Does your fridge freezer make your blood boil?

Full fridge freezer

Do you get refrigeration rage? Or is your fridge freezer frustration-free? We’re assessing our ease-of-use testing to find out which refrigeration features are the most important for manufacturers to get right.

My flat is rented, so I don’t have much choice about the appliances that are installed in my kitchen. I just have to live with the top drawer of the freezer icing up so much that once I open it, I can’t close it again without enough brute force to make me worried that I might break the drawer.

But I know I could make life easier for myself if I defrosted the freezer regularly, instead of waiting until I just can’t bear fighting with the top drawer anymore. Some refrigeration bugbears are less avoidable, however.

Wonky shelving woes

A fridge freezer with a minor issue might not wind you up that much at first, but after using that appliance every day for years, the frustration really starts to add up.

That shelf in the fridge door that causes a bottle of ketchup to topple out whenever you open it. That salad crisper drawer that doesn’t slide all the way out, so you struggle to reach the cucumber that’s rolled to the back. That badly positioned light at the top of your fridge that leaves the rest of the compartment in darkness if you are audacious enough to store food on the top shelf.

Checking our checks

We carry out more than 400 checks, measurements and tests when we test each fridge freezer, and 87 of these are used for our ease-of-use rating. We look out for flimsy drawers or shelves, and check to see how tricky it is to store food or clean every nook and cranny.

It’s very important that our testing reflects the way that people actually use their appliances, so we’d like to hear from you if there’s something that really winds you up.

Or is there a feature in your fridge freezer that makes your life easier? Is it important to you to be able to adjust shelves to fit in larger items? Do transparent freezer drawers transform the way you view your frozen food or could you live without them? Share your refrigeration woes and wonders with us.


The problem we have with fridges is the stuff that gets stored, or pushed, near the back of the shelf – and forgotten. We’d like to see doors with deeper storage and shallower shelves, so the space is shared more equally.

The most annoying shortcoming is a door-left-open alarm that fails to activate if the door is only slightly open. It’s fairly obvious if the door is left wide open, so such an alarm serves its purpose most usefully when the door is less conspicuously only slightly open. Many times my freezer door hasn’t been completely closed, and after several hours the food starts to thaw because the alarm failed to sound and nobody noticed.

For decades we have had kitchen cupboards with hinges that ensure that the door is closed under spring pressure or conspicuously open.

This is an important issue because icing can interfere with the self-defrosting system and even result in breakdown. Obviously this is the fault of the owner but perhaps the manufacturer should give some thought to designing products that are more tolerant to our failings.

Marcus says:
16 June 2014

Yes, I share a flat with others and I’ve lost count of the number of times the freezer has defrosted because the door hasn’t closed properly for whatever reason (e.g. because it was slammed and bounced open, because a drawer wasn’t pushed all the way back in and prevented full closing, etc) so a freezer alarm would be a godsend but it’s only useful if it works in these instances (i.e. of a small gap) rather than only notifying you of the door being left fully open (which never actually happens).

Marcus says:
16 June 2014

It’s also possible that the auto-defrost function is at fault instead of human error but it’s hard/impossible to determine this after the fact, and as it happens once a year or so I don’t see how this could be tested by Which?

The auto-defrost should operate much more frequently than once a year.

AlanPowell says:
9 June 2014

I have little use for a fridge, i would love a fridge/freezer with a large freezer section and small fridge.

I have a feeling there will be a mechanical explanation for why this type of appliance is not readily available but you are not alone in needing just a small chilled larder space and a larger capacity freezer unit.

I wonder if there is a technical reason or simply lack of demand. I recall reading about fridge-freezers with small fridge compartments but cannot remember whether they worked well. It would be interesting to find out.

Rosemary says:
9 June 2014

I find it really tiresome that more and more bottles/tins/packets have to be kept refrigerated.(I assume this is mainly because of reduced use of preservatives after the panics of a few years back, but I also suspect manufacturers covering themselves against anything and everything.) The point of my comment, though, is that refrigeration producers are not keeping up with this trend, as new models seem no different from my 15 year old fr/fr. There are not nearly enough door shelves or adjustable positions, to accomodate small items. Adjustable half shelves in the main body would be useful also.
We have resorted to a second small fridge to keep vegetables and bottle overflow!

