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How to Defrost a Freezer

A freezer with frost buildup
Nikita Burdenkov/Shutterstock.com

Have you ever opened your freezer to find large chunks of ice growing on the roof and sides? Frost buildup can happen to any appliance and is especially common in older models. While it won’t ruin your food, it can affect the space in your freezer and mess with the overall temperature. Here’s everything you need to know about defrosting a freezer.

What Causes Frost Buildup?

A freezer with frost buildup and two ice cube trays
Jirawin Yiamyart/Shutterstock.com

Frost buildup in a freezer occurs when water vapor in the air condenses and forms ice. This usually happens due to the presence of moisture in the air. When warm, moist air enters the freezer, it condenses and forms ice on the interior walls and surfaces. This can happen when the freezer door is opened and closed frequently, or when the door seal is damaged or not properly sealed.

Frost buildup can also be caused by temperature fluctuations inside the freezer, which can happen if the freezer is located in an area with poor insulation or in a room with large temperature swings. Finally, freezers that do not have automatic defrost cycles can also be prone to frost buildup.

When Should You Defrost a Freezer?

A person pulls ice chunks from a freezer
Shveyn Irina/Shutterstock.com

Most experts recommend defrosting your freezer once every year, or more frequently if yours is prone to frost buildup. Regularly defrosting will prevent buildup that can reduce the efficiency of your appliance.

Some people may prefer to wait until frost buildup has occurred before defrosting the freezer. This approach can save time and energy, as defrosting a freezer can be a time-consuming task. If you choose this approach, it is important to regularly check the freezer for frost buildup and defrost it as soon as it reaches a thickness of about one-quarter of an inch.

How Do You Defrost a Freezer?

A woman cleans a freezer

Defrosting a freezer is a simple process that can be done in a few steps, although it will take some time. Before beginning the defrosting process, remove all items from the freezer and place them in a cooler or another freezer to keep them cold.

Coleman Ice Chest

Keep items cool while cleaning your freezer.

Next, unplug the freezer and leave the door open for several hours, or until all the frost has melted. You can also speed up the defrosting process by placing bowls of hot water in the freezer or by using a fan to circulate air.

If there is a significant amount of buildup, you may want to lay out towels to catch water as it melts and avoid water damage on your floors. You can also use a spatula to gently chip away at the frost while it is still solid and dispose of it in the sink.

KitchenAid Classic Slotted Turner

A great spatula for multiple uses.

Once all the frost has melted, clean the interior of the freezer and dry it thoroughly. Finally, plug the freezer back in and return all of the food and other items to the appliance. Make sure that the door is securely closed and that the freezer is working properly.

How Can You Prevent Frost in a Freezer?

Someone puts food in a freezer

To prevent frost buildup in your freezer, there are a few steps you can take. Make sure that your freezer’s door seal is in good condition and is closing correctly. If the door seal is damaged, it should be replaced to prevent warm air from entering the freezer.

You should also try to minimize the number of times the freezer is opened and closed, and avoid letting warm air into the freezer. This is especially important if your freezer is prone to frost buildup.

You can also keep the room where your freezer is located (whether it’s in your kitchen, garage, or somewhere else) well-ventilated to reduce humidity levels. Placing a dehumidifier in the room can also help reduce humidity levels.

Gocheer Upgraded Quiet Dehumidifier

Keep this in your kitchen if it gets too humid.

Defrosting a freezer is an important task that should be done regularly to maintain the efficiency of the appliance and to make it easier to access and organize items inside. By understanding what causes frost buildup, you can keep your freezer in good working order and keep your food and other items fresh and safe.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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