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8 Sneaky Scams to Avoid When Buying a Used Appliance

So you’re looking to buy a used appliance?  In this guide we’ll cover off the main appliance scams that I know – so you can spot them before you fall for them.  It’s also worth reading our article about how to avoid being scammed and how to spot the scammers when buying a used appliance.  Some of these scams are universal and can be applied to all products, others are specific.  Who am I to tell you?  Before coming on board at Whybuy, I sold hundreds of used appliances.  I met all the players, learnt all the dirty tricks, heard many customers’ stories, and fell prey to some of these scams myself.

If you don’t want the hassle of buying, don’t want to deal with scams, dishonesty, breakdowns, delivery, and don’t feel the compulsion to own things – consider Whybuy.  You’ll get better value the more appliances you have, and delivery is free to the inner suburbs of Melbourne.  We don’t have lock in contracts – you can return the appliances whenever you want without cost.    We’re very cost competitive against buying new, and depending on how you value your time (cleaning, delivery, inspecting), and how you assess the risks (property damage moving in, risk of being scammed etc) – we are very competitive against buying used as well.  A washer dryer and fridge starts at less than $15 a week for all three! 

There’s two categories of scam.  The outright scam, and the dishonest behaviour that might not be bad enough to be a scam, but would be considered immoral by most.  

The outright scams

The piece of crap

I don’t even know if you’d call this a scam, but it is the number 1 most common way you’ll lose your money.  Essentially you’re sold a poorly repaired or unrepaired machine, that is dangerous, doesn’t work, or both.  Check the power cord has no duct tape or electrical tape hiding an unsafe repair.  This is very common.  It’s very hard to tell, especially with fridges and dryers – if you’re being sold rubbish.  Fridges are so hard because the most common failures of a fridge take 2-4 weeks to show up after you’ve turned it on in your home, sometimes even longer!

If you bought the appliance online, an after the fact marker that you may have been sold a dud appliance is if the seller doesn’t mark the ad as sold, rather they delete the ad entirely from Facebook marketplace.  Some people delete their ads just ‘cause.  But scammers almost always delete their ads instead of marking them sold.  Usually you’ll be blocked as well.  You can take some screenshots of the profile and listing before you pay for it.  Often though this won’t help you much, as the whole profile is just fake as well.  Make your peace with it, you’ve been scammed.

My friends machine

This is a the number one favourite of the dodgy retailer.  You buy an appliance, and you find out it doesn’t work.  You get in touch with the person who sold it to claim your warranty or refund.  They tell you that it is their friend’s machine, they were merely acting as a salesman.  You will need to contact their friend by phone, which they will never ever answer.  An easy way to avoid this is when you are buying the appliance, ask them specifically about the machine you are about to buy, that it is the sellers machine and they are not selling it on behalf of someone else.  Even so, they will likely make up some excuse – they’re a scammer after all, and you’ve been scammed.  Probably the most common retailer scam.

You broke it

Number 2 favourite scam of the dodgy retailer.  The seller will claim that the appliance was working fine when sold, and that you have done something to break it.  Usually it will be blamed on your poor transportation of the appliance.  Which is why you should always let the seller deliver where practical.  With fridges and TVs, often times you will actually have done something to break it, and this won’t be a scam.  That’s why its such a good one.  You can’t know for sure whether you broke it or you were sold something broken.  For most other appliances though, moving them is unlikely to cause any issue, even without the right know how. Other times the seller will say you have overloaded the machine or some other nonsense.  For the record – when you overload a washer or dryer it’s not good for it, but very unlikely to break it.  Usually it just does a bad job.  Let the seller deliver and install the machine where you can, to shut down many of the problems you could have here.  Again though, scammers gonna scam.

Lets meet at McDonalds

This badboy is a private seller bogan classic.  The seller will not want to meet at their home, rather a third location.  They’ll find a reason, often asking what suburb you’re in and saying they’re going to be nearby tomorrow and can drop the machine off or meet you at a nearby McDonalds.  Its usually a very nice machine for a very good price.  The thing is most of the time, this person has just picked this machine up off the side of the road from someone’s hard rubbish.  They haven’t tested it, and its very likely broken.  Someone threw it away.  If you go to McDonalds and meet them, pay them by bank transfer or cash, they will block you, and you now own a broken appliance that you paid too much for.  If you use Paypal, you may get some protection, but you can bet they won’t have a Paypal account you can transfer to. 

Potentially dishonest behaviour

The bait and switch

The seller lists an appliance that looks fantastic – and cheap.  When you go to inspect though, it doesn’t look anywhere near as good as the photos, or there is some minor fault that wasn’t specified in the sales listing.  You’ve come all this way, you might as well buy a different appliance for a higher price.

The takedown

This one isn’t a scam against the customer but against other sellers – but gives a pretty good idea about how the seller feels about playing dirty.  Here a dishonest seller will report all of their competitors Facebook and Gumtree ads on a Friday afternoon.  The competitors ads are all removed for the duration of the busiest time of the week for enquiries – Friday – Saturday afternoon.  By the time Facebook gets around to reviewing them, and putting them back up – its Sunday, and the affected seller has missed out on all of the weekend business. The dirty dealer has taken all of their business for themselves and its not usually very difficult to figure out who the likely culprit is – but it’s very hard to prove it.  The same guys who were selling dodgy appliances were the same guys using this dodgy trick.   If you’re looking to find a retail seller, you’re better off looking early in the week, Monday – Wednesday.  As a seller – you need to boost one ad – just a little bit – Facebook is much faster at reviewing ads when it costs then money to pull them down.  Shocking revelation, I’m sure.

