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How to Defrost a Freezer Quickly

I love to share the experience I have gained over three quarters of a century, be it useful tips, love, jokes or technology.

How to Defrost a Freezer Quickly

Do you dread defrosting your freezer because it's messy and takes hours? I recently had a "freezer emergency" myself and had to transfer everything out of one freezer into another. I managed to complete the job in 20 minutes, including totally emptying out the offending fridge, thoroughly cleaning it from top to bottom, and replacing all the food. Not bad, eh?

I'm going to tell you how to defrost your freezer in less than half an hour from start to finish with the minimum amount of mess and upheaval. No defrosting chemicals needed, no puddles of water, no hanging around for two hours waiting for everything to melt, and no worrying about the food unfreezing.

Equipment Needed for Defrosting a Freezer

  • A kettle
  • A baking tray
  • A large saucepan
  • A clean absorbent cloth
  • Cooler bags and/or 1 or 2 large dustbin bags
  • A wooden or plastic spatula or wooden spoon or plastic ice scraper

5 Steps: How to Defrost a Freezer

Don't worry about things melting when you take them out of the freezer—using my method they will stay frozen. With that said, you should still choose a cool day, or cooler part of the day, to avoid or inhibit meltdown of your food in the hot weather.

Step 1: Boil Water

Fill the kettle, and switch it on to boil while you do step 2. Later, you will use the boiling water to fill a baking tray and some pans, which you will place in the freezer once it is empty. The steam from the water will help your freezer defrost quickly.

Pile up the frozen food together to slow down melting.

Pile up the frozen food together to slow down melting.

Step 2: Empty Everything Out

  1. Switch off your freezer or turn it to zero.
  2. Pile all the contents into the dustbin bags because if there are many frozen packets all next to each other, they will retain their frozen state much longer than if spread around the room. Don't shake off any ice from the packets at this stage, as it helps to keep things frozen.
  3. Pick up any loose bits and pieces of frozen vegetables that are useable, and put them all in with your frozen peas or rice.
  4. While the freezer is completely empty, use the wooden or plastic spatula or ice scraper to gently scrape the sides, top, and bottom of the freezer, but don't force anything that won't come away. Do not use anything metal for this job or anything sharp, like a knife, as you might pierce the delicate plastic walls, which could enable water to leak inside the works and cause harm to your appliance. (Regrettably, I speak from experience, which is why I had to buy a new fridge).
  5. Remove all the loose ice immediately by chucking it into the baking tray using the spatula.
  6. Mop up anything spare with the cloth. The reason for removing all ice and water immediately is to prevent the freezer from staying cold. It also helps you avoid big messy puddles.

Safety Note: My advice is given in my capacity as a domestic freezer user and not as an expert. I suggest you turn off the freezer before starting and be careful with hot water.

Pans of hot water melt the ice quickly.

Pans of hot water melt the ice quickly.

Step 3: Defrost With Boiling Water

  1. Pour out the ice and water from your baking tray. Then, half-fill it with the boiling water and place this on the floor of the freezer. This will cover a large area and aid speedy melting.
  2. Pour the rest of the water into the saucepan, and place it on the shelf. If you have lots of shelves, put one saucepan of boiling water on each shelf.
  3. Close the fridge door but not all the way—leave a little crack.
  4. After five minutes, open the door. The whole interior will be covered in steam (very satisfactory), and most of the ice will be loose or freed from the sides and the floor of the freezer.
  5. Use the scraper and cloth (and your fingertips) to pry the rest of the ice away and remove it. You may find it all comes away, but if not, just refill the baking tray with boiling water and put it on the freezer floor again for a few minutes.
  6. Everything should then be partially melted, and you can wipe over the interior and clean up completely with the cloth. If it is a bit dirty, you can use bicarbonate or soda to wipe it clean, but personally, I don't bother.
You can use the cloth to soak up the puddles of water.

You can use the cloth to soak up the puddles of water.

