A multi-shelved freezer with food in it.

How to defrost a freezer quickly

How long has it been since you defrosted your freezer? It’s especially important for older models of refrigerators and freezers, and while some newer ones have auto-defrost options, it’s still a good idea to keep your freezer clear of frost. Not only can regular maintenance keep your freezer at peak performance, it can also give you room to store your favorite foods.

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Why is my freezer frosting up?

Whenever you open your freezer, outside air enters the freezer and allows heat and moisture in. This moisture becomes frost inside your appliance, which can build up over time. If your freezer doesn’t have an auto-defrost option, this frost can become ice that covers interior air vents and temperature sensors. This can cause your freezer to work overtime, exacerbating ice buildup. Even if your freezer has an auto-defrost feature, you may want to defrost it if you’re moving or upgrading your appliance.

If you need to give your freezer a thorough defrost but don’t know how, don’t worry – our guide will show you how to defrost a freezer using simple techniques and items you probably have at home.

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How often should I defrost my freezer?

You should aim to defrost your freezer at least once a year or more frequently if your freezer is prone to ice build-up. You should also defrost your freezer if the ice build-up is more than ¼ inch thick. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to defrost your freezer.

A container with food from a freezer A container with food from a freezer

How to defrost a freezer

Defrosting a freezer is not a difficult task, but you’ll need to wait for the ice to melt in order to complete the job. The first thing you’ll need to do is prepare your freezer and properly store your food.

Step 1. Turn off and unload the freezer

First, unplug or turn off your freezer. If you have a small, more portable freezer, you can move it to your garage or outside to make clean-up easier. Next, remove all of the food from your freezer and place it in coolers to keep it from thawing.

Step 2. Figure out where the water will go

Lay towels or plastic liners on the floor in front of your freezer. You can also stuff the lower shelves with rags or old beach towels to absorb more moisture. Some freezers have a drainage hose to assist with removing water. If your freezer has one, place the end in a low basin or bucket. To assist with drainage, you can carefully place shims under the front legs of your freezer to angle it back toward the drainage hose.

Step 3. Let the ice melt

The easiest way to defrost a freezer is to simply let the ice melt on its own. After you unplug your appliance, leave the door open and wait for the ice to melt on its own. If you want to expedite the melting process, you can put a fan near your freezer to help it defrost. Open the freezer door and position the fan so that air circulates into the freezer. The room temperature air will help the ice melt at a slightly faster pace. 

Step 4. Mop up and clean inside the freezer

As the ice in your freezer melts, mop it up using rags or old towels. Beach towels can work well for this – their large size helps you mop up more water. Once all of the ice is melted and wiped away, you can start cleaning the inside of your freezer. Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with four cups of hot water, then use a rag to wipe down the racks, inner walls and door of your freezer. After that, use a damp cloth to dry everything.

Step 5: Turn it back on and refill

After you defrost, clean and dry your freezer, turn the power back on and wait for it to reach the proper temperature. Depending on ambient temperature and food loads, this usually takes several hours, but can vary from appliance to appliance. Once the freezer is ready, you can take your food out of the cooler and put it back in your appliance.

Have other freezer issues? Consult our freezer troubleshooting guide.

Looking to buy a new model? Take a look at our upright freezers and chest freezers today.

Ready to upgrade?

Skip the steps of manual defrosting with an auto-defrost freezer that makes it simple. For example, Whirlpool® AutoDefrost automatically helps reduce frost build-up, so you won't have to empty the freezer for a manual defrost as often. If you just want a new model, shop Whirlpool® Freezers and Refrigerators that keep all your favorites fresh and frozen.

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