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 help your freezer stay efficient, it can also give you more room to store your favorite foods. 

Whenever you open your freezer, outside air enters the freezer and allows heat and moisture in. This moisture becomes frost inside your appliance, which builds 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 the freezer in your fridge to work overtime, wasting energy and 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 thoroughly defrost your freezer, but aren't sure how, don't worry – our how to defrost a freezer guide will help you get started using simple techniques and items you probably have at home.

An open bottom freezer drawer full of food.

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.

How Long to Defrost a Freezer?

Generally, defrosting a chest freezer can take several hours, but the duration can differ depending on the ambient temperature and the food load. As a general rule of thumb, it will likely take 2-3 hours to defrost completely, depending on how thick the ice is. However, if the ice is extremely thick, it could take as long as 24 hours.

How to Defrost a Freezer Fast:

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.

 A close-up of food stored in a bottom freezer compartment.

1. 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.

2. Next, remove all of the food from your freezer and place it in coolers to keep it from thawing.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. The safest and easiest way of defrosting 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.

6. 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. Another popular method for defrosting a freezer quickly is to use steam to melt the ice. Fill pots, pans or mixing bowls with steaming hot water, then carefully place them in your freezer on top of thickly folded towels. Not only will these towels protect your freezer shelves, but they’ll also help mop up some of the ice as it melts.

7. 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. 

8. 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.     


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.

Learn more about Whirlpool® refrigerators and freezers

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