The “Chilling” History Behind Your Fridge’s Magnetic Door

Indrani Sengupta
You'll remember this the next time you reach for that cold can of beer.

Fear of fridges

Before the magnetic door, there was the latch opening. Unfortunately for the curious children of yesteryears, said latch opening didn’t open from the inside.

Kid with fridge

You see where this is going.

As if that weren’t horrifying enough, the rubber gasket around the fridge door would create an air-tight seal, making it all that more difficult to alert someone on the outside capable of extricating you.

cat in fridge

There were enough occasions of children climbing inside and suffocating to warrant a Refrigerator Safety Act, passed in August 1956. Even earlier, in 1951, California made it illegal to dispose of refrigerators within easy access of children. They later added a clause requiring that latches and doors be removed before disposal. In the late 1950s, people would sometimes team up to hunt down abandoned refrigerators, for the sole purpose of dismantling them.

The magnetic door of 1958 offered us the best of both worlds: still able to stay reliably closed when necessary to protect that kilo of Ben and Jerry’s, but also less inclined to become a sudden death trap for the hapless kids on a time crunch during a spirited game of hide & seek.

fridge safety

In related news, it appears that scientists conducted extended research to determine how children behave in conditions “simulating entrapment in refrigerators.” At first glance, this may seem a ludicrous application of the scientific method, but in actuality, it helped develop modern standards for fridge design. Scientists were able to measure the average amount of force that children of various ages would exert, given the situation, and translate that into new and safer fridge door technology.

Unfortunately, old fridges haven’t disappeared entirely. Though the number of child deaths dropped, around half a million children were killed as recently as 1981.

And, given refrigerator lifespan, a child could still crawl into a discarded fridge in some backyard, somewhere.

Our suggestion would be to eat everything in your house right now, thereby eradicating fridge technology altogether. 

Read more: Child Dies After Family Leaves Him in Car For Four Hours