The Fastest Ways to Defrost Your Freezer (and Prevent Future Buildup)

The Fastest Ways to Defrost Your Freezer (and Prevent Future Buildup)
Photo: Ahanov Michael, Shutterstock

It’s nearly impossible to keep a freezer 100% frost-free. Opening the door lets moisture in, and that moisture freezes, building up on the walls, ceiling, and floor of your ice box. You can treat the inside with special frost-prevention sprays — or cooking oil! — to keep the frost from sticking, but most people do not remember to do that (and cooking oil is, well, oily).

Depending on how much food and frost is packed into your freezer, defrosting it is not that difficult. In its simplest form, all you need to do is empty the freezer (transfer any and all food to a cooler), and unplug it. There may be a special knob that lets you turn it off, but if not, you’ll need to unplug the whole thing from the wall. Place any draining hoses in a bucket, and shove some towels towels under the freezer or inside of it and wait. Keep an eye on the towels, and change them as they become saturated. (Beach towels work best, because they are so big.)

How to speed it up

Opening the door and waiting is extremely hands-off, but defrosting your freezer this way can take many hours, and you are probably in more of a hurry. Luckily, there are a few tactics you can take to get the job done more quickly.

You can place a fan in front of the freezer, and let the warm(er) air circulate around the ice, or use a hair dryer, provided you are extremely careful, and don’t let the dryer come in contact with any puddles, even tiny ones. Line the bottom of the freezer with towels, and direct the hot air along the edges of the ice, where it meets the wall. This will let you pull it off in big chunks, rather than melting it down from the outside in. If you only have a thin layer of ice to remove, a paper towel that’s been saturated with rubbing alcohol can help move things along (and off the walls of your freezer).

You can also use the power of steam by placing pots or bowls of boiling water in the freezer, and changing it out as it cools (about every 15 minutes). I like to get two pots involved, and bring one to a boil as the other steams away. Be sure to line the bottom with thick towels, not only to absorb water, but to protect the bottom of your freezer from the hot pot.

Though it may be tempting, resist the urge to take an ice pick — or any metal implement — to the ice. Scraping can damage or puncture the walls of your freezer. If you simply must scrape, use plastic or wood, and be gentle with your movements. (Though it is unlikely you’ll damage your freezer with plastic or wood, it is still possible.)

Clean it up

Once the ice has melted, the hair dryer has been returned to your grooming station, and the towels are in the washing machine, give the freezer a little bath by wiping it down with a multi-purpose cleaner, or use a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water. Wipe any and all gunk out with a microfiber cloth, and dry completely with paper towels.

Prevent future buildup

If you have a big frost problem, the most likely culprit is a damaged seal, which can be easily replaced. If your seal is doing its job (sealing), then the problem may be you (or your partner or children). Make sure any food you place in the freezer is sealed completely, so that it doesn’t release moisture into the freezer, and keep the door closed as much as possible.

If you find yourself spending a lot of time with the door open, trying to ascertain what you have in there, create some sort of inventory system so you do not have to do that. A spreadsheet, whiteboard, dry erase marker on the freezer itself — it doesn’t matter, just figure out some way to keep track of your freezer’s contents, so you can keep that thing shut and dry.

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