How to Defrost a Freezer—the Simplest Way Possible

Hint: defrosting your freezer will help it run more efficiently.

Automatic ice maker malfunction
Photo: Getty Images

If you just purchased a new freezer for your home or apartment, or if you have a unit that's been around for many years, you may need to defrost your freezer so that you can clean it out and start fresh. Many freezers these days are auto-defrosting, so generally no maintenance is needed. For example, LG freezers have an auto-defrost cycle that runs once every 4 to 16 hours, depending on the model. "If you do notice frost buildup, you may have to manually defrost the freezer," advises Laura Johnson, a research and development analyst for LG Electronics. No matter how new or old your appliance is, you may need to know how to defrost your freezer down the line, so consider this your handy freezer defrosting guide.

How to Manually Defrost a Freezer

Start by removing all of the food from the freezer (and fridge, if it's not a standalone unit). "Place the food in coolers or another freezer to keep cold (if you know you don't have a ton of space for storage while defrosting, plan ahead and eat up as much as you can beforehand)," says Johnson. "Then, unplug the unit and leave the door open, and have towels ready to help soak up water." Don't try to chip away ice, and don't use a hair dryer or heat gun to melt ice faster, because you could damage the unit. If you need to speed up the defrosting process, Johnson recommends setting bowls of hot water in the appliance and laying warm rags on the shelving.

While you're waiting for the freezer to defrost, write down a list of the items you had in the freezer that need to be replaced. Once the unit is defrosted (this can take up to 24 hours), clean it with warm, soapy water, including the seals around the door. Dry it thoroughly, and then plug the appliance back in.

How do you defrost a chest freezer?

The defrost process is the same for chest freezers, although there may be a hose or plug located near the bottom of the unit to let water drain out during defrosting. "Make sure to power off the unit by unplugging the power cord and open the door on top," advises Johnson. If the chest freezer doesn't have a hose or plug to drain the water, you'll have to suction the water out with a wet vacuum, set up a siphon using a long plastic tube, or use old towels to remove the water and dry the appliance.

Once a freezer has defrosted, can you refreeze food?

Food should not be refrozen once defrosted, as this can introduce harmful bacteria that could make you ill, plus it can severely impact the quality (flavor and texture) of the food. "If the food temperature is 40 degrees F or lower, or still has ice crystals visible, the food product can be safely refrozen, but quality will be affected," says Johnson. "If you have items that have been partially defrosted, it's helpful to label them as such, so you know the quality may be affected and you can use them in dishes where the texture may not matter as much."

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