What the safety experts think
When space is at a premium, it’s important to maximise every part of the kitchen. If you have a small kitchen, that means getting a little creative with kitchen organisation. Stackable bins, Lazy Susans and other space-saving kitchen storage ideas make the most out of tight situations, but there’s one spot you should think twice about: the top of your fridge.
Really? But look at all that room! It’s practically begging you to put something up there. What could be the harm? Well, even though there’s a lot of usable space on the top of the fridge, home-safety experts and firefighters say it’s not a great idea. Here’s why.
Why shouldn’t you store items on top of the fridge?
There are a few reasons this is a no-no, but mostly it’s about airflow. “Top storage can impact the ventilation of the refrigerator,” according to Captain James Flynn, a fire expert. Your fridge gives off heat in the process of cooling and freezing your food, and that heat has to go somewhere. To dissipate it, fridges have condensers located on the top, sides or back, depending on the model.
If you pile a bunch of stuff up there, blocking good airflow, “it can make the fridge work harder to keep your food cold,” says Rebecca Edwards, a household security and safety expert, because heat leaving the condensers doesn’t get carried away as efficiently as it should. This excess heat build-up “can lead to reduced appliance life at best and [be] a potential fire hazard in a worst-case scenario,” Flynn explains.
In addition to being an unexpected fire hazard, top-of-fridge storage is terrible for your food, Edwards adds. And that’s not all. Below, Edwards and Flynn tell us what we can and can’t store up there (spoiler alert – it’s mostly can’t) and how to make top-of-fridge storage safer.
Bread and baked goods like rolls and bagels don’t need any help going stale – they accomplish that well enough on their own. A flaky homemade baguette might last a day or two, and store-bought white bread might last about a week. And that’s with proper storage, which is definitely not on the top of your fridge.
Remember, ventilation is critical, and blocking the airflow with a loaf of bread does not work out well for the bread (or the fridge). As Edwards points out, “that airflow is also warm, which dries foods out and can make them stale.” For plastic-bagged bread, the conditions become ripe for mould.
Bottom line: Storing bread on top of your fridge will take days off its shelf life. Organise your kitchen counters with a breadbox instead.
The internet is often our source for recipe inspiration, but sometimes a cherished family recipe or a handy copy of Joy of Cooking has no digital equal. You want those go-tos somewhere close. Unfortunately, cookbooks on your fridge are a fire hazard. “Paper and other flammable items shouldn’t be stored on an appliance that’s working so hard,” Edwards says.
That goes for loose paper you might have tucked into the cookbooks, like recipe cards and magazine tear-outs, too. If they fall behind the fridge, they can block ventilation. And cookbooks are heavy! If one comes down on your head, you’ll wish you’d just put it in the pantry.