The keep close

Again not really a scam, maybe a little dishonest.  Sometimes you have an appliance come in without any history and you can’t for the life of you figure out if there’s anything wrong with it.  There’s a rule – the more an appliance is worth, the less likely someone has thrown it out in working condition.  So sometimes you get a sweet brand name stainless steel French door come in with no problem – worth $2000 new.  You test it up hill and down dale.  Nothing wrong.  But surely there’s something wrong?  But also… rich people don’t know or care much of the time as well, and just throw things away.  So with lingering suspicion it’s cleaned and marked for sale. 

 But its also marked as an appliance that is not to be sold far away.  You want to keep it close.  So if a buyer comes in from the other side of town, you do everything to avoid selling that fridge. If they see it, they’re told its not ready.  If they’ve seen it is for sale, there will be no discount.  Contrast against the buyer from around the corner, for them, I can do deep discounts, free delivery.  Then if there’s any issue its nice and close and easy to service under warranty. 

The seal flip

This one isn’t really a scam, it’s really closer to dishonesty, and only really when abused.  It only applies to fridges and freezers.  If you have a fridge seal in bad condition, often you can take it off and flip it so all of the damage is hidden underneath the fridge door.  The legitimate reason for doing this, is if the seal is in serviceable condition but it has been repaired, and the repair is usually ugly, so you want to hide it.  Make sure you run your hand along the bottom of a fridge door seal before you buy it, you’ll feel any tears.  Also be prepared for it to be gross, often sellers don’t clean it because they don’t think to, or don’t think you’ll think to check it.  I always cleaned it, a good retailer will, a private seller never will, but also you get what you pay for.  If it’s cheap, clean it yourself.

A fridge can look great, but have a mangled seal hidden underneath the bottom door which will definitely cause high power bills and likely cooling and icing up problems.

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How to Avoid Being Scammed When Buying a Second Hand Appliance.

So you’re looking to buy a used appliance?  This guide will help you avoid being scammed when looking to buy an appliance on Facebook marketplace, Gumtree, eBay or most other online marketplace platforms.  I’ve written it in the context of Melbourne, Australia.  I’m sure many of the lessons will apply universally, but there’s likely some that won’t. Before coming on board at Whybuy, I sold hundreds of used appliances.  I met all the players, learnt all the dirty tricks, heard many customers’ stories, and fell prey to most of these scams myself.

If you don’t want the hassle of buying, don’t want to deal with scams, dishonesty, breakdowns, delivery, and don’t feel the compulsion to own things – consider Whybuy.  You’ll get better value the more appliances you have, and delivery is free to the inner suburbs of Melbourne.  We don’t have lock in contracts – you can return the appliances whenever you want without cost.    We’re very cost competitive against buying new, and depending on how you value your time (cleaning, delivery, inspecting), and how you assess the risks (property damage moving in, risk of being scammed etc) – we are very competitive against buying used as well.  A washer dryer and fridge starts at less than $15 a week for all three!

If you want to go ahead with buying second hand, in this article we will cover how to identify scammers and dodgy professionals so you can get the best value for your money while reducing your chances of being duped. We’ll cover the different types of sellers, how likely each one is to scam you, and how to identify any red flags before you hand over any money.

Before we go onto that there are two basic rules that apply to all sellers:

  • Always inspect at the sellers premises.  A seller who knows you can’t find them after the fact is more likely to scam you.
  • Never agree to meet at a third location (often McDonalds) for an inspection and swap.  If the seller is pushing for this, often they have picked up a nice looking machine from hard rubbish, they’re selling it as working, without testing it at all.  A nice looking machine on hard rubbish is almost certainly faulty.
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Types of sellers

Let’s look at the three different types of sellers and who is most likely to scam you.

    1. Top tier retailers or trade sellers who offer credit/debit card payments are the least likely to scam you. Most banks offer a chargeback service so it deters dishonest retailers from offering this payment option, making it easier you to spot the good sellers from the bad. You will likely pay the most for your appliance with these more reputable companies. A 1% chance or lower if you pay with your credit or debit card.
    2. A private seller is also very unlikely to scam you however you do run a 5%-10% chance. They will be the cheapest or most expensive as they don’t know what the appliance is worth, so will either under price or over price the item.
    3. A retailer or trade seller who does not offer credit/debit card payment, requiring only cash or bank transfer as payment is the most likely to rip you off. There is 20%-30% chance of this happening. You will generally pay more than a private seller and less from a one that accepts credit card payments however you will receive some kind of warranty, varying degrees of cleanliness and delivery options.
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The private seller

A private seller is just a regular person with an appliance they no longer want.  The private seller can offer the best value, because they are the most likely to over or undervalue the appliance.  To work out whether you’re dealing with a private or retail seller, ask if they have any other appliances to look at, as usually a private seller won’t have multiples of the same item.  You can also check their store or commerce profile. Read their reviews as well if possible, as the better the feedback the less likely you will be scammed.  They are also unlikely to be dishonest if you meet them at their house as most people don’t want someone they’ve wronged showing up at their door later down the track.  The usual scam you will get with a private seller is that the appliance works, but it doesn’t work properly.  It might be really loud.  Or  a leaky seal on a dishwasher.  Just a little bit broken.  And they won’t tell you.  Other times but more rarely, the appliance will be completely broken. Often if there is an issue with the appliance, the seller will also be selling it cheaper than it should be – probably out of guilt.  They don’t feel so bad as to not sell you their faulty machine, but they will often sell it much cheaper than it would usually be worth.  So if it’s cheap – be a bit wary.  The only way to minimise your risk with the private seller is to see the appliance running and doing a few basic tests.

