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How to defrost a freezer

Asurion Appliance Repair Expert instructing homeowner on how to defrost their freezer

If you open your freezer door and your food is lost inside a tundra of ice, it's time to defrost your appliance. Doing so will help your freezer run more efficiently, which may lower your electricity bill and help preserve the quality of your food. But how do you defrost a freezer fast without making a huge mess or damaging your appliance?

Asurion Experts have experience with every major appliance, including refrigerators and freezers, and can help you maintain and protect yours from unexpected breakdowns. Here's our guide on how to defrost a freezer or combination refrigerator and freezer.

Get ready to defrost your freezer

Before you start to defrost your freezer, here are two things to do:

Take everything out of your freezer

Throw away all expired food or anything that's come loose from its packaging. Then store what you'd like to keep in a cooler with ice blocks or in another freezer. Don't let your items defrost—it's not safe to refreeze food, especially meat. If you're defrosting a freezer that's attached to a refrigerator, you'll want to remove the items from the fridge and place them in a cooler or second refrigerator too.

Gather your supplies

Here's what you'll need to defrost your freezer:

  • Old towels and clean rags
  • Baking soda
  • Hot water
  • Dish soap
  • A sponge
  • A plastic scraper or wooden spoon
  • An old toothbrush
  • A drainage hose (optional)
  • A bucket or deep tray (optional)

How to defrost your freezer

Ready to defrost your freezer? Follow these simple steps:

Unplug your freezer

When doing so, make sure you secure the plug so it's not laying on the floor where it might get wet—it's as simple as taping the plug connector to the freezer. If you have a small, portable freezer, consider moving it outdoors or into your garage while you defrost it—this will help when it's time to clean up.

Open your freezer door

Make sure it stays propped open so your freezer can defrost faster.

Remove the shelves and drawers

Once you take them out, soak them in hot water and dish soap. If ice is keeping your shelves and drawers stuck in place, just wait until it melts to remove them.

Prepare to soak up water

The ice in your freezer is going to be melting, so you need to be ready. Your freezer should have a drain plug, so if you have a drainage hose handy, connect one end to the freezer and put the other end into a bucket or tray.

Another option: old towels. Arrange them on the floor around the base of your freezer or your fridge-freezer combo, and place another towel inside the freezer, covering the bottom.

Let the ice melt

The safest and easiest way to defrost a chest freezer, a deep freezer, or any freezer, is to simply allow the ice to melt. If you're wondering, how long does it take to defrost a freezer? It could take several hours, so you'll have to be patient.

As the ice melts and the towels get wet, wring them out or replace wet towels with dry ones.

Defrost your freezer faster

Try these tricks to speed up defrosting:

  • Dip a rag in boiling water, add some rubbing alcohol, then dab it on the edges of the ice. This works best if there's just a thin layer of frost or ice in your freezer.
  • Use an ice scraper or wooden spoon to gently scrape the ice in your freezer and help it defrost faster.

What not to do when defrosting your freezer

  • Don't pour boiling water into the freezer or place pans of boiling water inside. You could burn yourself and damage your appliance.
  • Don't use a hairdryer to try to melt the ice. This is very dangerous—you could electrocute yourself.
  • Don't use a metal tool to scrape or break up ice. You could hurt yourself or puncture the wall of your freezer or its coils.

Clean and dry your freezer

Once all the ice is melted, remove the wet towels and scrub your freezer using a clean rag or sponge dipped in baking soda and water. You can use an old toothbrush to clean the door seal and corners.

Once you've cleaned your freezer, make sure to dry it—you don't want to leave it wet, or you'll have a whole new batch of ice to defrost. Next, dry and replace the freezer's shelves and drawers.

Turn your freezer back on

When the floor and your freezer are completely dry, plug your freezer back in and set it so that the temperature is 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it reaches that temperature, start putting your frozen items back inside. Remember, discard, or immediately cook any thawed food.

How often should you defrost your freezer?

Our experts recommend defrosting your freezer once a year or whenever you see layers of ice more than a quarter of an inch thick. Make sure to regularly clean and organize your freezer and throw away any expired food or items with freezer burn.

Is your freezer too cold? Check out our tips for what to do.

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