How to Defrost a Freezer

A freezer with ice build-up.
What You'll Need
Coolers and ice or dry ice
Garden hose
Large bucket
All-purpose cleaner
Cleaning brush or rag
Fan (optional)
Hair dryer (optional)

Defrosting a freezer isn’t exactly the most glamorous task, but it's one that must be done from time to time. You’re probably wondering what the point of defrosting your freezer is. It’s actually an important kitchen task that helps increase the life and performance of your refrigerator. The point of manually defrosting a freezer is to help it maintain efficiency. It should be done every time a quarter-inch of ice builds up inside your freezer’s interior walls. While it may be tempting to do this as infrequently as possible, it’s a process that shouldn’t be skipped if you want your freezer to run as efficiently as possible.

Step 1 - Prepare Coolers

To get the defrosting process started, first have some coolers prepared to house the items that will come out of your freezer. Defrosting a freezer can take some time and you don’t want your frozen goods to melt or go bad. Unless you have a second fridge in your home that you can transfer items to, get your coolers prepped with ice or dry ice and ensure you have enough room to store everything before you get started. If it’s winter time and cold enough outside, you may also consider storing things in an enclosed porch, as long as it’s away from bugs and the possibility of rodents that may be attracted to the smell of your food.

Step 2 - Turn the Freezer Off

Next, turn your freezer off. You should also unplug it from the wall, completely cutting off its power source. This is for both practical and safety reasons.

Step 3 - Empty the Freezer

Take everything out of your freezer. As mentioned in step one, you should have coolers waiting to store everything in the interim. Also remove any drawers and ice cube trays and place them in a nearby sink to thaw out and be washed.

Step 4 - Unplug the Drains

Freezers are typically equipped with two drain plugs. One will be on the interior, and the other on the exterior of the appliance. Once you locate them, pull both drains out. If they are threaded, attach a garden hose and place a bucket at the end of it to divert the water there. If there is no thread in the plug, place spare towels on the floor to absorb leaking water.

Step 5 - Allow the Ice to Melt

Now is the easy part. Simply let the ice in your freezer melt, checking on it periodically and replacing the wet towels on the floor as needed. Keep in mind that it’s important not to scrape the ice out of your freezer. Let it melt naturally, as attempting to scrape ice out could cause significant damage to your freezer.

Step 6 - Clean the Freezer

A gloved hand cleaning a fridge or freezer with a sponge.

Once the ice is completely melted down, use an all-purpose cleaner on the inside of the freezer. Clean it thoroughly as this is the perfect opportunity for everything to be sanitized.

Step 7 - Plug the Freezer Back In

Once you’re done cleaning, plug your freezer back in and set the thermostat to zero. Once it’s back to its normal temperature, place your items back inside.

Tips and Tricks

While those are all of the steps towards a successful freezer cleaning, we have some additional tips and tricks to make this project a piece of cake!

Use a Fan

The first tip worth noting is that you should place a fan near your freezer, directed at its interior, during this process. Put it on high, forcing the cold air out of the area and speeding up the melting process. You may also be able to place a pan of hot water in the freezer to aid in the timing, but before doing so it’s a good idea to check the manual to ensure this is safe for your model of appliance.

Use This as a Chance to Purge

A freezer with stacked frozen food.

Get the most bang for your buck when it comes to taking the time to defrost your freezer. Rather than using it as simply a time to make your device more efficient, also use it as a chance to get rid of some of the food you have stored in there. Look up how long each food is good for and get rid of items that have seen better days to free up some space and keep it organized.

Use a Hair Dryer

The last tip we have is to use a hair dryer to speed up the melting process. It certainly makes things go quicker, and even if you use this method to just help things get started, it makes a big difference!