Step 4: Put Everything Back in Place

  1. Switch the freezer back on to its normal setting, and use the rapid freeze program, if it has one.
  2. Shake and wipe off any surplus ice on the food packets and return them to the freezer.

Step 5: Make a List of the Contents When Reloading Your Freezer

If you are one of those people who buy food on sale at a reduced price, even if you don't need it at the time, you may sometimes find it difficult to remember precisely what you have in the freezer. This often happens in my household, and I have discovered that keeping a list of the freezer contents on the freezer side is very helpful.

So, as you reload the food into the freezer, make a list of what you have, and then pin it up there with a fridge magnet and leave a pen nearby so that you can cross things off as you remove them.

To find things more easily when you need them, you might divide the list into sections, such as "Prepared/Cooked Meals," "Fish & Meat," "Vegetables," and "Sweets." You could use your own headings, depending on how you want to categorize them. This is also quite helpful when you want some ideas about what to eat because you can see at a glance whether you have the appropriate ingredients.

A list of freezer contents

A list of freezer contents

You've Successfully Defrosted a Freezer!

If defrosting is something you have been meaning to do but have never got around to actually doing, it's easy to perform.

I have a lovely Bosch fridge freezer, which I defrost about once a year, whether it needs it or not. It usually does need it because anything flat, like frozen smoked salmon, gets completely buried in ice by the end of the year.

There is, of course, a reason why I don't frequently unfreeze: I always intend to use up or, at least, run down everything in the freezer first. However, this never happens.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2010 Diana Grant


Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 10, 2020:

Thanks for visiting. Isn't it funny how when people are sharing a fridge, each person expects someone else to be responsible for maintenance!

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on April 30, 2020:

I loved the option "I am a writer and my mind is on higher things"!!! I don't like messes but I don't fuss if they are there. You clean out your freezer the same way I do mine, though it usually takes me a bit longer than half an hour. Back when I was working, the general kitchen we shared in the office had a fridge freezer and I usually ended up cleaning it out because it got to the point where I couldn't stick the look of it any more. I usually gave people 2 days' notice that it was going to be emptied and cleaned, so they could remove anything they needed but there were always science experiments to remove and dispose of!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on February 25, 2015:

Isn't it nice when you try out a handy hint which actually works!

C L Mitchell on February 24, 2015:

Thank you, just followed your instructions today with great success. I haven't had this problem for years but recently moved into a new apartment with a freezer that seems to love to frost up. I wasn't looking forward to having to thaw it out, but with your method it really was very easy, so won't leave it so long next time!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on December 19, 2014:

Great idea

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on December 19, 2014:

Yes, it's easy to get carried away with enthusiasm and forget you're holding a dangerous sharp implement!

Debra Allen from West Virginia on December 16, 2014:

I have had to do this a few times in my life. Now I have a frost free refrigerator/freezer.

gottaloveit2 on December 16, 2014:

Sadly, I know all about piercing a delicate side of a freezer with a knife. I was in a hurry and, well, the inevitable happened. Will use your method next time.

Joyfulcrown on December 15, 2014:

What a great suggestion. I appreciate the tips.

Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on August 10, 2014:

I don't have a freezer, and my refrigerator is of the frost-free variety, but I have had to defrost an old(er) fridge in the past and wish I'd had this quick & handy reference back then! Very good advice.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on March 27, 2014:

@SteveKaye: I don't do housework on hot summer's days - they're as rare as purple marigolds in England!

SteveKaye on March 26, 2014:

Great info. I wondered if you were going to defrost your refrigerator by taking it outside on a hot summer day.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on March 24, 2014:

@ecogranny: It sounds good,I should do that really

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on March 24, 2014:

@Brite-Ideas: You're lucky!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on March 24, 2014:

@marsha32: That's why it's good to have a complete clear-out - so you can find those anonymous packages stuffed at the back, and use them up, concocting a meal around them

Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on March 24, 2014:

Great time saving ideas Thanks for sharing your knowledge:)

marsha32 on March 23, 2014:

anymore we don't get to shop enough to put things into the deep freeze. Doesn't mean there aren't things in the hamburger buns that have been in there for over 3 years! The last time I was in it I noticed how much ice is gathering on the sides.