Basic appliance tests

  • For all appliances – Unplug the machine and run the power cord through your closed hand feeling for any breaks or tears.
  • For a TV – Turn it on make sure the volume works and the screen is good with no stripes or dead pixels.
  • For a washer – Turn it on – empty – any cycle – watch it fill. Make sure it stops filling by itself. Once filled, turn knob to spin cycle. Watch it drain. Watch it spin for at least 5 minutes (Is it loud?). Now some washers sound like jets taking off on spin, but they are largely older models. If you’re looking at an empty direct drive or inverter model it should be very quiet on spin without any clothes.
  • For a fridge – Make sure its cold. Ask the seller to make sure its on for you before you get there. If its off, turn it on and let it run for 15 minutes, leave doors shut. It should feel cold in the freezer. Check the seals aren’t ripped or torn, especially at the bottom near the ground. Make sure you run your hand along the bottom of a fridge door seal before you buy it, you’ll feel any tears Look for cracked plastic door shelves – often expensive or impossible to replace. Check the light works, especially if LED. There’s a lot of ways to scam someone with a fridge, but unfortunately not many tests you can run to protect yourself.
  • For a dryer – Turn it on – empty – on a time dry cycle– and let it run for 5 minutes. Make sure the drum turns, and the dryer heats up. A common trap and a very common fault here is that the motor capacitor is shot and the motor struggles to start turning. If you turn the dryer on and off quickly, letting the drum stop rotating in between, you may get it so that the drum won’t start spinning at all and you will just hear an electrical buzzing – that’s a capacitor failure, which is a relatively easy and cheap fix, but if its just a cheap vented dryer, will likely cost more than what you pay for the dryer to have repaired.
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If a private seller won’t let you see the appliance running is doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, just make sure it’s cheap enough to be worth the risk.

Why is offering credit or debit card payment so important?  

Paying with a card that allows you to request a chargeback from your bank mitigates much of the risk of dodgy sellers – and for this reason dishonest sellers won’t offer this payment option.  It’s important even if you opt to pay with cash or bank transfer to one of these sellers, which I do not recommend. Always pay with credit or debit card if you can when buying an appliance. If you pay this way, and the seller refuses to honour a warranty issue or is being in any way difficult, you just request a chargeback from your bank, and in almost every case, the bank will claw the money back from the seller and refund it into your account, while also charging the seller a fee for the privilege. It’s relatively easy to do do a chargeback, only taking 5-30 minutes depending on your bank.  Paying with cash does not give you this guarantee, and neither does a bank transfer as the seller has to agree to return the funds, which they will never do.

 

Pay with debit or credit and it's very hard to be scammed

The professional seller

As previously mentioned, the more reputable sellers will offer credit/debit card payment options – just look for the card terminal or ask if you can with a credit or debit card. There’s not much more to it than that.  They are the least likely to scam you, but the most expensive.  Now, we will concentrate on those retailers who do not offer card payment.  About 70% of these sellers will not be dodgy.  That leaves you with a 1 in 3 chance of getting scammed if you go in blind with one of these sellers.  You might wonder why you’d bother with these riskier retailers.  They are cheaper than the retailers offering card payments, and generally when you’re buying second hand, its not because you want to spend any more than you’d need to on appliances or you’d just buy new.  They offer deliveries and warranties unlike most private sellers.  You can often get a fridge, washer, dryer, and TV in one place.  Maybe you’ve driven across town only to find yourself in one of these guys warehouse.  There are many reasons.

There are two main types of dodgy:

  1. Unprofessional: A person with little to no training who doesn’t really know what they’re doing.
  2. Scammer: An person who is outright scamming you into buying a completely untested appliance, or a known broken appliance, or a completely non existent appliance.

The scammer is pretty self explanatory, however the unprofessional warrants more explanation. They make a tonne of mistakes and their workmanship is poor and often unsafe.  Most in the industry are self taught – and in this – most were unprofessional at the start.  Given time and enough machines to practice on they might become professionals.  Many never progress though.  They just want to take the money and do the least work possible, not bothering to try and learn and understand appliances better.  They just want to make a quick buck!  You don’t want to buy a potentially unsafe, improperly tested, and badly repaired machine from a guy whose just learning – from themselves!  Delivery drivers subcontracted by reputable retailers are often culprits. They deliver new appliances to customers and take away the broken ones, repair, then on sell them. 

They often have little interest in after sales service. Their warranties are usually lies, as when you experience issues with your appliance once paid for, they will block your messages or dodge your calls.  When you show up at their warehouse, and speak to the very same person who sold you the machine, you will often be told that they are merely an intermidiary – it was their friend’s machine you have bought.  Its a common scam.  It is his friend you need to contact to sort out the warranty. Unfortunately there is no fixed address and the friend can only be reached by phone.  You give up trying to contact them and are stuck with a faulty appliance.  It is important then, that you find yourself an actual professional who sells you a properly tested and repaired appliance, and if they’ve made a mistake or there’s been an oversight – they actually honour their warranty by repairing the machine or refunding you. 

Allow me to give you an anecdote to drive my point home here.  I once watched as an unprofessional did this very thing while a very upset young man threatened to beat him with a trolley pole (which he had in his hand) after he had been sold a very expensive and very broken washer and dryer.  The man who sold him the appliance was vehement in the face of having his head beaten in with a trolley pole, that the young man needed to talk to his friend, whose appliance it was.  Imagine that – selling someone a dodgy appliance, and in the face of having your skull cracked open you neither call the police, nor agree to give the money back.  Now I didn’t know this next part until a few days later when one of my friends from another appliance business told me – It was actually his friend’s appliance – a known scammer – but his friend was sitting 50 metres away out the back when this went down.  The moral of the story is this – Once these guys have your money, you’re not getting it back.  

