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The proper refrigerator temperature for fresh food

The ideal refrigerator temperature is about 37°F (3°C). However, a range of 33–40°F (0–4°C) is generally accepted as safe for most purposes. Temperatures below 33°F may freeze foods while temperatures above 40°F may lead to food spoilage.

The typical factory setting for Whirlpool® refrigerators is the recommended 37°F (3°C), but temperatures on all refrigerators may need to be set higher or lower depending on your fridge's environment and other factors. Read on to get more answers to your temperature questions.

Why is it important to keep food cold enough?

Chilling foods correctly helps them stay fresh and flavorful. It can also help prevent bacterial growth. Raising your refrigerator’s temperature above 40°F (4°C) could be harmful when storing dairy, eggs, meat and produce, which may naturally contain foodborne germs. You should also make sure to refrigerate any leftovers within two hours. Learn how to find the reason a fridge doesn’t stay cool. Keeping foods stored within the right temperature range can also help prevent your refrigerator’s environment from mimicking freezer temperatures that cause fresh foods to ice over. 

Refrigerator interior with a variety of items

Is your refrigerator the right temperature?

Always start with the temperature recommended in your refrigerator manual. Wait for about 24 hours after any changes, then check inside. The temperature is right when:

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Your juice and milk are as cold as you like them

Keeping your drinks on a lower shelf or towards the back of the refrigerator may help them stay colder. Learn more about the best way to organize and store food in your refrigerator. Some beverages, such as wine, may benefit from long term storage in a wine refrigerator or beverage center to keep them tasting their best.

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There’s no ice on your food

If there is, your temperature might be set too low. Or, an emptier fridge could mean cold air sinks to the bottom rather than getting absorbed by items throughout. Learn more about how to stop food in your refrigerator from freezing.

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Your fresh food doesn’t spoil early

When considering what temperature the refrigerator should be, remember that a higher temp can make your food spoil faster. Keeping your refrigerator cool enough helps preserve foods. Learn how to also adjust the humidity in your fridge to help keep produce fresh for longer.

Usage tip:

Keep your fridge cool by getting in and out quickly, keeping it fully stocked and making sure that none of the air vents are blocked. Learn more about keeping temperatures consistent.

Temperature controls on a Whirlpool® refrigerator

Is 45 degrees a safe temperature for a refrigerator?

Keeping your refrigerator at 45°F may not keep your food fresh. According to the USDA, bacteria grows most rapidly in temperatures ranging from 40°F to 140°F, and fresh foods can spoil if they’re exposed to temperatures above 40°F for more than two hours. If your refrigerator is strictly meant for soda and wine storage, then you can enjoy more flexibility with storage temperatures.

When should you adjust your fridge temp?

The environment around your fridge can affect how cold your refrigerator should be. If it’s in your garage or basement, you may need to adjust the temperature to account for humidity or outside temperatures. Only make small changes and wait at least 24 hours between changes to allow your refrigerator to adjust.

Close-up of refrigerator temperature control panel.

How do you change the fridge temperature?

It depends on your refrigerator. Some controls are on the inner sides of the fridge, while others are on the edge of the door or at the top center. Some refrigerators let you change temperature in degrees, while others have numbers for general temperature ranges. You might press the up and down arrow keys or turn a dial to adjust. Check your manual for the specifics and see the video below to learn more about adjusting refrigerator temperature.

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Shop Whirlpool® refrigerators

Available in a range of style and size options, Whirlpool® refrigerators help you care for your family with purposeful spaces that fit their needs. Whether you choose a french door or top- or bottom-freezer option, refrigerators by Whirlpool brand deliver convenience to your kitchen with organizational features like Tiered Freezer Storage and Spill-Proof Glass Shelves on select models.

More about getting the most out of your refrigerator

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