How to Defrost a Freezer

An inside view of a freezer with frost build-up

Learn how to defrost a freezer with this complete guide!

The freezer, an essential fixture in most households worldwide, holds the potential to extend freshness and culinary possibilities. Through preserving seasonal harvests, quick weeknight meals, BBQ essentials, and (most importantly) frozen treats, the freezer’s purpose is paramount, serving as a gateway to convenience and reduced food waste.

However, if your freezer isn’t frost free, it’s important to remember to defrost it. With every opening of your freezer door, warm air from the room will enter the chamber and eventually freeze. Once it does, it becomes frost. On top of looking untidy, a frosty freezer reduces usable space, and its efficiency. This is due to it needing to work harder to keep everything frozen.

Defrosting your freezer can be a chore, however you should only need to do it once or twice in a year. In this article, we embark on a journey to unravel the art of defrosting a freezer (or fridge freezer) – a fundamental skill that ensures its continued efficiency and optimal functioning.

  • How long does a freezer take to defrost?

If you leave your freezer to sit and defrost by itself, it’s likely to take 1-2 hours for it to completely defrost, depending on how thick the frost is.

Step-by-step guide to defrosting a freezer:

The safest and easiest way to defrost your freezer is to unplug it and allow it to defrost by itself. This method will always be recommended by us, as other methods can be unsafe, or increase your chances of damaging your freezer.

Follow these 9 simple steps to defrost your freezer:

Step 1:

Remove the contents of your freezer.

Step 2:

Unplug your freezer. Ensure the plug is placed safely away from the water that will collect.

Step 3:

Remove all drawers and trays. You can give these a good clean whilst your freezer defrosts.

Step 4:

Place old towels to soak up moisture around the freezer. If your freezer has a drainage hose, run this into a bucket to collect the water.

Step 5:

Open your freezer door. Prop the door open if it closes automatically. Let nature run its course and melt the frost. Clean the freezer containers and drawers thoroughly whilst you wait.

Step 6:

Wait. This is the easiest part. Let nature run its course and melt the frost. This can take 1-2 hours.

Step 7:

Make sure everything is dry. The interior of your freezer, the trays and the drawers need to be completely dry before putting them back and turning the freezer back on. They will immediately start to frost again if they’re not.

Step 8:

Turn your freezer back on. Give it some time to cool back down before you put everything back where it was.

Step 9:

And done!

Freezer frost melting

  • What to do with your food whilst defrosting a freezer?

Unless you want a big mess on your hands, you will need to completely empty your freezer of its contents before defrosting. Ideally it’s best to store your food in another freezer, such as your neighbours, however you can also wrap frozen food in heavy layers of newspaper or place them in cool-bags.

  • Caution: Refreezing food increases the likelihood of contamination and therefore food poisoning when consumed. If defrosting occurs during the process, it’s recommended to store these items in your fridge and consume them within 2 days.

How to avoid frost build-up in your freezer

If your freezer isn’t frost free, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to defrost it at some point. However, there are some things that can increase the rate of frost build-up. Learning how to avoid these will mean that your freezer will go longer between defrosting sessions.

  • Leave enough ventilation space around the sides and back of your freezer
  • Don’t leave the door open for too long
  • Ensure the door and seals close completely
  • Regularly check for any damage
  • Don’t place anything warm inside your freezer
  • Set your freezer to the right temperature
  • Buy a frost free freezer to avoid defrosting completely

Are Frost Free Freezers worth it?

If you’re in the market for a new freezer, and hate the tedious task of defrosting, we highly recommended a frost-free option. These freezers prevent the build-up of frost on the inside, meaning that you’ll never need to defrost again!

The necessity to defrost non-frost-free freezers is an essential aspect of maintenance. With each cycle of freezing and thawing, frost accumulates, hindering space and efficiency. While the recommended method is patient unplugging, various methods to speed up defrosting exist. However, caution is paramount to prevent damage or hazards. Remember, safety always supersedes speed. 