It is said that The Truest Repairer will arrive and fix not only appliances, but the repairers who fix them.

So how do you avoid the scammers and unprofessionals?

You should try and find an appliance guy or gal and maintain a relationship with them. Once you have one, you can just keep going back to them. The best way to find your trustworthy appliance person is really simple in theory – by referral. Do you have friends or family in your city? Colleagues? Neighbours? Ask them if they have bought a second hand appliance, and if they’ve had any issues. Ideally find someone who did have an issue, but it was remedied quickly and without hassle by the seller. A good seller will have a warranty claim rate of about 5 percent. Once you find them – save their number so you can go back to them next time. I used to focus mostly on fridges, but I was more than happy to pass on the numbers of reputable professionals for other appliances.

If you can’t find someone from a trusted referral you can at least find out if they are likely to honour their warranty. I have a trick that helps you sort this out before you even go to inspect the appliance. This trick works better with two people with access to the same listing. Firstly determine if they’re a retailer. Instead of asking “Is this available?” Ask “Do you have other appliances for sale, or only this one?” If they respond that they do have other appliances available, you know its likely a retailer. Now share the listing to a friend and have them write to the reseller “Hey mate, I bought an appliance off you a month ago, and I’m having an issue with it, can you come take a look.” If there’s no response, I’d absolutely go elsewhere. If you have the sellers phone number this trick works better, and you don’t need two people. Simply send them an SMS stating you have a warranty issue from an appliance you purchased and see if they return your call. If they don’t get back to you or are difficult to contact – walk away.

What should I look for at the inspection?

ALWAYS go and physically inspect the appliance!  Doing this adds a level of accountability – theoretically you know where to find the person if they don’t answer your calls or texts.  Another reason to inspect is to verify the condition.  Appliances can be made to look very good for photos (especially stainless steel), but look crap in reality.  I would never sell stainless to buyers sight unseen because it always looks perfect in photographs, when it almost always has scratches and dents.  In fact when I was a retailer, I refused most customers who would not inspect.  A true professional does not need the headache of showing up to a customers house only to have an argument with the customer over the condition of the appliance.  So if the seller is refusing to sell you something you haven’t looked at, they’re probably legitimate.

You should also take note of the condition of the place they are selling the appliance from.  A dilapidated factory or backyard with broken machines strewn everywhere with a guy who looks likes he is living in the factory with a beat up van out front who only takes cash and no evidence of a good record keeping system is more likely to be an unprofessional or scammer.  That said – It must be pointed out that some of the best guys in the game work in these conditions.  So if you do arrive somewhere looking dubious but it’s because you have been referred, chances are you have found a good seller who can offer you a reliable appliance for a reasonable price.  They have built a reputation for being trustworthy and enjoy repeat customers and operate on word of mouth whilst maintaining low overheads.  If you arrived at these conditions from an ad of eBay, Gumtree or Facebook ad though, it is cause for some concern.

"Some of the best guys in the game work in these conditions."

Physically inspecting the appliance

In this situation you don’t really need to see the appliance running.  It’s all about trust with the retail and trade sellers.  It’s different to buying from a private seller, because they know as little as you do about the appliances.  If a professional scammer wants to fake a working appliance, they will have no trouble at all.  It’s just not very useful to test it.  If you want to test it follow the same procedures outlined earlier.

Most sellers are going to be a bit annoyed if you want to see the appliance running, even if they don’t show it.  It’s not an unreasonable request by you, but it is a pain for the seller (especially for washing machines), as most buyers will just take you at your word, and hooking up the machine to maybe get a sale is a hassle.  You’re potentially becoming a high maintenance customer, and many sellers will actively push high maintenance customers away.  Most customers don’t realise that its not only them choosing the seller, but the seller chooses which buyers they want to sell to.  They can make it a smooth process with deep discounts and free delivery, or they can be non-negotiable and a little bit unfriendly.  The more red flags of being a difficult customer the seller sees, the more they will try to politely drive you away.  Good sellers don’t need your business.

A number of appliances of the same brand and model are a good sign. Professional repairers with higher volumes will batch their models together for repair, making it easier to determine which machine(s) should be cannibalised for parts, as well as increasing work efficiency.

Delivery

Try and avoid buying an appliance from too far away.  When you do, you get pot committed to buying an appliance from this seller because you’ve travelled so far, so you’ll ignore red flags.  Warranty service will be slower, and delivery fees higher.  Always get delivery, especially if it’s a fridge.  If you pick the fridge up and install it yourself, the seller will always have the excuse that you have damaged the fridge by transporting it incorrectly, and/or not letting it rest at the destination before turning it in.  Which you may well have done.  A fridge broken by incorrect transporting is not worth fixing – its now scrap metal. If you don’t need delivery – you’re better off buying from a private seller.  Additionally, any warranty may be conditional on you returning the appliance yourself.  When I delivered, my condition was that I would fix the appliance where it stood.  If you took it, I might make you bring it back, or make you wait until another job took me your way.  Ask the seller about their warranty conditions.  Make sure you’re across them.

Warranty and proof of purchase

Ask the seller what proof they will get of their warranty.  I know some trustworthy guys who just use the Facebook chat history – so a proper system is not a hard and fast rule here.  Anything I ever sold came with a sticker, that stated what date it sold on, how much it sold for, how long the warranty is, and had my phone number.  This is certainly more ideal.  Many do not want to provide receipts as many are off books cash operations.  I wouldn’t be too stressed about this kind of dodginess, the tax man might be upset, but it’s not a good indicator of whether the seller will scam you.  

