We’ve all experienced the heartache of discovering rotten food in the fridge. It might be due to improper storage, failure to set the optimal temperature, or poor circulation. Whatever the cause, one thing is for sure: humidity plays a major part.
Refrigerators are designed to keep humidity levels lower than their external environment to avoid bacteria and mold growth. However, high humidity can lead to food spoilage and the growth of harmful bacteria. And low humidity can cause fruits and vegetables to dry out.
That said, the ideal humidity level in a refrigerator depends on a number of factors. This includes temperature and what kind of food you’re going to store. It’s also worth noting that different items require different storage, temperature, and humidity levels.
Below, we’re going to look at the different humidity levels required for each food item. We’ll also go over the different factors that affect and cause high and low humidity levels in the fridge to help you keep your food looking and tasting fresh.
Factors That Affect Humidity Level in Refrigerator
Humidity levels in your fridge can have a significant impact on the freshness and lifespan of the food stored inside. But how do you determine the humidity levels in your fridge? It should be proportional to its internal temperature, however, it fluctuates during the day due to a few factors.
What’s Stored in Your Fridge?
Keeping food in an open container in your fridge, especially if it’s still warm (a soup, for example) can release moisture into the air as vapor. And this will up the humidity levels in your refrigerator.
It’s always a good idea to keep food in airtight containers or sealed plastic bags. This will also help keep your food from drying up by trapping the moisture in the container, maintaining its freshness for a longer period of time.
Frequent Door Opening
Every time you open the doors of your fridge, you are allowing warm and humid air in. This can cause condensation to form on the interior surfaces of the refrigerator and on the food stored inside. Condensation can then encourage bacteria and mold growth, causing your food to spoil faster.
Additionally, when you open your fridge door often, the cold air within the refrigerator escapes. This can cause the unit to work harder to maintain the proper temperature and consume more energy.
You can reduce the effect of frequent door openings on the humidity level in your fridge by leaving the door open for as short a time as possible. And ensure that it’s tightly shut every after use.
That said, most models are designed to gather the moisture as condensation and discharge it out of their interior.
Air Circulation in the Refrigerator
The amount of air circulation in a refrigerator can influence humidity levels by affecting how much moisture can travel and evaporate inside the unit. If there is inadequate airflow, moisture will accumulate. And this will cause higher humidity levels.
The good thing is that most modern frost-free units have a built-in fan to recirculate air within the refrigerator.
Causes of Humidity in a Refrigerator
Aside from food scraps, what causes high humidity could be faulty hardware or overloading your fridge. Below are a few common causes of high humidity levels in your fridge.
Broken Gasket Seal
If the door seal is damaged, warm air can enter your refrigerator and cause the temperature to fluctuate. This will eventually result in excessive condensation. A broken door seal can also make the cooling system work harder to keep the temperature stable.
The temperature inside the fridge can fluctuate if the thermostat is not operating properly. This means that it may not be able to effectively determine its internal temperature. And this can cause the cooling system to switch on and off at inconvenient times.
Check your refrigerator’s vents and drains for frosting or ice buildup, which can block its internal parts. This will have an effect on how the interior air circulates. And, without good air circulation, your refrigerator will have to work harder to remain cool.
Of course, if there is too much food stored inside your fridge, it can impede the airflow. This can make your refrigerator’s air circulation system work harder to circulate and remove moisture, resulting in higher humidity levels.
In addition, there will be greater moisture content inside the fridge. High moisture happens when items like vegetables come in contact with moisture from another item like meat.
It’s important to keep an eye on the temperature inside your refrigerator. And make sure to address any issues that may be causing temperature fluctuations.
What Is the Ideal Humidity Level in Refrigerator?
Internal temperature is the key factor that affects humidity levels in the fridge. In refrigeration, humidity determines the amount of moisture in the environment in comparison to the amount of moisture that could potentially exist at a given temperature.
So, even though the humidity levels are the same at 35° F and 70° F, the amount of moisture they can hold isn’t. This is because the warm air at 70° F can hold far more moisture than the dry air at 35° F.
But what is the proper humidity level in a refrigerator?
It largely depends on what type of food you’ll be storing and the type of unit you have. For example, if you store fresh meats, dry and other goods that can be thawed within a short time in a commercial unit, you should keep a 90% relative humidity (RH).