For those seeking to evade the task altogether, frost free freezers offer a maintenance-free solution. Whether embracing the defrosting ritual or investing in technology, a well-maintained freezer ensures culinary delights for years to come.

  • Did you know?

Wondering how to defrost a fridge freezer? The process is exactly the same for fridge freezers as it is for stand-alone freezers. This includes both freestanding and integrated freezers.

And some great news? All American Style Fridge Freezers are frost free! This means that, on top of gaining loads of storage space, you’ll never need to defrost it.

Methods that decrease defrosting time

Defrosting your freezer is a time-consuming task, and so naturally many people have come up with methods to speed up defrosting. Here we’ll list all of these quick ways of defrosting your freezer, and whether they’re worth trying or not. It’s important to note that many “quick” methods can be unsafe or can lead to you damaging your freezer. If you do damage your freezer, your warranty may become invalidated. If you do decide to use any of these methods, please proceed with caution.

The Spatula Method

Using a spatula you can carefully chip away at the frost build-up. If the frost in your freezer is fairly built up and hardened, it’s important to try not to remove too much at once. Being overambitious may cause your hand to slip and cause you to scratch up against a sharp part of ice.

This method can be helpful at speeding up the process, especially if you have a lot of frost build up. However, you do risk potentially harming yourself or your freezer. Proceed at your own risk.

Never heat up a spatula. Handling heated metal causes serious burns.

The Boiling Water Method

A defrosting method that presents little hazard is the boiling water method. Here you turn off your freezer, and then leave the trays and drawers. Then, place bowls of boiling water in them. Finally, close the freezer door whilst the steam works its magic.

This can speed up the process of defrosting by a lot. Just be careful when you open the door back up- The defrosted ice will be sat at the bottom as water, just waiting to spill out!

Remember to place folded towels under the bowls of water to prevent damage to your freezer drawers

Defrosting methods you should never attempt

The following methods are not recommended:

Using a Fan: Not only is using a fan relatively ineffective, the mixing of electronics and water is never recommended due to the risks of electrocution. 

Using a Hairdryer: Mixing electric with water is never recommended. There is a chance of water dripping into your hairdryer, resulting in a risk of electrocution.  

The Hot Knife Method: This method can lead to serious harm to yourself. Furthermore,  this can damage the inside walls of your freezer. A sharp object could pierce the inside of your freezer and lead to the release of refrigerant. Refrigerant is used in refrigerators, freezers, and fridge freezers to keep things cool. It’s crucial to remember that refrigerant is highly flammable, so handling it with care is a must.

Freezer defroster sprays: There are some sprays available that can defrost your freezer, however it’s always recommended to only use those recommended by the manufacturer to avoid invalidating your warranty.

  • Warning: Never use a car de-icer to defrost a freezer. De-icer is toxic, and should never be used in or around food storage.

How do you defrost a freezer without turning it off?

The simple answer here is that there is no safe way to defrost a freezer without turning it off. For those with a fridge freezer, we would recommend packing your frozen items tightly into your fridge during the defrosting process, being sure to keep the fridge door closed at all times to keep as much of the cold in as possible.


  • Why is my freezer suddenly full of frost?

There are many factors that cause freezer frost. This includes temperature fluctuations, or warm air entering the freezer. This causes the moisture in the air to freeze to the sides of your freezer. Freezer frost can also happen when your freezer is too full, or too empty.

  • Does defrosting a freezer make it work better?

Yes, a freezer will work more efficiently when it is defrosted. When there is excess frost build up, your freezer will need to work harder to maintain a cold temperature. 

  • What happens if you do not defrost a freezer?

If you don’t defrost your freezer, it will need to work harder to keep everything frozen. Therefore wasting energy and raising your energy bills. Ideally you should defrost your freezer once the ice thickness reaches ¼ inch. 

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