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The pro guide to cleaning a really filthy, seemingly unsalvageable fridge.

So you’ve left your fridge in storage and come back to a complete shitshow? Never fear, fridge cleaning man is here. Never call me that. Ok, so most dirty fridges are redeemable with a few hours of hard work spread over the course of a few days. We’re going to work smart not hard. This means rather than scrub the crap out of it, we’re going to do this the laziest way possible. It’s not a fun job, but its a real easy way to turn something that’s worth nothing into something that’s worth a few hundred dollars. The fridge we transform in this guide is nowhere near the worst one we’ve brought back – but a short disclaimer. If you’ve let meat rot in your fridge, and I mean really let it rot to the point where you’ve got maggots, you’ll never get that smell back out. I’ve completely dissassembled fridges and cleaned them so thoroughly – but the smell seeps into the plastic or something – and it just never goes away. As a rough guide – lets say if you’ve left meat in your fridge turned off for a month, don’t bother with my guide, your fridge is ruined.

 
Before
... and after.
Before
... and after.
Before
... and after.

1. Pressure washing (optional) (30 minutes)

A pressure washer (or just a garden hose) is great for getting a lot of the crap off the fridge inside and out. This step is not crucial, but it is desirable. It is certainly more of a professional step. If you are going down the professional route, I strongly recommend investing in a pressure washer and gaining the pressure washer experience even if it means losing a few fridges to mistakes. Long term, the time you will save is absolutely worth it. If you’re only doing this as a one off, there’s a bunch of reasons why you might want to consider skipping it.

  • If you don’t have a pressure washer/hose, or can’t get the fridge outside to clean it, just go on ahead to the next step.
  • If you can’t afford to break or damage the fridge. On some fridges the paint will be pressure washed off as well. You only know which models it will happen to with experience. You can also cause electrical and other problems as discussed below, because you have no experience.

If you’re game enough, lazy enough, or looking to do this professionally, lets get started. Pressure washing, or using a garden hose is more about do not’s than do’s, unfortunately, so here’s a list of mostly don’ts.

  • Start by getting a bit of water over everything. Getting the water on starts softening things, so they come off more easily than if you tried to blast it off straight from dry. Once you’ve put down your base coat of water, start washing in earnest. Wash the outside of the fridge first, top to bottom, then the top compartment, then the bottom compartment. Finally clean the drain pan and compressor area at the back of the fridge. Clean the shelves in the fridge, but remove any drawers, and the vegetable crispers at the bottom. Blast them out as well.
  • When pressure washing the seals stand a few metres back. Usually the seals will hold up to this cleaning, but if they’re in bad condition, you may destroy them by pressure washing. If they are destroyed, they needed replacing anywhere, Seals will be dirtiest at the top of the fridge and freezer and near the door handles. You want to get into the grooves of the door seal, not just the face side.
    Really get into all the nooks and crannies. This is the major upside of the pressure washer – you’ll ultimately have a cleaner fridge for less work. Hit the hinges, and all the joins, anywhere that you’d usually have to clean out with a toothbrush, because if you don’t get it now, you’ll be using that toothbrush.
  • Generally you can leave the shelves in the unit if you pressure wash, but make sure you really get in at the edges of the shelves, in the groove’s where they sit in the cabinet. The vegetable crisper at the bottom will have to come out, and if they’re easily removable the ‘dairy’ door pockets. A word of caution here, the clear ‘dairy’ covers that often sit over the top shelf in the fridge door are really easy to break. This fridge is an ok example, because it is missing these covers, someone broke them trying to take them off for cleaning no doubt. Best advice is to just clean this area by hand, a pressure washer is often strong enough to break these plastic covers in its own right.
  • We can get the electricals wet, as long as we keep the fridge off for long enough for them to dry back out. I find two days is enough, 99% of the time, but if you can’t afford to take the risk, wait a week. Alternatively skip this step, and you can have your fridge up and running earlier.
  • Don’t blast crap into the back of the freezer, and avoid getting it into any of the vent holes – but especially at the back of the freezer. Same rules apply for upside down units. Don’t stress too much about this, just try and avoid it. Mostly we’re trying to avoid blowing bits of mould and other crap into areas we can’t get them back out of easily. Secondly we’re trying to avoid blowing bits of crap into the drain hole at the back of the freezer which drains melt water out on a defrost cycle. I’ve propped this fridge up on a bit of metal so the water drains straight back out the front and is less likely to cause any issues.
Remove the drain pan at the back of the fridge for washing
If you can;t remove the drain pan wash it out as best you can on the fridge
Wash the fridge top down and aim down generally
Cleaning the top of the freezer seal - standing bacj to avoid damage
Propping the back of the fridge up to tilt the fridge forward and drain the water and muck out
Nice and clean, but stained!
Nice and clean, but stained!

The second step (or first) is a bucket of hot water with a shitload of standard washing detergent and a smidge (a capful) of cloudy ammonia cleaner. The ammonia seems to be really good at removing crap and stopping the mould from coming back. You’ll find this cheap at your supermarket or hardware store. You’ll also want a rag or cloth, and a toothbrush and a nailbrush, for getting into nooks and crannies. A microfibre cloth is great for drying but you can also use a towel though it may leave bits of lint and fluff behind.

Now starting outside the fridge, start top to bottom, then move to the inside, clean top to bottom. Noever use the rough side of a scourer sponge (you know the green side) anywhere but on glass. It will scratch noticeably. If you’ve skipped the pressure washing step, pull out every shelf, and take it to your kitchen sink and clean it seperately in some warm soapy water with a capful of ammonia. Don’t be stingy with your water, if you need to, put some towels down on the floor, so you can flood sections to push all the bits of crap out. Note in the pictures below the puddle of soapy water under the fridge – because I used a saturated cloth to flush crap out of hard to reach areas, and the grooves in the seals.