As a general rule, take a look at our chart below:
|Item||Ideal Temperature||Relative Humidity|
|Produce||32° F – 40° F||90% – 95%|
|Beverages||35° F||60% – 75%|
|Fresh meats, packaged and dry goods||35° F||85% – 90%|
|Dairy products||> 40°F||70% – 99%|
In addition, it’s essential to know where to keep certain types of food in different compartments in your fridge.
What Foods Should You Store in the Crisper Drawer?
Most refrigerators include crisper drawers with vents and they are there for good reasons. For one, you can open them to lower humidity levels or close them to encourage humidity in that compartment.
Your fridge’s crisper drawers may also have “fruit” or “vegetables” labels. Fruit drawers mean low humidity, while vegetable drawers mean high humidity. The high humidity helps to slow down the process of decay and keep fruits and vegetables fresh for a longer period of time.
You can use the high humidity setting for leafy greens and any item that could rot. On the other hand, storing fruits and other items that may rot in the low humidity setting helps keep certain produce from rotting too quickly.
Here are a few examples of the common fruits and vegetables that you can store in the low and high humidity section of your drawer:
- Green onions
- Brussels sprouts
Storage Tip: You can increase the humidity in the low-humidity drawer with a damp paper towel or cloth. Cover the drawer with the cloth to add more moisture. This will keep leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, and kale hydrated and fresh.
What Is the Ideal Humidity Level for Fruits and Vegetables?
A good rule of thumb is to keep a relative humidity of 90% – 95%. When storing fresh produce, humidity and temperatures are important considerations. And storing them will vary depending on the type of produce.
Delicate leafy greens and herbs, for example, will benefit from a moist environment. However, apples, grapes, bell peppers, summer squash, sweet potatoes, and other thin-skinned fruits and vegetables require slightly less humid growing environments than leafy green vegetables.
Citrus fruits prefer even less moist conditions. When you store lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, keep them in a basket outside the crispers. Or, you can set the drawer in the lowest humidity.
Additionally, certain fruits like plums, apples, mangoes, and peaches will ripen even after they have been harvested. The ripening process emits ethylene gas. And this can affect other products stored in the same compartment.
This could result in your greens turning yellow, potatoes sprouting, and carrots becoming bitter as a reaction to the high ethylene. It’s always a good idea to keep ripening fruits separate from other produce.
Certain produce would be better off staying out of the fridge. Tomatoes, for example, will end up losing flavor, especially when they’re freshly picked from your backyard. If you buy them from your local grocery store, they may do well in the fridge but you shouldn’t leave them inside for too long.
What Is High Humidity in Refrigerator?
It’s the setting that disables ventilation to the drawer, and this makes the items soak in the humidity. But high humidity can arise in any section of the fridge. However, it’s more common in parts where there’s a lot of moisture, like the crisper drawer or the meat and dairy compartment.
What Does Low Humidity in Fridge Mean?
Low humidity is when the vent is fully open, which allows air to properly circulate. It means that the air inside the refrigerator is relatively dry. Certain items, such as fruits, vegetables, and meats, may dry out or spoil faster as a result. In addition, low humidity in the fridge can cause ice crystals to form on frozen items.
What Is the Ideal Temperature for Refrigeration?
It depends on the type of food you’ll store. But according to the FDA, you must keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40° F to keep food fresh.
What Humidity Should a Freezer Be At?
Due to their temperatures, freezers don’t have a humidity level. In fact, they pull moisture from the food in the compartment.
Which Fridge Drawer Is High Humidity?
If the crisper drawers in your fridge are labeled “fruit” or “vegetable”, it means the fruit drawer is low-humidity and the vegetable drawer is high-humidity. But with a few exceptions, the general guideline is that certain fruits like low humidity and veggies prefer high humidity.
Maintaining the right humidity level in your fridge is important in keeping your food and extending its shelf life. That’s why it’s essential to check the humidity level in your refrigerator regularly and make any necessary adjustments.
Remember that proper food storage not only keeps food safe to consume but also saves money and also reduces food waste.
Got more questions regarding this topic? Feel free to contact us—we’ll be glad to help. Good luck!