How to Defrost a Freezer

Learn how to easily defrost a freezer, prevent frost from forming, and save on costly repair and energy bills with these ice-cold tips from the Domestic CEO.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #140

Next time you are in your kitchen, do something for me: go to your freezer and open the door. When you look inside, what do you see? Are the walls clean and shiny? Or are they covered in chunks of frost and ice?

If your freezer is full of frost, it will not run as efficiently as it’s designed to. If your freezer is running more than necessary, that means your electricity bill is going to be higher, and that - most likely - your freezer is going to die an early death. But all of these hassles and expenses can be prevented by simply defrosting the freezer on a regular basis.

This is a simple process, and there are a few different ways that you can do this, so it comes down to picking the option that sounds most attractive to you. Today I’ll focus first on how not to defrost your freezer, then detail 3 ways to defrost correctly - plus give you tips on how to prevent frost from accumulating in the first place.


Prep Steps

When you are defrosting a freezer, the first thing you need to do is empty all its contents. Move everything to another freezer or pack them tightly into a cooler - or move them to a outdoor space, if you’re doing this in winter and the temps are below freezing!

After the freezer is cleaned out, turn it off. This may be as simple as turning a dial in the freezer or in the fridge section of the appliance, but more likely you’ll need to carefully pull the unit away from the wall and unplug it. If you have a water or ice dispenser in the appliance, be extra careful when pulling it out. It would likely take a big yank to disconnect the water lines, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

How Not to Defrost

It may be tempting to start hacking away at the chunks of ice on the walls of a freezer, but resist that temptation. Using an ice pick, knife, or anything else that’s metal is a surefire recipe for disaster. No matter how careful you think you are going to be, you are going to scratch or damage the wall of the freezer. So put away the screwdriver and let’s do this the right way.

Defrost Option #1: Hot Water

Using an ice pick, knife, or anything else that’s metal is a surefire recipe for disaster. No matter how careful you think you are going to be, you are going to scratch or damage the wall of the freezer.

Ask anyone over the age of 50 how their mom defrosted the freezer, and they’ll likely tell you that she used a pot of boiling water. This method is more hands-off than others, but it may also take a little more time.

To defrost your freezer using hot water, first boil a large pot of water. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, make sure you have enough room to put the pot in the freezer. Then put a hot pad or trivet on one of the shelves, and place a towel on the bottom of the freezer to soak up the water as the ice melts.

Once the water in the pot is boiling, simply put it on the trivet and close the door. Freezers are well-sealed, so the steam from the hot water will heat up the inside of the freezer, causing the ice to naturally melt off the walls. After about 30 minutes, open up the freezer and wipe up the water that has accumulated, then use a plastic scraper to gently knock any remaining ice from the walls.

Defrost Option #2: A Hair Dryer

The next option for defrosting a freezer is to use a hair dryer to start melting the ice chunks. Again, you’ll fist want to line the bottom of the freezer with towels to catch the water.

If you use this method, the quickest way to get the ice to release is to focus around the edges of the ice. Blow the hair dryer almost parallel to the wall of the freezer, with your goal being to get the warm air behind the ice. If you can get the edges to start to release and continue to blow some warm air behind the ice, you’ll be able to use your plastic scraper to gently pry the ice off the walls.

Defrost Option #3: Alcohol

If your freezer doesn’t have much frost build-up, you may want to opt for a quick wipe down with alcohol. Pour a bit of rubbing alcohol onto a clean towel, then use the soaked portion to start wiping the frost; the frost should start melting fairly easily. This method is good when you don’t have chunks of ice, but rather just a thin layer of frost to remove.

How to Prevent Frost in Your Freezer

Now that you have the frost removed from your freezer, let’s focus on how to prevent frost from building up.

Freezers accumulate frost because the cold air pulls moisture out of the foods you are freezing. Cold air can’t hold the moisture like warm air can, so it has to accumulate somewhere - and in a confined space like a freezer, it’s going to accumulate on the walls and shelves. There are a few ways to prevent this from happening:

See also: 5 Storage Secrets to Make Food Last Longer 


Tip #1: Use Oil

One suggestion you may find online is to wipe down the walls of the freezer with oil. This will create a slick surface that ice can’t stick to. This is an ok option, but you aren’t really solving the problem of humidity in the freezer.

Tip #2: Seal Food Tightly

To actually reduce the amount of moisture in your freezer, always securely package your food. Using a sealing machine to pull the air out of the packaging is the best option, but at the very least, use sealed bags and containers,  and squish as much air out of the container as you can before putting it in the freezer.

See also: How to Freeze 40 Pounds of Chicken and How to Freeze 60 Pounds of Vegetables


Using a sealed bag or container will prevent the moisture from creating frost inside the freezer, while squishing the air out will prevent the moisture from creating frost inside the package. All food, and even open bags of ice, will give off moisture in a freezer, so make sure all your food is sealed.

Tip #3: Keep the Freezer Full

Another way to prevent moisture in your freezer is to keep your freezer full. The less air there is in the freezer, the more the frozen food keeps the space cool. The more the food keeps the air cool, the less the freezer has to run - which will save you money on your monthly bills in the short term, and in the long term help prevent the expense of an early freezer death.

If you don’t have enough food to fill the freezer, consider stocking it full of jugs of water (or ice), or balls of newspaper. Both will take up space, but the newspaper will also absorb some of the moisture and fill some of the space, so the freezer doesn’t have to work as hard.

Preventing frost from building up is the easiest way to keep your freezer running efficiently and looking great inside. Now that you know how frost builds up in freezers, how to defrost properly, and how to prevent frost from forming, you too can extend the life of one of the most expensive appliances in your home.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home. If you've got a question or tip to share, be sure to comment on my Facebook or Twitter pages!

Images of frozen freezer and frozen veggies courtesy of Shutterstock.