Detergent, cloudy ammonia, a nailbrush, a toothbrush and a microfibre rag.
If you're going to use one of these sponges do not use the green side on anything but glass - it will scratch - especially the outside of the fridge.
Fridge after pressure washing and soapy water
Fridge plastic has yellowed particularly on fridge door and in fridge
Mould staining in the freezer
Mould staining on the seals
Fridge plastic has yellowed

Warning: On many LG and Samsung fridges, bleach will cause the seals to discolour to pink. If you’re using bleach on one of these fridges, test somewhere like the bottom of the fridge seal first to make sure it won’t discolour. You can usually get away with using some bleach on the seals, but don’t leave it long and keep a close eye on it. First sign of discolouration get it off.

Now we’ve got the fridge as clean as we can, you can see that there are some things that just won’t come off. There’s mould stains on the seals, the freezer shelf, and the freezer compartment floor. The inside of the unit, particularly the fridge door and fridge compartment has yellowed. We’ve never been able to figure out why some fridges yellow internally and others don’t. If you know, please tell us, as we’d love to know and let the world know! While we don’t know the cause of the yellowing, we do know how to get rid of it and the mould staining!. The answer is cheap and simple, and you probably guessed from the title, it is ordinary household bleach.

Use bleach in a 50/50 mix in a spray bottle
Most of the mould staining has been bleached off the freezer floor

Once you’re happy with the whiteness of the fridge, mop up the bleach with a rag. Also be aware that the rag will likely be bleached, and be very careful not to get the bleach mix onto any clothes or fabric you like, as it will get bleach marks!

4. Detailing the outside (30 – 60 minutes)

 

Thinners, wax and grease remover, a razor blade, plastic scraper, and a couple of microfibre clothes
Appliance paint
Go too heavy and you'll get a run - wipe it off with thinners and start again.

While we wait for the inside of the fridge to bleach back to pearly white, we can detail the outside of the fridge. Our first step is to use a product called wax and grease remover, or prepsol, available at any automotive store. This stuff is liquid and sometimes comes in an aerosol which makes it even better. It’s very gentle on plastics and paints, but great at removing stickers and marker. You may also employ a plastic scraper or razor blade if you feel comfortable to remove stubborn stickers. Apply the wax and grease remover with a rag or from the aerosol and let it it for a minute or so then rub the area to remove any marking. Repeat until the mark is gone, or it becomes apparent that the wax and grease remover is not effective on the mark. On this fridge someone has drawn some sort of birthday cake on the fridge door, which usually would come off with wax and grease remover. For whatever reason it wouldn’t. You can skip the wax and grease remover step if you’re really doing this on a tight budget, ands just do the job with thinners. Thinners will do the same job as the wax and grease remover but faster and more effectively – but thinners are more severe, risk damage, and can’t be used on plastic without a lot of skill and practice.

paint thinners

Generally available at any paint or automotive store. You only need a low grade, get a product called gunwash if you can, whatever is cheapest. Gunwash is just low grade paint thinners for cleaning out spray paint guns at the end of painting. Another alternative if you’re just doing this once off is nail polish remover, or acetone, basically the same product, though I find paint thinners slightly more effective. Paint thinners will remove almost anything, and works by removing a thin layer of paint, so you want to use it sparingly, and only when necessarry. On some fridge, particularly Whirlpools, this will take the paint off very easily all the way back to bare metal so you can’t use this method. For most other brands you should have no issues, but theres always a risk, especially on older worn fridges.

A quick wipe with the thinners, removed that silly marker drawn birthday cake, and all the little scuffs on the fridge. You can also use paint thinners and wax and grease remover on the fridge seals for any stubborn marks that did not come off in the bleaching stage. You must be very careful not to get wax and grease remover and thinners on any clear plastic as it will leave them cloudy, and do not get the thinners on any plastic at all as it will melt them. If you do make this mistake, don’t try and fix it, all you can do is leave it alone and let it solidify again.

Be carewful where you leave a rag soaked in thinners. If you leave it on a painted surface or on plastic it will potentially cause problems. Ideally leave it on a stainless steel surface.

touch up paint

All you should be left with is a clean fridge, with some scratches and scuffs. The final step in detailing is to repaint these areas. The worst area on this fridgre is a big scratch on the fridge door. You can use cheap white gloss paint to fix the issue, but we find this usually looks worse than the original mark, yellows quickly, and often gives you grief going on. We use a product called White Knight Gloss Appliance White, and it costs $20 a can at Bunnings (completely unpaid promotion). It’s a bit pricey but it sticks like shit, and looks good. If you look from the right angle in the light or touch the area with your hand after you’ve painted it you can feel the difference, but it’s only if you’re looking for it, you’d never notice day to day. If you put it on too thick you’ll get runs, so you’re better to go light, and more coats. If you do mess it up and get a run, grab a rag with some thinners, and it will wipe off pretty easily even when dry, but you’ll have to start painting all over again.

5. You’re done!

Your fridge should now look way better. If you’ve pressure washed your fridge, make sure it stays off for a couple of days, but if you’ve just used a bucket of soapy water and a rag, you can turn it back on as soon as the bleaching step has been completed!

 

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Can you move a fridge laying down? Absolutely!

