Walk-In Cooler Is Spoiling Food: 8 Common Reasons

Your walk-in is stuffed with food that is your business’s inventory so you have to keep it fresh. But if your walk-in cooler is spoiling the food, then it’s not keeping the food in the right environment it’s supposed to. You must consult commercial refrigerator services. Here are some reasons why your walk-in cooler is spoiling food.

Causes Of Your Walk-In Cooler Spoiling The Food

Incorrect Temperature Settings

We will start with a simple cause. Check the temperature settings of the walk-in. It should be what you have set or what your management has instructed. According to the FDA, the temperature of a walk-in cooler should be below 40°F. However, many experts suggest that the ideal temperature for a walk-in chiller is 35-38°F.

As you already know these settings are for a walk-in cooler for keeping things cool. If you have a walk-in freezer, the right temperature is between 0 to -10°F.

Thermostat Problems

A thermostat showing incorrect temperature is a common issue. This can lead you or the staff to believe that the temperature is fine when in reality the temperature is warmer and that’s why the walk-in cooler may be spoiling the food stored inside.

Therefore, if you suspect that the temperature you’re seeing is not right, double-check it and use a food-grade thermometer. Place it in the central part of the walk-in cooler and in a medium height to get a good reading.

However, keep in mind that all walk-in cooler manufacturers emphasize that the temperature shown by the thermostats can be 2-4 degrees different than the actual temperature.

Poor Food Storage Practices

Bacteria growth on food or food spoilage can be due to a problem with the walk-in cooler, but in some cases, the cause may be poor food storage practices. This is a kind of a problem that you or your staff can investigate themselves so it’s better to get this out of the way so you can then have a walk-in cooler expert check the unit.

Storing A Food Item In The Walk-In Cooler That Isn’t Meant For It

A food item that must be frozen to keep fresh will be of no use if you put it in a walk-in cooler unless you have placed it for thawing. The food will allow bacteria and pathogen growth which will not only spoil that food, but can also spread to the nearby foods as well. So, always check the labels of products so you know which should be frozen and which are fine when refrigerated.

Keeping Raw Meat And Ready-To-Eat Products In The Same Rack

Raw meat and other products like fish are the most prone to spoilage and developing pathogens. Their storage life is also less compared to other products. This is why you must keep them in separate racks. In fact, every product type should be at a certain distance from others and some should be in separate racks if you have the space.

Storing Food Items In The Wrong Racks

As mentioned above, some foods are quickly perishable like meat so keeping them in the right racks is important.

Vegetables and fruits should go to the topmost shelves. That’s because the bacteria on these is less dangerous as compared to that of raw meat. So, even if water or condensation drips from them to the food items in the lower racks, it won’t cause a problem.

Then comes the place for precooked items. The rack under the produce items should be for them. Why? Precooked food already reached a high temperature of 140+° Fahrenheit killing pathogens in it so anything dripping from it is also not dangerous for the items placed beneath it. However, keep in mind that dripping from pre-cooked food is still not preferred because it can alter the taste of the food underneath it.

The rack beneath precooked food should be for dairy items like milk, cheese, and eggs. Dairy products can produce bacteria that can be harmful but as long as they are kept at a temperature of 40°F or lower, there is little to no risk of dairy contaminating the items placed in the racks under it.

The second last rack should be for raw meat. It has a high risk of developing pathogens so its dripping due to condensation is bad for other foods.

In the bottom-most rack, you should place thawing food items as they are bound to drip. Anything you put in the walk-in cooler from the freezer to defrost should go there.

Placing Sensitive Items Too Close To The Door

When the four of a walk-in is opened, warm air enters and affects the nearby items the most. So, if you have raw meat or dairy near the door, its temperature may frequently reach the danger zone (between 40°F to 140°F). Even if the temperature of these products goes to 45°F frequently, they will allow the growth of pathogens that will lead to food spoilage.

