How To Defrost Your Freezer: A Complete Guide

Defrosting the freezer belongs to the group of chores that most of us refuse/postpone/forget to do or don’t know that it should be done. However, a freezer or your mini-fridge is one of the most useful and best investments around the house. So we have to keep it in good condition. And besides, isn’t it very annoying when you want to get something out of the freezer and not be able to open or close the door because of a thick layer of ice blocking it? Let alone all the other costs you’ll probably face in the long term, from the food you might throw away up to the cost of replacing your freezer.

A totally frozen freezer

To save you from all these troubles, we’ve done all the work for you. We found everything you need to know about defrosting your freezer. You just need to read our guide and then decide when to de-ice it. And, if you are wondering why is your fridge freezing, we have the answers.

Why Is It Important to defrost your freezer?

There are a few simple, logical and practical reasons why you should defrost your freezer. The first and simplest reason is that ice growing is making the space inside your freezer smaller. Ice takes up the area where you should place food. 

Also, a full-of-ice freezer won’t work efficiently. It’ll work harder to keep your food frozen, raising your electricity bills. And last but not least, the more ice you allow to grow, the harder the de-ice process will be. So, if you don’t want to waste energy, money and personal free time, de-ice your freezer regularly.

How long does it take to defrost a freezer?

Before starting the de-ice procedure, you should turn off your appliance, take iced food out and leave the freezer door open. This way, you’ll help the device defrost faster. The time a freezer needs to de-ice depends on the amount of ice and the room temperature. It usually takes at least 24 hours and more if there’s a lot of ice build-up.  

How to defrost a freezer

The first things you should do when it comes to de-icing are:  

A freezer full of ice
  1. Remove all iced food and store them in ice bags or a neighbour’s freezer to prevent them from thawing. If it’s a cold day, you can wrap them in a newspaper and place them close together.
  2. Turn off the appliance. You better also unplug it as there might be water around the device while working. If you have a freezer-refrigerator combination, you shouldn’t worry at all. The whole de-icing process will take about 1-2 hours. Thus, food stored in your refrigerator won’t have a problem. Just keep the door closed.
  3. Now, place some old towels and baking trays at the bottom of the freezer. While defrosting, there will be a significant amount of water as ice melts. Hence, you better place some towels on the floor around the machine and deep trays. 
  4. Check out the drainage hose (not all models have one). If yours has one, place it in a  bucket to collect the drained water. 
  5. Remove all the shelves, drawers and any removable part. If you find it hard for any shelf to take it out, wait until the ice melts a bit. 

Once you’ve done all the necessary preparation, you can choose between the following methods to de-ice your freezer. Some of them can accelerate the process or, if you want, wait for the ice to melt. Here are a few handy ways:

 Wait until the ice melts

It’s simple enough but also the longest. Once you have emptied the freezer, leave the door or lid open, allowing room air to start de-icing the ice. While waiting for the ice to melt, don’t forget to mop up the excess water from the freezer’s bottom.

Place a bowl of boiling water

You can make the whole process quicker by placing a bowl of hot water at the bottom of the freezer. The steam will speed up the melting process by loosening the ice from all the surfaces. After 30 minutes, you can use a wooden/plastic spatula or a plastic ice scraper to scrape the ice. Just make sure you change the bowls every 5 to 10 minutes, as the water will get cold and keep the door closed. 

Something else you should also bear in mind is to either remove all shelves of the freezer or, if that’s not possible, then place a towel underneath the bowl as the heat might damage the shelves. 

Defrosting a freezer using a bowl of hot water

Use a hairdryer 

Another good idea to speed up the process is to use a dryer. Hot air will help the ice to melt faster. Set the hottest setting, hold the dryer 6 inches (15cm) away from the ice and blow the warm air around the ice.  It’s a safe way. Just make sure to keep the cord and the dryer away from water and ice.

Use a hot cloth and rubbing alcohol

A relatively fast way is to use hot cloths and rubbing alcohol. Just soak a cloth in warm water, wring it very well and pour some rubbing alcohol onto it. Then place it on a piece of ice and wait for a while to start melting. Start from the edges and move to the inner pieces. Once the ice begins to melt, wipe the ice and remove it. This way isn’t too effective on large chunks of ice. It works best when there are thin layers.

Use a wet and dry vacuum cleaner

If you own a vacuum cleaner that can suck liquids, then it’s a good and quick way. Use the smallest nozzle attachment and set the blow control. Starting from the top to the bottom, blow all the surfaces. Once the ice starts melting, switch the setting to suck up the ice and the excess water. Continue until all the surfaces are dry. 