Don’t have the time or interest to read the whole article and just want to know whether you can move a fridge on it’s side? Yes, you can. Looking from the front tip it on the right side. Tape the doors shut. Don’t leave it laid down longer than you needs to, ideally less than 24 hours. When you get it where it needs to be, leave it turned off, standing upright, for at least 24 hours. Longer if possible. There’s a tiny chance you’ve broken your fridge. If you want to reduce your risk to practically zero, read on to find out exactly which side is best and why.

We get asked this question heaps, and we’ve found all the other articles out there don’t really cut it. They were either written by someone who has never moved a fridge, or Safety Sammy, who’s only ever moved a fridge upright because his Dad told him to and it is therefore the only way it can be done. What makes me different to these other goobers? I’ve moved thousands of fridges laying down, and some even upside down. I also repair fridges every day, and I understand exactly what can go wrong when you move a fridge laying down. So strap yourself in for one hell of a riveting read about moving a fridge on its side.

If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that if you move a fridge laid down, if you leave it off for at least 24 hours on the other end, you’re unlikely to have any problems.

What goes wrong when you move a fridge laid down?

It’s mostly about the oil in the compressor, and teeny tiny bits of rust and other crap suspended in the oil, but it can also be about spilt water.

Spilt water

In the image below you will see there is a water collection tray outlined in red, and the fridges computer in blue. The drainage tray collects water from the freezer of your fridge when the defrost cycle starts every 24 hours or so, where it can be evaporated away by the warmth of the compressor. Most of the time this tray has some water in it. If you tip the fridge over to the right side looking from the front, this water will spill onto the computer. If we turn the fridge on while the computer is wet, there’s a pretty solid chance it will blow, and now you need to replace it. These can usually be had for about $100-$150, and are pretty easy to replace. The computer is not always in this spot and not all fridges have a computer running them, especially if they are older. It varies by model and manufacturer.

The easiest way of addressing this issue is to jam an absorbent rag into the water collection tray, let it absorb the water for half an hour or so, then before you tip the fridge on its side have another rag or towel jammed between the compressor and the computer to catch any water. Or you can not bother with any of this, let the board get wet, and leave your fridge off for a few days at the destination. As long as the water has dried it will be fine. Maybe this sounds a bit careless, but I can tell you we use a pressure washer to clean our fridges, and as long as they’re left off for a few days afterwards, we’ve never had an issue.

Some fridges have a cover that needs to be removed so you can see the compressor, drain tray and board
The compressor circled in red can be found in this location on all fridges
The drainage tray outlined in red and the computer in blue

Compressor oil

Now – the issue of oil. The fridge compressor is located at the back bottom of the fridge, and is usually black. Sometimes there is a metal cover which will need to be unscrewed first so you can see what you need to. Inside there is a little motor with a little piston that moves up and down and compresses the refrigerant, which essentially allows your fridge to work. The little piston, just like the pistons in your car needs to be lubricated by oil or it will get too hot and seize up. The oil usually sits at the bottom of the compressor, in what’s called the sump. Now you will notice that there are little pipes that come out of the compressor.

If I tip my fridge on it’s side, front or back or upside down- what happens?

If you lay the fridge down, the oil can move into those pipes, or get where it shouldn’t in the compressor. If the non compressible oil ends up in a spot where the compressor tries to compress it, the oil will win and the compressor will break. No more cold. This issue will resolve itself within 24 hours regardless of what side you’ve transported the fridge, but the longer you leave it laid down, the more likely it is to be a problem. If its been upside down for a year, I would leave it standing upright for a month, and I wouldn’t bet on it working again…. but it probably will.

If the oil goes up one of the pipes this gets a bit trickier. Often there are only two pipes, one where the compressor is sucking the refrigerant gas from inside the fridge (SUCTION), and the other where the compressor is pushing the compressed gas back into your fridge to cool it down (DISCHARGE). If the oil goes into the SUCTION line it’s no biggy – as long as it’s not too much oil the compressor will suck it straight back into the compressor when its turned on. But if oil goes into the DISCHARGE line, the compressor will push it through the whole system – and this is bad news.

Since both pipes come out on the same side on this compressor we don't really need to tell the difference between discharge and suction. This fridge would be laid on the right looking from the front, and the oil will be stuck in the compressor.
This fridge would be laid on the right side looking from the front. Oil will go into the suction line but this will go straight back into the compressor when the fridge is switched on.

So when we move a fridge on it’s side, we want to avoid getting the oil into the DISCHARGE line. If you do end up with oil in the DISCHARGE line it is usually not a problem – as long as you leave it off at the destination for sufficient time. Getting oil and crap into the DISCHARGE line, then sucking that mixture up and into the system is what kills your fridge, and this would be avoided most of the time, if the fridge were left to sit for a few days at your destination regardless of what side you move it on. Generally if you leave the fridge off for enough time, the oil and crud will go back to the compressor sump where it belongs. This is probably going to be good enough for most applications, but we can do better than good enough. If you need to turn your fridge on earlier, or don’t want to take any chances, carry on.

So how do I avoid getting oil into the discharge line?

Some fridge are really easy – when all the pipes come out of one side of the compressor. In that case, the correct side to transport the frdge on is the side where all the pipes do not come out. Easy peasy – this will be maybe 50% of fridges if I’m guessing. For the remainder of fridges we need to identify which is the DISCHARGE line, and this is thankfully easy.

Whether there’s one or ten pipes coming and going from the compressor there’s only one DISCHARGE line in my experience. The discharge line is the pipe leaving the compressor with the smallest diameter, this is a fact of refrigeration. For your fridge to work – the discharge lines need to have a smaller diameter than the suction lines. Its small but noticeable. You should be able to see the difference by looking at it, and definetly by touching it (turn the power off dumb dumb). Find where the pipe with the smallest diameter leaves the compressor and lay the fridge down on the opposite side.

