A man looking at his fridge temperature setting

Q. Why does my fridge temperature still feel warm at 37° F?

A. According to the Department of Agriculture, bacteria growth in food accelerates at around 40° F, "so keeping your fridge temperature set to 37 degrees—and your freezer to zero—is a good idea," says Joseph Pacella, CR's refrigerator test engineer. 

More on Refrigerators

If your refrigerator's temperature reading doesn't match what you're feeling, first try to figure out whether it's just the thermostat readout that has become inaccurate and not a cooling issue per se.

To do that, buy a stand-alone refrigerator thermometer (about $5) to assess the temperature discrepancy. If you find that the interior is warmer than your refrigerator's readout, turn the fridge temperature down a few degrees and wait 24 hours to see whether the internal temp drops. If the refrigerator temperature moves down only slightly, keep making incremental decreases until you hit the desired 37° F mark.

If the refrigerator temperature doesn't budge, try cleaning the compressor coils, because dirty coils can prevent efficient cooling, Pacella says. Check your user manual for the coil location and vacuum them with a soft-bristle brush. If the refrigerator still doesn't get cold, you may need a repair—or a new fridge. The inability to cool can signal a defective or old refrigerator nearing the end of its life.

Editors Note: This article also appeared in the July 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.