Storing Hot Items Before They Cool Down

Every food business follows this practice but sometimes, in the rush, a staff member might put precooked food in a walk-in cooler that is still releasing steam. This can be bad for the items stored in it. Because due to the increased temperature, that part of the walk-in refrigerator may become a good place for the growth of microbes.

Moreover, if this is done frequently, it can cause spoilage of a large food quantity. Plus, it will also affect the energy efficiency of the walk-in cooler as it will use more energy to cool down the hot food.

Therefore, make sure the food is cooled before you store it in the walk-in. Follow the recommendations of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • If the food is in a large quantity, divide it into smaller portions for faster cooling outside and inside the walk-in cooler. Do the same for large pieces of meat.
  • Clean the sink and put cold water and ice in it. You should then place the container that has the food in the sink. During this, make sure the water in the sink doesn’t get to the food in the container.
  • Remember the two-stage cooling technique. In the first stage, the food should be cooled from 140-70°F within 2 hours. In the second stage, it should take about 4 hours for the food to reach the temperature of 41-40°F. When it’s at 41-40°F, you can safely put it in the walk-in cooler after covering it. Moreover, make sure never to cover the food when it’s hot.
  • Additionally, don’t use the outdoors for cooling the food because there can be temperature fluctuations that can be bad for proper cooling. Moreover, animals can find the food and contaminate it.
  • Use a food-grade thermometer to check the temperature of the food at various intervals.

Walk-In Cooler Problems

Any problem with a walk-in cooler that impacts its cooling ability can cause food spoilage as well. Many times, dirty condenser coils, evaporator coils, fans, or vents can cause malfunctions in walk-ins. So, make sure your walk-in is cleaned and maintained properly.

Moreover, door seal and hinges issues can leave the door unsealed. This allows warm air in, wreaking havoc on the food and increasing utility bills as well.

In addition to that, frost buildup in a walk-in cooler can cause various problems including food spoilage. This can happen due to an issue with the door, gaskets, pressure relief port, insulation, etc.


Food spoilage in walk-ins can be due to food storage errors or an issue with the walk-in cooler itself. So, go through the food storage practices and also have the unit inspected by a walk in cooler repair Alexandria technician.



Why Is My Walk-In Cooler Not Cooling?

Walk-in coolers are essential machines for restaurants, cafeterias, and food businesses. However, they are usually not noticeable until they develop problems. If your walk-in refrigerator is not cooling, it can spoil the inventory stored in it so you must act fast and consult commercial refrigerator services.

If you’re curious why your walk-in refrigerator is not cooling, here are the causes.

Incorrect Temperature Settings

This is a simple and easy-to-fix cause of a walk-in freezer not cooling. Check the temperature settings of your appliance and make sure they are correct. This is because a commercial facility is a busy place and many workers and staff members use a walk-in cooler.

Sometimes, the settings can be changed accidentally or someone changes the settings intentionally but fails to input the correct temperature.

Thermostat Problems

Most walk-in coolers and commercial refrigerators have an electromechanical thermostat. It includes a temperature sensor and an electric contractor. It works similarly to other thermostats. When the temperature rises to the set degree, the thermostat signals the compressor to start functioning. When the temperature is lowered to set the number, the compressor is turned off.

If your walk-in cooler is not cooling, the issue can be with the settings of the thermostat or the sensor or the thermostat itself is malfunctioning.

We discussed earlier incorrect temperature settings. But revisiting is essential keeping an electromechanical thermostat in mind. They have cut-in and cut-out settings.

Cut-in means the settings when the compressor should turn on and cut-on denotes the settings or temperature when the compressor is sent a signal to turn off. The temperature differential should be optimal. If it’s not, the compressor may turn off too early or keep working for too long. It can lead to temperature inconsistencies and damage to the components of the unit.

Have the settings checked by an expert who can ensure that they are correct. If the settings are fine, then the issue could be with the sensor or the thermostat. Only a technician should replace a temperature sensor or thermostat of a walk-in refrigerator.