Don’t forget to tape the door shut!

Looking from the front, the correct side is almost always the right hand side (left looking from back). This is also the side where most fridges are hinged, so the doors will fall open if you don’t tape them shut with a bit of duct or electrical tape (which I’ve always found interesting from a designed to break perspective, it’s my little conspiracy that they do this so you transport it on the wrong side, break your fridge, and you tend to hold yourself accountable not the manufacturer, but I digress). Electrical tape is better, duct tape can take paint off sometimes. The longer you leave the tape on the higher the chance it will take paint off, don’t leave it for a month.

Is it possible that I’ll break the internal compressor mounts?

Possible in theory but in thousands of fridges I’ve never seen it once. Inside the compressor housing, the compressor motor is suspended usually on 3 or 4 spring mounts. These mounts are made to deal with up and down movement, not side to side. When you move a fridge laying down you might say – hit a big bump or pothole. The force of the jolt, could in theory break one or more of these mounts or springs, causing a very noisy compressor or a compressor that obliterates itself on being plugged in at the destination. Again, I’ve never seen it in thousands of fridges, its possible but you’d have to be hella unlucky.

I’ve just moved my fridge laying down and now it’s not cooling – is it dead? probably.

It depends on the cost of labour in your area, and what the fridge is worth. You’re probably dealing with a blocked refrigeration system (but it could be a computer as discussed above), and a possible dead compressor. They’re the hardest faults to fix on a fridge for sure, and they need someone competent and well trained to deal with it. If you’re in Australia you can just go ahead and send that badboy to scrap metal – it’s going to cost you easy $300 and more likely $600 to repair. We repair fridges professionally and if we have this fault, we strip the unit down for parts and kick it to the curb.

Please be responsible when you dispose of your fridge as well (don’t actually kick it to the curb) – The refrigerant they contain is usually very bad for the environment, and the law, often ignored, and rarely enforced, requires that the refrigerant be reclaimed – basically sucked out with a special pump into a cylinder, then burnt in a plasma arc furnace, which is hotter than the sun! In Australia you can tell if your fridge is being responsibly degassed by asking if the organisation holds an Australian Refrigeration Council trading authorisation. Another easy giveaway is if you’re not paying to dispose of your fridge – they typically cost more to degas then they are worth in scrapmetal value. If you rent a fridge with us and have an old one you want us to take away, we will dispose of it responsibly.

How do we move our fridges? – you guessed, it laying down!

It’s just easier and less risky. If you do it right, it makes it easier to get in and out of a ute tray, you just tip it over onto a blaneket hanging a bit over the side and then lever it in, it can be done with one person. You’ve got less risk when you’re on the road, our fridges aren’t going anywhere, but if they were standing up and held by only a ratchet strap – its probably going to become a projectile in an accident, and even under normal conditions ratchets and ropes often work their way loose, and now your fridge is going out the side next time you make a hard turn.

It doesn’t seem to matter which way you face the fridge, if it’s in a trailer or a ute, regardless of taped doors, they will find a way to open. Face it front, doors open under braking, face it any other way, and they open when you hit 60 k’s. If the doors open you can bert that the shelves will slide out and either fly away, or come out just enough to jam against the door. The door then comes flying closed, slamming into the shelf and damaging both the door and the shelf. Straps can also leave marks on the outside of the fridge, and can even dent the fridge if too tight – they are only made of relatively thin sheet metal after all. Its just anxiety inducing. If you’re moving a fridge in the back of a ute or trailer, do yourself a favour, lay down a blanket, and lay the fridge on top. Centre it and tie it down or ratchet it. Leave it off for a day on the other end. Job done.

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Storing a fridge? leave the doors open to prevent it from going mouldy

There’s not a lot to storing a fridge, the main thing is preventing it going mouldy in storage. The easiest way to prevent a fridge going mouldy is by removing the water from the fridge.

Behold, the consequences of an uncleaned fridge left in storage with doors closed
…And after it has been professionally cleaned – read how in our fridge cleaning article

An unplugged, turned off fridge is the perfect breeding ground for mould. While the fridge has been running, water has managed to work its way into every nook and cranny inside the fridge. This water isn’t an issue as long as you keep the fridge powered up – its generally too cold for any mould to grow. But once the fridge is off, if you close the door, and leave it dirty on the inside, the mould will come. Faster in hot weather, slower ion cold weather but it will come. Cleaning the crumbs out will reduce the mould, but the most important thing is to get the water out.

There’s two ways we can get the water out. The first is pretty simple – leave the doors open. You don’t need them open a lot, you can just jam a rag in between the freezer and fridge door and leave it cracked a little. Over the course of a few weeks, the fridge will dry out completely, and you can close the doors if you want. The only downside is you have no way of really telling if all the water is out. The longer you leave it, the less chance you will have mould. You can leave the doors open for the whole time the fridge is in storage, however we find that if the fridge has magnetised door seals, these will demagnetise and your fridge won’t seal as well when you close the doors again. Additionally a rag stuffed in to stop the door closing can – over time – deform the seals. Generally leaving the fridge open for a week in hot dry weather will be enough, or a couple weeks in colder weather. I wouldn’t recommend leaving the doors open longer than a month.

If you need to store the fridge longer than a month, a great solution is a chemical dehumidifier generally containing calcium chloride you can buy at you local hardware store or supermarket for less than $10. Silica gel sachets might also work, but depending on how much water remains in your fridge, they are unlikely to be up to the task, and a more expensive option. You can also close the doors early even on a wet fridge if you go down this path provided the dehumidifer is big enough. Buy one for the fridge section and one for the freezer section, and be careful not to knock them over once they’re in place.