Are Refrigerators Airtight?

Most refrigerators are airtight. Door sealing prevents air from going out or coming into the fridge. Airtight refrigerators also have a vacuum effect when the air inside cools, essentially locking in the door and sealing the fridge further.

Airtight refrigerators are known for keeping smells in as well. Most airtight refrigerators also seal the air inside the fridge even in case of a power outage.

So which refrigerators aren’t airtight? It’s mostly old refrigerators that are either made without airtight designs or old refrigerators which start to degrade in the sealing that loses air and food smell accordingly.

Are refrigerators airtight?

Almost all refrigerators are airtight to be energy efficient. The closed fridge door seals the air inside the fridge and allows it to cool without escaping until it’s opened again. Airtight fridges will not lose air even in case of a power outage.

There are 2 main reasons refrigerators are airtight

  1. Effective air cooling

If a fridge is not airtight it doesn’t provide effective cooling for your food. A fridge that leaks cold air is a fridge that works all the time. Fridges aren’t made to work all the time. They are made to maintain a lower temperature as they only start chilling air as often as needed.

A refrigerator only works properly when completely airtight. This is where it reduces air temperature the fastest and when it only starts cooling air a few times per day instead of working all the time.

  1. Better energy efficiency

A refrigerator needs to be airtight to offer better energy efficiency. Some of the best refrigerators for energy efficiency are those that offer complete sealing or airtight construction. These only have to deal with a seat volume of air, unlike old fridges where cold air escapes more and which need to work more and consume more power to maintain the same temperature inside.

Will freezers be smell-proof in case of a power outage?

Can you test if a refrigerator is airtight? Sure. You can unplug the refrigerator and leave the food inside. After the food goes bad within a few days there should be no bad smell around the fridge. Rotting food smell should only make its way into the room when you open the fridge.

This is why refrigerators are always smell-proof, even in case of a power outage. When the power goes off the fridge stops cooling the air but it doesn’t allow the air inside to make its way outside.

Why do modern refrigerators have a vacuum as the door closes

Modern refrigerators have a vacuum effect when the air inside reaches a lower temperature compared to the air outside. After closing the fridge it starts cooling the air essentially compressing its volume. This creates a small vacuum effect (estimative of 1PSI difference to the surrounding air pressure) which makes it a bit more difficult to open the door.

A vacuum effect is only created in the refrigerator within a couple of minutes after closing the door. This vacuum delay is caused by the process of cooling the air. It takes a bit of time for the fridge to reduce air temperature. As this temperature starts to decrease the fridge creates a vacuum effect essentially pulling the door in slightly.

Yes, you can open a refrigerator from the inside

Airtight refrigerators are sometimes confused with refrigerators you can’t open from the inside. However, most refrigerators are now required to open from the inside. Both residential and walk-in refrigerators need to open from the inside to prevent accidents.

Even with a vacuum effect, you are still able to push the door open from the inside. Airtight doesn’t equal a stuck door.

So how do fridges stay closed tightly?

Most refrigerators used magnets to keep doors closed tightly. A soft sealing gasket prompts a vacuum effect which essentially keeps the fridge door tightly closed. Together with magnets, the vacuum effect of the fridge leads to an airtight closing.

Why do fridge doors stick more tightly when you close them gently?

An interesting proof of how an airtight fridge works are with the speed at which you close the door.

If you close the refrigerator door gently the air inside has time to make it outside leading to quicker cooling. When you slam the fridge door air doesn’t have time to make it outside. In both cases, a vacuum effect is created when the trapped air eventually reduces in pressure.

The fridge remains airtight both when you close the door gently and when you slam the door.


A refrigerator is airtight as long as there are no air leaks. Magnetic doors, soft rubber sealing, and a vacuum effect on closing doors are responsible for the airtight effect of a fridge. As long as a fridge is airtight it also traps all smells inside efficiently.