What annoys me is when fridge compartments are designed so that items can come in direct contact with the evaporator (the part that gets cold). Packets can get wet and stuck to the surface and fruit/vegetables can suffer damage through freezing.

The plastic used in modern fridges/freezers breaks so easily. I wish they’d use metal supports in the door storage, like they used to. I would be happy to pay extra for a fridge/freezer with stronger plastic and the use of metal (rust resistant) wherever possible.

The plastic drawers/fronts break so easily in modern freezers.

There must be a high-end market for making fridges/freezers as robust as they once were?

As a guess I would suggest that plastic and low temperatures are not a good combination. We had a Siemens fridge freezer in which lots of little parts like brackets and clips were constantly detaching or snapping and we’d frequently find these bits on the bottom shelf of the fridge compartment not knowing where they had come from. Our next, and current, F/F, an LG, has been the best we have ever had and we have not experienced any problems at all with it. Looks nice, too.

David – The length of time you have had these products might help me get an idea of the durability!

I do not actually have a fridge/freezer as I long ago decided that that as a compromise it was not totally effective. I have AEG fridge and freezer for a decade or so with no major problem apart from the dreaded door dropping. Giving lots of rooms for bottles in the door may be convenient but it is deadly in weight terms.

On the AEG I flipped the door and hung it from the other side … or possibly same side and packed it up with washers to perfect the height. Arguably I should have looked at the guarantee and complained !!

This may be another area of white good design where mass record keeping may reveal long term weaknesses to be addressed or compensated for..

No new fridges or freezers, from any manufacturer, are as well made now. They would cost more than most people are prepared to pay.

David, I can’t agree with this from our experience. The faults I have seen are usually poor design features – easy to design better and not at significant cost. The works of our fridge-freezers have not been a problem.

One of the reasons I prefer to buy from shops is that you can inspect the goods, at least to some extent. It is often quite easy to foresee problems such as flimsy door hinges.

The quality of plastics is more difficult to judge. There are plastics that will survive freezer temperatures without problem. One thing worth noting is that transparent plastics are used because you can see through them rather than because of good engineering properties, so it is necessary to handle them with care.

I think there is plenty of evidence that people are prepared to pay for good quality kitchen appliances [David’s comment above] They often find, however, that its durability is not commensurate with the extra cost. A lot of people probably pay more than they need to in order to buy products that they think will outlast cheaper models. Cheaper models are not all bad. Expensive models are not all good. With such a vast range of fridge-freezers available in the UK it is not surprising that reliable comparative information is inadequate. It is further complicated by the fact that some manufacturers make outstandingly good ones and disappointingly poor ones but not necessarily consistent with the price levels.

Thin plastic is used in the fridge door storage shelves. The plastic used simply isn’t strong enough and you have to be especially careful when you remove these plastic shelves to clean in the sink. I now wipe them in the door, because in the past I broke one shelf when trying to lift it upwards to remove. The plastic salad drawers are thinner now.

Modern fridges and freezers appear to be built to a price and not built to be very durable. Fancy features are added like small televisions on fridges, internet connectivity, water dispensers etc which drives up the price but not the durability (you mainly see these features on American style fridge-freezers).

So yes, my main annoyance with fridges/freezers is the poor build quality.

David I couldn’t agree more. On my wish list is a frost free narrow fridge freezer where the freezer is aluminium lined and does not have any plasttic in sight – shelves only being my preferred choice to maximise usage. If that’s not doable then what about a life time guarantee for the drawers/drawer fronts – that would force the manufacturers to make them durable. Am I bothered about whether the inside is pretty? Hell no I want functional and durable. I don’t want doors that don’t stay shut I don’t want drawers where bits snap off and the replacement cost simply doesn’t make purchase viable. I would settle for drawers if the drawers were all individual freezer drawers but as I live in a house with a miniscule kitchen and the ones that do have the separate drawers are in the American fridge range – not a possibility for me I am afraid

Rebecca says:
12 May 2015

I agree heartily with this comment. I have just spent a frustrating morning trying to clean the fridge and each time, getting the drawers in and out is so fiddly. Plus the corners crack -if you exert any pressure. Either metal or why not some soft-moulded plastic which is not so brittle.