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on March 23, 2014:

helpful page! am so glad we haven't had to do this for years!

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on March 23, 2014:

I'm still working on accomplishing this, but the best time-saving tip for me is to have a home for absolutely every item in the house--a home that is logical in terms of where we use the item and is also easy to access. If it is quick and easy to get something down and put it away, we do so. If it takes an extra step, is difficult to get to, or we haven't a good place for it yet, it becomes clutter. This concept is definitely a work in progress at our house.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on March 14, 2014:

@lovedislife: Don't forget to put your knowledge into action!

Rema T V on March 14, 2014:

Hi Diana,

Great lens, very useful especially for people like me who find defrosting the freezer a cumbersome chore. Thanks for sharing this information. So simple and time-saving! Cheers :)


TanoCalvenoa on February 24, 2014:

How thoroughly handy and convenient.

Renee Dixon from Kentucky on January 21, 2014:

I hate defrosting freezers, great tips!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on November 05, 2013:

@mel-kav: Yes, it will save a lot of mess

mel-kav on November 04, 2013:

I am a school nurse - I will have to remember this for the next time I defrost the freezer in my health office. Thanks for sharing.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on October 31, 2013:

I am lucky to have a cleaning lady but she doesn't defrost freezers. Thanks for these tips.

Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on October 31, 2013:

I never thought about making all that steam to quickly defrost the freezer. Great suggestions.

Beatriz from Portugal on September 13, 2013:

Loved your lens :D

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 11, 2013:

@Charlieee LM: Good old Mum!

Charlieee LM on September 11, 2013:

Excellent lens, I will definitely show my mother this! Thanks :)

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on August 12, 2013:

@gannoncannon: Filfy Beast!

gannoncannon on August 11, 2013:

saint or slut LOL! i always have liked sluts better than saints ;)

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on August 11, 2013:

@PaigSr: Yes, like to keep an additional freezer in my utility shed

PaigSr from State of Confusion on July 27, 2013:

The parents had a freezer for over 40 years. It was only in the last couple that it started to get more ice then food. Luckily they kept it in the attached garage and cleaning out the excess ice was not as messy as if it were in the house.

katiecolette on July 24, 2013:

Thank you for the great tips!

blue22d on July 24, 2013:

Had fun here and learned a few things -- thanks!

anitabreeze on July 04, 2013:

Well, this is a job I have been putting off. Maybe (and I say MAYBE) I'll do it this weekend!

Avi Wolfson from Massachusetts on July 04, 2013:

Well written, very clever trick and also very useful!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 21, 2013:

@LaptopLeader: Use your saved time wisely - to create more web pages, or loll about in the garden

LaptopLeader on June 19, 2013:

Thanks for the quick tricks. :) Will come in handy!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 07, 2013:

@BLouw: I should be doing other things too!

Barbara Walton from France on June 07, 2013:

Don't talk to me about housework and defrosting freezers! I run a B&B and here I am reading your nice article and NOT defrosting my freezer, nor ironing my sheets nor preparing my rooms. Get behind me ....

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 09, 2013:

@anonymous: I ought to do it more often!

anonymous on May 09, 2013:

I like time saving and a quick fix to defrosting an icy freezer is a job we all avoid....but now we can get the job quickly and still have frozen food....I am grateful for frost free!

ConvenientCalendar on May 02, 2013:

Good information!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on April 19, 2013:

@linsm76: good idea

linsm76 on April 19, 2013:

Tip for easier and faster defrost: Thank goodness I don't have to defrost anymore. But if you do. When you defrost the next time, after you wipe freezer down and dry it, take a small amount of cooking oil and wipe the top, sides and bottom of freezer. Then, the next time you do to defrost, when that ice begins to loosen up, tap it an it will drop off in chunks or just simply drop off. Cuts the defrost time in half.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on April 15, 2013:

@gottaloveit2: Oh dear! But thanks for the info as one reader commented that she always does it with a hair dryer. Clearly that's a no-no.

gottaloveit2 on April 15, 2013:

Wish I'd read this before I melted the side of my freezer with a hair dryer....

dingbat1932 on January 26, 2013:

Nice tips thank you.

askformore lm on January 24, 2013:

Thank you for the very practical info.

