How to Defrost a Chest Freezer

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Defrosting your chest freezer is important to maintain a low energy usage, as well as keeping the contents at the right temperature. Frost buildup is actually one of the main culprits of freezers not freezing properly, which is caused by the ice restricting a proper airflow.

In this guide we’ll go in-depth on how to defrost your chest freezer in a few simple steps, so read on and soon you’ll have a frost-free, clean freezer once again.

Self-defrosting vs. manual defrosting freezers

Before we explain the step-by-step explanation for how to defrost a chest freezer, it is important to know if your machine has specific built-in characteristics.

A box freezer with an auto self-defrost feature will be faster and easier to defrost than one that must be manually defrosted.

Generally, the auto-equipped box freezer uses more energy because they follow a heating and cooling cycle throughout each day to give the condensation a chance to drain away and reduce the appearance of frost.

Below are the steps for defrosting each type of box freezer.

1. Self-defrosting/auto-defrosting

A freezer equipped with auto-defrosting elements can come in several forms, including heated coils or a timed shut-down cycle for the compressor. The freezer is then allowed to warm up enough for the moisture to collect in a tray that is at the bottom of the machine. Usually, a box freezer will go through this cycle at least once a day for a very short amount of time, to prevent ice from building up..

You will still want to manually check for any build-up and thoroughly clean your box freezer with warm water and soap at least once a year to keep it clean even if the manual defrost is unnecessary.

2. Manual defrosting

You will want to have water absorbent materials present (e.g., newspapers, towels, etc.) to mop up any excess water. Then follow these listed steps.

  1. Turn off the freezer.
  2. Remove food items and place them in a cooler with dry ice or the fridge temporarily while you work.
  3. Use your preferred tools to melt or clean away the frost and ice. Tool options are in the last section of this article, along with details on using them.
  4. Remove all of the frost and ice. Go through with a cloth and warm soapy water to wash every surface, including the door.
  5. Make sure to wipe away any moisture before turning the freezer back on. Pay special attention to the seams around the door.
  6. Once the temperature is back up to standard, you can return the food to the freezer.

What to do with the food while defrosting?

You want to make sure that any food items you remove from the freezer remain cold enough that they will not be in danger of being completely thawed. It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours to thoroughly defrost a box freezer depending on what method you choose, and during that time, the food needs to stay at a consistent temperature. There are several ways in which you can accomplish this, including the following.

  • Place food in closed containers inside of your fridge.
  • Place food in a cooler with hot or cold ice.

How often should you defrost your freezer?

The thickness of the ice and frost build-up will determine how often you should clean your box freezer, but it is highly recommended that you do it at least once a year, even if it does not seem severe.

This is a way to keep your freezer clean and hygienic in addition to proactively maintaining its function. If the ice gets a fourth of an inch thick in any area, you should defrost it and get rid of that frost growth before it can cause any problems.

Tools you can use to speed up the process

According to’s article on freezer defrosting, it is faster and easier to work the ice loose manually using a tool like a putty knife instead of waiting for it to melt and then cleaning up the mess.

Also, you can use some of these other tools and methods for faster cleanup if you do not want your food to be outside the box freezer for long enough for the water to melt naturally:

1. Hair dryer/heat gun

Be careful if you end up using an electronic device to heat the melt the frost. Mixing water with electricity can get you hurt if you are not sure to keep them separated.

You can use either the hair dryer or heat gun to target specific areas of frost build-up rather than merely using them on the entire freezer indiscriminately.

It will be faster, and you lower the risk of accidental injury if you only use it for the worst of the build-up and then move to different methods of cleanup.

2. Hot water or rubbing alcohol

After turning off the freezer and emptying the shelves, you can put in bowls of hot water. The steam and heat will help speed up the process. You can also be using other tools and methods at the same time.

A straightforward trick for quickly melting ice and frost is to dampen a cloth in rubbing alcohol and then wipe down the freezer’s entire interior. If you use this method, you will want to clean all of the surfaces again to remove any trace of the alcohol before turning the device back on.

3. Wet/dry vacuum

This option is similar to using a heat gun or hair dryer but infinitely safer because there is no chance of accidental injury if the vacuum interacts with melted water. The steps are pretty quick, and it allows for an efficient way to blow ice off the walls with slightly heated air.

  1. Remove any paper filters from your vacuum as the water will damage them.
  2. Connect the hose to the exhaust.
  3. Use “car” adapter to increase air pressure of output.
  4. Start at the roof and top edges of the fridge and blow the ice and build-up off.
  5. You can use intake option to pull up loose ice and water as you go.

4. Heated putty knife or spatula

If you use a putty knife, it is best to use a plastic one, not a metal one, so that you do not damage your box freezer walls.

The spatula should also not be metal for the same reason. Both can be heated using hot water to make the process work better.

You would use the tools the same way you would an ice scraper on your car windshield by prying off chunks of ice.

You will still need to wipe off all surfaces in the box freezer to remove excess moisture when you are finished, so make sure to have towels or other water-absorbent materials on hand.