Could manufacturers also devise a helpful way of remembering which shelf goes where. Despite being extra careful of the order in which I take out and put back the shelves they don’t always seem to be in quite the right place afterwards.

Our last fridge-freezer lasted well but eventually failed for what I think was a silly reason. The doors were supported from a metal hinge pin top and bottom that located in the moulded door in plastic sockets. The door weight (no doubt reinforced by the weight of bottles of milk) caused the plastic around these sockets to crack and eventually the door fell off. Duck (duct?) tape came to the rescue but eventually it all gave up and we replaced the F/F. The door should have been reinforced to carry this load – l’d class it as a design fault, or flaw.

I definitely recognise the issue with not being able to close the freezer drawers for the frost building up on them. I think it’s a classic. The biggest issue with defrosting a freezer, however, is what to do with your frozen foods in the meantime.

Louise says:
13 June 2014

We are currently having problems with a Siemens Fridge Freezer purchased August 14. The freezer door doesn’t always close tight. It first happened a few weeks after purchase, so I adjusted the feet several times to ensure level, but still the door fails to seal on many occasions. When this happens, it quickly starts thawing and refreezing, which makes the problem worse as the the ice build-up pushes the door open even more. I now tend to close it firmly but gently, not something I’ve ever needed to do with a freezer before. It seems to me that the door “suction” is poor, and that the drawers should be a fraction shorter front to back. They are just too tight a fit. I realise it’s to make the most of the storage space, but if the drawer is not pushed fully in (think careless teenagers) or if a tiny amount of frost develops then the door fails all too easily. Shame as I think Siemens are generally such a great make.

I currently have a fridge and a freezer, so when I defrost the freezer I can put everything in the fridge, where it keeps cool for long enough. Am I right in thinking this isn’t possible with fridge-freezers as there is only one motor? It would be better if the 2 compartments could be regulated separately, but I suppose that would make the appliance more expensive.
One thing I would look for when buying a new fridge would be a much bigger vegetable drawer, perhaps even two, one above the other. Also it would be useful if the other shelves could be pulled out like drawers – that way we wouldn’t need to keep so many heavy jars etc in the door, which would ease pressure on the hinges

There is nothing to beat Ametican fridges or fridge freezers- except possibly New Zealand Paykel ones. US (usually GE) fridges are solid, capacious, serious well-lit, never suffer from doors that fail to shut, last forever. No European or Asian fridge freezer can compare, IMHO and experience.

I bought an Amana fridge, a US brand , to fit a certain sized area in the kitchen and it was a great fit. I have to say it was a very primitive piece of kit and we were quite shocked to find that there was a slot in the base of the panel between the freezer and fridge sections which one slid to adjust the fridge temperature.

Admittedly that was around 15 years ago and I was very glad when we were able to replace it with two AEGs – a fridge and a separate freezer. Much more efficient.

Our AEG fridge freezer is a very good one and we have been pleased with it but recently the fridge has developed a problem where the fridge has so much suction inside that the door won’t open easily. We had to pull with such force that the bottomed drink shelf in the door fell out and broke. I have not come across such a problem before. Have you. It is not because it is sticky. We have cleaned thoroughly, it is because of the vacuum effect inside the fridge.

The vacuum is caused by warm air entering and being cooled rapidly after the door is cooled. If it is an auto-defrost fridge then it is likely that the drain hole at the back has become blocked, so air cannot enter and equalise the pressure. A piece of wire or a pipe cleaner should solve the problem.

It may be that your fridge is colder than it should be, which would make the vacuum problem worse. The thermostat could be faulty or the setting could have been changed.

The suction effect is usually more of a problem with freezers and it’s better to wait rather than risk damage.

Angela says:
5 February 2016

I am trying to buy a 60/40 inexpensive, quiet, frost free fridge freezer . I have spent hours trying to find the sound/noise measurements. some list the noise level, I have found amoungst the few I have been able to find a ‘reading’ for, 39 – 40 so far, but have no idea what is extremely quiet and what is a very loud noise level. Is anybody able to help me as I have spent hours trying to make a purchase!

Angela, try Googling “typical noise levels”. Here’s one
30dBA is described as soft whispering at 5 feet, 50 dBA as rainfall. An increase of 3dBA is a doubling of noise level. this site gives a typical fridge as 50dBA.