The Door Gasket Is Worn

Another simple issue is the door not closing properly. Usually, the doors of the walk-in cooler shut perfectly but if the unit is older or if the upkeep is poor, the gasket will not seal the door. In turn, warm air from the outside with get into the unit, and the cool air will escape from the tiny spaces left by the worn gasket.

So, the unit will either not appear cool enough or the compressor will work longer to cool the unit. In the first case, you have a sign of a problem right away, but in the second case, the problem will not be easy to detect. However, the overworking of the compressor will lead to damage to the compressor and other components.

Let an appliance repair technician inspect the door gasket and suggest a fix. Sometimes, the door gasket is fixable, but a long-term solution is the replacement of the gasket.

Blocked Condenser

Walk-in coolers have a condenser on the roof or above the unit. A condenser turns the refrigerant from gas to liquid. In this process, the heat absorbed by the refrigerant is released outside. So, the condenser enables the refrigerant to throw heat outside. If the condenser is blocked, the heat won’t be released properly and the unit won’t work properly.

So, if your walk-in cooler is not cooling, check out the condenser and make sure it’s not obstructed by anything – not even a wall. Moreover, clean the condenser as well because dust and debris can cause invisible obstructions as well.

Condenser And Evaporator Fan

The condenser fan aids in dissipating heat from the condenser coils and keeping the compressor cool. If the condenser fan is not working, check the fan for obstructions that may be stopping it from rotating and clean the fan. If it’s still not working, the fan motor may be faulty.

An evaporator fan helps in blowing cold air into the cooler. If it’s not working, you should check it as well. First, for obstructions, and then inspect the motor. However, this inspection should be carried out by an expert who can not only check out the said components but also inspect other parts as well to fix the issue.

Damaged Insulation Panels

Walk-in coolers have insulation panels on the walls of the unit that aid in maintaining the temperature inside the unit. But these panels don’t last the entire life of the walk-in cooler so you need to check them if your commercial refrigerator is not cooling.

There are multiple types of insulation panels for walk-in coolers and the lifespan of each depends on the mean temperature of the unit, moisture, and ice.

You should take note of the condition of the insulation panels if they have been on for 10 years. A sign of damaged insulation panels is leaking. But if you want to be sure, hire an expert to check out the panels and if they are past their lifespan, replace them.

Water Leaks

We have already mentioned that insulation damage can lead to leaks, but there are other causes of leaks also that may be the reason your walk-in cool won’t cool. Worn gaskets lead to puddles of water near the unit as well. Moreover, improper installation can cause leaks too.

Plus, check the drain lines of the unit because a blocked drain line will leave no escape for the water so it will stay on the floor of the cooler or leak through the door if the door is opened frequently.

Bear in mind that water leaks not only indicate that something is wrong that you should fix, but they also give way to mold and mildew growth. You don’t want a health inspector to see this. So, find the cause of the leaks and fix it and then properly clean the unit as well.

Frozen Evaporator Coils

Firstly, mild frost on the evaporator coils is considered normal for walk-in coolers but not for residential refrigerators. However, if the buildup layer of ice is thick, it shows that the defrost cycle is not functioning or any other problem is causing this.

The freezing of the coils will restrict the heat transfer process. The compressor is overworked to produce more pressure for a better heat transfer rate. Moreover, if the ice buildup is extreme, the compressor might run all the time.

In this process, the walk-in cooler will consume more power, and the risk of damage to any components increases.

Older Unit

A walk-in cooler that is too old will break down often. For instance; if you replaced the insulation panels and thought that the unit won’t need any other repair in some time, you will notice leaks in the unit. So, you will need to have it repaired again.

Therefore, if your walk-in cooler is struggling to cool and it’s older than 15 years, then you should consider the replacement of the entire unit instead of a repair.


The common causes of a walk-in cooler not cooling are incorrect settings, damaged gasket, thermostat issues, obstructed compressor, fan motor malfunctions, and old age of the unit. Hire a walk in cooler repair Fairfax technician to fix this problem.