Alex-45 on January 18, 2013:

Thank for so much for sharing. My small freezer badly needs de-frosting and I wondered how to do it without a minor flood - and now I know!

WriterJanis2 on January 15, 2013:

Wonderful tips. Thank you.

mrdata on December 26, 2012:

Very useful lens! Thanks a lot and happy holidays!

Cloud007 on December 14, 2012:

nice idea's sound's very unlikely but it's a good option during christmas

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on December 14, 2012:

@ComfortsOfHome: I need to do it myself before Christmas!

ComfortsOfHome on December 13, 2012:

Oh dear, there's a reminder... my fridge defrosts itself, but my freezer really needs to be done very soon. Oh, I just dread that chore! Your tips should help. :)

anonymous on November 27, 2012:

Wow, this is really useful lens. thank you for sharing.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 23, 2012:

@eightieschild: That's how I felt

eightieschild on October 22, 2012:

Fantastic tip. Seems obvious in hindsight, but never thought of it myself.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 08, 2012:

@OhMe: Now you can spend more time writing!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on October 08, 2012:

Thank you for sharing these Time-Saving Housework Tips especially on How To Defrost Your Freezer Quickly

PhotosVac on September 03, 2012:

Great lens, thanks a lot for sharing!

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on August 19, 2012:

I'm still trying to figure out how you managed to get a picture of the inside of my freezer? sure brought back some memories of years past. I love the new frost free appliances.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on July 17, 2012:

@MomwithAHook LM: That's a good one to try - thanks!

Sara Duggan from California on July 17, 2012:

To clean a microwave we just head a cup of water 2 - 3 minutes and let it set for 10 minutes. The goo comes right off.

Cyberwing on July 09, 2012:

Nice tips. Thanks

Millionairemomma on June 22, 2012:

What a great suggestion. I'm going to do it.

moverstampa on June 16, 2012:

I learned the hard way not to use a

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on June 09, 2012:

Very nice tips for defrosting the freezer quickly!

bossypants on June 03, 2012:

I am due to defrost our freezer and it will be my first time with this large one. Your lens is very helpful and encouraging!

RetroMom on May 31, 2012:

Thanks for sharing useful tips on doing housework.

Barbara Isbill from New Market Tn 37820 on May 05, 2012:

Wonderful idea which I have never tried. Thanks!

norma-holt on February 09, 2012:

Wonderful ideas here for those who have this problem. My fridge is over 30 years old and is a double sided ice maker and never needs defrosting. When buying appliances I get the best and aim for the least amount of work in maintenance. Good tools make the job easier. Blessed and featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012 and also on Cooking Utensils, Ideas, Recipes and Accessories. Hugs

KimGiancaterino on February 07, 2012:

Our freezers don't get too bad, but the one in the RV often freezes over. Your tips will surely come in handy!

jadehorseshoe on December 26, 2011:


vendexo on November 26, 2011:

Super tips, and a good mix of informative, sensible and dumb videos :)

anonymous on October 26, 2011:

Very useful! I will definitely share this amazing lens with my friends. Two thumbs up! Squid-liked it.

Runnn on June 09, 2011:

I plan to clean my freezer next week. Thanks for the tips.

LakeMom on May 12, 2011:

Great tips! Just got my first chest freezer this year! Was not looking forward to defrosting but you make it sound easy!

oztoo lm on February 11, 2011:

Useful tips. I defrost mine just before the door gets to hard to close from the ice build up.

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on February 05, 2011:

Thank you for the tips, I usually try to do my freezer before the ice gets too thick, but lately I have been a little lazy.