While you may be wondering how much time you need to invest in defrosting your freezer, unfortunately, you will not find the definitive answer, as there is not one. You may be able to accomplish this task in under 60 minutes; then again, it may take a few days. On average, for an ordinary residential-use appliance, plan for two to three hours from start to finish.
How long it takes to defrost a freezer depends on its size as well as how much frost has accumulated. Defrosting may last anywhere from an hour to a day or more. You can use a fan, blowdryer, or heat gun to accelerate the process.
Defrosting a freezer is easy enough; however, it can take some time to complete. This article will walk you through the basic steps of defrosting and provide helpful tips that will make this process even faster. But first, let’s take a quick look at how that frost got there in the first place.
How Frost Builds in a Freezer
Much of the frost formed in your freezer manifests on the evaporator coils. These coils are the last mechanism in the cooling system where refrigerant becomes gas, which travels through the coils to keep your freezer cold. Other factors at play will then affect how quickly frost may be formed.
When warm, humid air is allowed to get into a freezer (for example, every time you open the freezer door), moisture is let in, which will freeze into ice and, over time, create a build-up of frost in your freezer. Beyond normal, everyday use, there are other factors which may accelerate frost build-up, such as:
- Putting hot food in the freezer
- Putting wet/melting/sweaty containers in the freezer
- Having too much or too little food stored
- The door seal is not tight
- The ice dispenser door chute is open
- Too much/not enough refrigerant
- Damaged defrost sensor or other temperature gauge malfunction
Most modern freezers have an auto-defrost fan. This will not prevent all frost from ever forming, but it should drastically reduce frost build-up speed. However, if this fan is broken or damaged, you can expect to see frost sooner than later. There is a possibility, as well, that the evaporator coils themselves may not be functioning either.
How Often Should You Defrost Your Freezer?
It’s a good idea to defrost your freezer once a year, at least, or whenever the frost has accumulated to ¼-inch thick. Frost build-up will keep your freezer from functioning properly and efficiently. This adds to your electricity bill as well.
If you find yourself needing to defrost your freezer frequently, you may have an issue with your freezer (such as the examples above) that needs attention.
How to Defrost a Freezer Step by Step
The following is a generic list of preparation steps required to defrost a freezer. It is suggested that you check with your owner’s manual for specific instructions or concerns you may have about defrosting your particular freezer make and model.
1. Empty the Freezer
When planning in advance to defrost your freezer, try to use up as much food in your freezer as you can beforehand. Often, this may be the longest “step” in the defrosting process.
Quick Tip #1: Can’t wait? Store anything you still have in a cooler with ice or cooling packs around it to avoid thawing. If you have a second freezer, transfer the items there while you defrost the other one. If need be, try asking the neighbors if they have freezer space to spare for a couple of hours.
2. Turn the Freezer Off
You may have a switch for your freezer you can flip to the “off” position, or else you will need to unplug the freezer to avoid electrical damage or shock once the frost melts into water. Suppose you have a combination refrigerator/freezer and are worried about food still in the refrigerator. In that case, you should be fine unplugging the appliance for a couple of hours, provided you keep the refrigerator door closed.
3. Prepare for Water
Once the frost starts melting, there is going to be a lot of water. It’s a good idea to place some old towels around the bottom of the freezer to prevent a small lake from forming instead. It may be helpful to place several baking trays or such atop the towels to catch extra water. If your freezer has a drainage hose, place the end into a pot or bucket to drain.
4. Open Door and Wait
The safest and easiest way to defrost a freezer is to do these prep steps and then sit back and wait for the ice to melt on its own. Of course, you are here looking to expedite this process, so let’s look at a few ways to do that now.
Tips and Tricks for a Quicker Thaw
Scrape Thick Ice First
If you have neglected this task long enough that you have a thick layer of frost encroaching upon the open storage space of your freezer, you may want to try scraping away at some of the ice instead of waiting for it all to melt. But you must choose the right tool, or else you risk damaging the inside of your freezer.
It is best to use a scraping tool that is NOT made of metal, glass, or the like. Try a wooden spoon or a plastic trowel, and be sure not to attack the ice too forcefully to avoid scratching or denting the sides of the freezer. Something like the Maram Refrigerator Ice Scraper Set (found on Amazon) is effective. The different sizes in the set allow you to reach into tiny, odd spaces.
This trick is best coupled with a method that softens the ice, making scraping easier, such as our next quick-defrosting trick.
Place Hot Water in Freezer
This is a common and effective way to speed up the defrosting process, but before you do so, you will want to confirm with your owner’s manual that this is a safe method for your particular model.
Start by boiling some water on the stove. Next, place the pot in the freezer. If the pot is too large, carefully transfer the hot water into smaller containers and place them around the base and/or shelves in the freezer. Close the door and allow the steam to warm the freezer and soften the ice. Leave for five minutes.
After five minutes or so, the water will have lost most of its heat and need to be reheated. Put water back into the pot and on the stove to boil again. While the water is boiling, use a safe scraper on the softened ice as above. Again, take care to avoid causing damage to your freezer walls.
Repeat this process until all the ice has melted.
If boiling water and scraping sounds like too much work for you, there is a way to hasten the melting process with far less physical effort. If you have a standing fan, blow dryer, or heat gun, you can use these items to make hot-air do most of the work for you.
Use a Fan
An oscillating fan would be ideal in this case, as you can set the fan a few feet from the open freezer and allow the fan to push the air around the room. This air-movement will keep warm air circulating around the ice constantly to encourage steady melting.
Use a Blow Dryer
A fan will use the room’s air temperature, but a blow dryer can create hot air that will expedite melting that much quicker. The downside to this method is that you must stand at the freezer with the blow dryer to point the air in the right direction. Additionally, you need to take caution not to get too close to the ice to prevent electrocution.
If you don’t have a blowdryer, you could use a vacuum here as it, too, will provide warm air. Reverse the suction so that the vacuum is blowing air out of the hose, and then aim the hose at the freezer in the same way.
Use a Heat Gun
If you have a heat gun, this is certainly a task for it. It provides the heat you need to melt ice quickly, and it can be set up on a stand and left to run, unlike the blow dryer, where you must be there to monitor and direct the process.
Make sure to set up the heat gun so that the intake vent is completely open. This will allow for the maximum hot-air discharge and prevent overheating. Also, ensure you have left enough space between the heat gun and the freezer so that no water from melting ice can get to it.
Defrosting a freezer is easy to do, but it can be a time-consuming task; however, there are several tricks you can use to make it happen more quickly. Your best bet is to utilize a combination of hot-air and scraping tools to melt and remove ice fast and efficiently. Be sure to prepare for a mess of water, and guard against any electrical mishaps, and you’ll be good to go.