Defrosting a freezer is no-one’s favourite task, but it's an essential job to ensure your freezer runs efficiently.


Ice build-up means your freezer has to work harder to regulate the temperature inside, particularly if it gathers around the fan, so a regularly defrosted freezer can save you money on your energy bills. Plus, you’re able to use every inch of space. It can be a little messy, and we recommend allowing a full day to complete the task, but it’s a relatively hands-off job that you’ll be thankful to have completed in the long run.

The majority of new freezers and fridge-freezers will have a frost-free feature, meaning there’s no need to manually defrost, so this advice applies to older models and those without a frost-free feature.

Our step-by-step guide to how to defrost a freezer from our expert reviews and cookery team tells you everything you need to know to get your appliance running at its very best. Looking for an upgrade? Read our review of the best fridge-freezers.

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What you’ll need to defrost a freezer

  • Old towels
  • Sponges
  • Washing up liquid
  • Cleaning spray
  • Cool box/cool bag
  • Ice blocks

How to defrost a freezer, step-by-step

1. Turn off the freezer

Remove the plug from the socket and elevate it to keep it away from the melted ice.

2. Unload the freezer

Some foods cannot be refrozen after defrosting, so plan to use these first to reduce waste. Pop all frozen items into a cool box or cool bag along with some ice blocks. Treat this as an opportunity to sort through items in your freezer. Throw out anything that is out of date and plan to use anything with a nearby use-by date.

3. Remove all drawers and shelves

If the shelves are frozen into place, don’t be tempted to pull or hack away at the ice; the shelves will come loose after a few hours of thawing.

4. Prepare to collect the water

Lay towels at the base of the freezer, ensure there’s no gap between the towel and base. Pop some towels inside the freezer cavity too.

5. Let the ice melt

Keep the door open and let the melted ice drip away. Skills & shows editor, Barney Desmazery, advises, “Let the freezer do its thing and defrost in its own time. Never chip away at ice or take a hairdryer to it to speed things up”. If your freezer has heavy ice build-up you may need to wring-out and replace your towels.

6. Clean the accessories

Whilst the ice is melting, clean the drawers and shelves with washing-up liquid and warm water.

7. Clean the freezer

Once all the ice has melted, clean up the water and clean the inside of the freezer. Use a washing-up liquid and warm water mix or
a bleach-free disinfectant. Don’t forget to clean the door seals, too.

8. Refill

Once the freezer compartment is clean and dry, replace the drawers and shelves, then turn it back on and allow it to come to the correct temperature. Once cold again, put your frozen goods back in.

BBC GOOD FOOD how to defrost a freezer Qwart

How long does it take to defrost a freezer?

The defrosting time can vary depending on how significant the ice build-up is. Allow at least 24 hours to complete the process.

How to defrost a freezer quickly

We advise against using anything heated to speed up the defrosting process. Equally, don’t take knives or sharp metal objects to the ice to break it off. All of these methods are dangerous and could cause you or your freezer harm.

This is a job that takes time, so if the ice is particularly thick, expect it to take a while. If you get into a defrosting routine and don’t allow the ice to build up too badly, you’ll be able to reduce the defrosting time significantly.

How often should you defrost a freezer?

There’s no single answer to this question as freezers will experience ice build-up at different rates. Simply, defrost your freezer as often
as needed.

If you’re having to defrost more and more often, it may be an indication that your freezer is on its last legs and you should consider getting a new model. Read our review of the best fridge-freezers.

How to defrost a freezer without turning it off

Do not attempt to defrost a freezer without turning it off.


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