How to Defrost a Chest Freezer

A close-up image of frost buildup in a freezer.
  • 8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 45
What You'll Need
Hot water
Large pot
Clean towels
Baking soda
Wooden spoon or plastic trowel
Bags of ice

Defrosting a freezer may not be one of the most glamorous tasks, but it’s one that must occasionally be done. As the freezer is opened and shut over time, warm air enters the freezer, condenses, and freezes inside the unit. This causes a buildup of frost that not only takes up space in the freezer, but decreases the efficiency of the appliance. If you notice frost buildup that's more than 1/4-inch thick, it's time to defrost your chest freezer. If your home has a large chest freezer, perhaps in a basement or garage, you may be wondering how to carry out this process. Luckily, it’s easy to do. Keep these steps in mind the next time you need to defrost your chest freezer.

What Is a Chest Freezer?

A chest freezer is exactly what it sounds like: a stand-alone freezer in the shape of a chest. They're known for being economical and providing a wealth of usable storage for frozen goods. These freezers typically have built-in sidewall insulation, which allows the device to hold its cold temperature well and use less energy to keep goods frozen. In fact, these freezers can hold their temperature for two or three days even if they’re not plugged in, as long as the lid isn’t open.

While a standard refrigerator freezer may be enough for your family, having extra freezer space offers a range of benefits. It allows a family to take advantage of bulk food specials, can accommodate hobbies such as freezing homegrown produce, and can house meals made ahead of time.

Preparing Your Chest Freezer for Defrosting

Defrosting your chest freezer will take a bit of time, but it’s simple enough to do. Follow the steps below to defrost yours.

Step 1 - Transfer Food

First, transfer all of the food from your chest freezer to a cooler, surrounded by bags of ice. You don’t want your food to defrost while you’re working on your freezer.

Step 2 - Unplug the Freezer

Next, unplug the freezer and locate the drain plug. Usually, these are located on the outside near the bottom of the appliance. Once located, open it and place a pan beneath it that’s large enough to catch draining water.

Step 3 - Open the Freezer Door

Open the freezer door and place old towels along the bottom of the compartment. These will aid in soaking up the water from the melting ice. Also, line the floor around the appliance with old towels to soak up dripping water.

Step 4 - Defrost Your Chest Freezer Using Hot Water

This is an effective method to defrost your freezer, but before carrying it out, consult your freezer’s owner manual to ensure that it's safe to do so for your particular model.

Step 5 - Prepare the Water

First, boil a large pot of water on the stove and place the pot inside the freezer. Close the freezer’s lid and let the steam warm the freezer box for about five minutes, softening the ice.

Step 6 - Reheat the Water

Take the pot and place it back onto the stove, reheating the water. While the water boils, use a wooden spoon, or better yet, use a plastic trowel to scrape the softening ice off the edges of the freezer, being careful not to be too forceful. Doing this too harshly could dent or puncture the sides of the chest.

Once the water is boiling again, place the pot back in the freezer, closing the lid and letting it steam another five minutes. Repeat this process until all the ice is melted.

Step 7 - Clean Your Freezer

Once your freezer is defrosted, you’ll want to take this opportunity to clean it thoroughly. Make your own cleaning solution by mixing one tablespoon of baking soda into a quart of water. Wet a sponge with the solution and wipe down the inside of the freezer. Once you have wiped down the entirety of the freezer, dry the inside of it with a towel.

Step 8 - Plug in the Freezer

Now, plug in your freezer and close the door so that it can cool back down. Let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Step 9 - Refill the Freezer

Once the freezer is cool enough, replace the food in it from the coolers you were using in the interim.

It’s as simple as that. With a bit of time and effort, you have a sparkling clean and reorganized chest freezer for all of your cold food needs.