Use a fan

If the room temperature is warm enough, you can use a fan to push the warm air into the freezer. Just place the fan in front of the freezer with the door open and turn on the fan. It’ll take some time, depending on the ice thickness. It’s a handy method if you have a deep freezer. 

Scrape the ice 

We could say that it’s the most popular way. Use a scraper to remove the ice. It would help if you used a plastic or wooden spatula or a plastic ice scraper to avoid damaging the surfaces and your freezer’s gas line. For even better results, combine this method with one of the above ones.

A woman using a scrape to take the ice off of her freezer

Once you have removed all the ice, it’s time to clean up your freezer. Dissolve a tablespoon of baking soda in hot soapy water and, with a sponge, wipe the inside of the freezer. Repeat until you’re sure it’s clean. Then, wipe again using a dry towel. 

And don’t forget the removable compartments. Before placing them back, they need to be cleaned as well. Dilute a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda with 1-litre water. Use the mixture to wipe all the parts with a clean cloth. Then make sure to wipe dry completely. Now you can plug in your freezer and wait for a while until it cools. After about 30 minutes, you’ll be able to place everything back into it.

How to de-ice your freezer without turning it off?

If you own a fridge freezer, you might be afraid to turn off your device, as it might ruin the food in the fridge. Hopefully, there’s a way to perform the chore without turning it off. 

  1. The first step is to remove all the frozen foods and store them in cool bags and then in the fridge. 
  2. Next, place towels on the floor to soak the water that will run as ice melts.
  3. Place bowls filled with boiling water inside the freezer, and with a spatula or a scraper, remove the ice’s chunks.

This process will take 1-2 hours. However, it’s always recommended to turn the freezer off to de-ice it.

How to defrost a freezer compartment in a fridge? 

Owning a freezer compartment inside a fridge doesn’t differ in the de-icing procedure from the other types of freezers. You’ll have to remove everything from both the freezer and the refrigerator, turn it off, unplug the appliance, and apply one of the de-icing methods above. If you own a freezer with a separate door, then you can leave food in the fridge as it is. 

How can I defrost my freezer without throwing away any food?

A bunch of bags and boxes with frozen food in a freezer

Every time you want to de-ice your freezer, you have to remove all iced foods and store them in cool bags or another freezer. In case you don’t have a second freezer, you should be really careful as foods might defrost, and then you can’t frost them again. There’s a risk of food poisoning when refreezing defrosted foods. Thus, the best thing to do is to de-ice, cook and then freeze your cooked foods. This way, you aren’t going to throw away anything, plus you’ll eliminate the chances of food poisoning. But, if you can’t cook all of your frozen goods, then get cool boxes and bags. Place ice packs in the bags and store them in there. Make sure you keep them away from direct sunlight.  

How often should you defrost your freezer?

As a general guide, you should de-ice your freezer once a year. Nevertheless, it’s suggested that you de-ice it every time there’s a gather of ice on the top, the walls and around the compartments of your freezer. 

Whether you own a fridge freezer, a stand-up or a chest freezer, the same rule is applied. Every time you notice a layer of ice inside of your freezer, de-ice it! Unless you own a frost-free freezer. This type won’t form any ice. It would be best, though, if you clean it twice a year.  

Cautions: What not to do when trying to defrost your freezer

To get the best results of the process and have no problem with frozen foods or your appliance, there are a couple of DON’Ts you better take into consideration. 

  1. When you try to remove chunks of ice, don’t use sharp tools like knives or ice picks or metal spatulas, as there’s a great danger of damaging the inside of the freezer and the liner, plus to void its warranty. It would be best if you used a wooden or plastic spatula or a plastic scraper. 
  2. Don’t frost again any iced food that’s been defrosted, as you face a high chance of food poisoning. If it happens for your frozen to defrost, you better cook them and then frost them. 
  3. While using a hairdryer to melt the ice, you have to be super careful. Using it while there’s water all around you or touching melting ice with it in hand might cause electrical shock.
  4. During de-icing, never close the freezer door. Keep it open and let the air help you. Allowing the warm room air to circulate inside the freezer will speed up the melting of the ice. 
A frozen freezer with its door opened

Defrosting your freezer is a vital task; we should all schedule at least once a year. It needs to be done for the excellent condition of the freezer, food, and saving money on electricity bills. Having said all that, we hope the next time you are going to de-ice your freezer will be an easy, quick and safe process.

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