waste Electricity?

Is your family constantly opening and closing the fridge door throughout the day? Then you might be wondering what effect this will have on your electricity bill.

Leaving the fridge door open for long periods of time will waste electricity. This is because the fridge compressor starts to run a cycle when you open the fridge.

We often leave the fridge door open for a few seconds while we do the following:

  • Give the fridge a quick clean
  • Fill the fridge with groceries
  • Decide what we want to eat

Here’s something that may surprise you. Leaving the fridge open while you rummage will only have a tiny effect on your electricity bill. Why’s that? Well, manufacturers make most modern fridges in a way that is super energy efficient.

This is also the case because what most affects the temperature of your fridge is its contents. If the contents are cool, the fridge will be too. Spending a few extra seconds choosing between jam and cheese in your sandwiches won’t alter the temperature of the food in the fridge. In fact, keeping the fridge door open while you root around only counts for 7% of the fridge’s energy use. So, burrow away!

So what’s the important thing to remember? Obsessing over the few seconds the fridge door is open will not change your electricity bill. But leaving it ajar for hours on end will. So make sure it’s firmly shut before you leave the room or go to bed.

How Long Will a Warm Refrigerator Take to Cool?

Have you just finished giving your refrigerator a deep clean? Then you are probably wondering how long it will take for your warm refrigerator to cool down. And you likely want to know how long it will take for it to reach a safe temperature for your food again.

It could take your refrigerator between 3 and 24 hours for it to get back to its normal temperature. The amount of time your refrigerator will take to cool depends on a few factors. Take a look at them below:

  • The age of your refrigerator
  • The temperature of the contents in the refrigerator
  • The temperature in your kitchen
  • How often you open the refrigerator door
  • The type of refrigerator

Let’s have a look at some of these factors in more detail.

Factor How it Affects the Cool Time of Your Refrigerator
The Age of Your Refrigerator – Older refrigerator models are slower than newer ones. So if you’re cooling your fridge from warm, it will do so the fastest if your fridge is new.
The Temperature of the Contents in the Refrigerator – If you put hot food straight into your fridge it will take longer for the fridge to cool down.
– If you put cold food into the fridge it will cool faster.
The Temperature in Your Kitchen – If your kitchen is hot it will take longer for the refrigerator to cool down.
– If the temperature in your kitchen is mild, the fridge will cool down faster.
How Often You Open the Refrigerator Door – If you open the refrigerator door constantly, it will take the fridge longer to cool down. This is because of the constant influx of warm air.
The Type of Refrigerator – Mini fridges take between 2 and 4 hours to cool.
– Fridge freezer combos take between 3 and 24 hours to cool.
– Freezers take between 12 and 24 hours to refreeze after defrosting.

Conclusion

If you’ve left your fridge open you may wonder whether the food inside it is still safe. You may be especially worried if someone left the fridge ajar overnight. I hope this article has helped you to determine if your food is safe to eat or not.

If this article has helped you, then why not check out some of our other articles and free guides? You could even sign up to our email list!

Have a great day!

-Craig