Frost on the surfaces inside your freezer reduces the appliance's efficiency, increases your energy bills and puts you at risk of skinned knuckles every time you reach in. Most freezers are now self-defrosting, but if you have an older model, you probably have to defrost it manually once a year or whenever the layer of ice inside becomes more than 1/4 inch thick. Simply unplugging the freezer and opening the door defrosts it in a few hours, but if you need it ice-free faster than that, you can help the process along with some basic household items.
Transfer the food in the freezer to a cooler. Add bags of ice to keep the food frozen while you work on the freezer.
Unplug the freezer. If it's a chest freezer, locate its drain plug on the outside near the bottom of the appliance, and open it. Place a pan underneath the plug to catch draining water as it melts.
Open the freezer door or lid. Place towels along the bottom of the compartment to help soak up melting water. Line the floor around the bottom of the appliance with more towels to catch drips.
Hot Water Method
Consult the owner's manual to see whether you can safely use pots of water to speed up the defrosting process. If the owner's manual says it's safe, fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil on the stove. Then place the pot inside the freezer, close the door and let the heat and steam soften the ice for five minutes.
Return the pot to the stove. While it heats back up, use the flat edge of a wooden spoon to scrape the softening ice off the surfaces in the freezer. Scrape gently to avoid denting or puncturing the back and sides of the freezer. Collect the fallen ice in a towel and put it in the sink to melt.
Put the pot back in the freezer for another five minutes. Repeat the process until all the ice has melted.
Aim a hairdryer into the freezer if you don't have the owner's manual or the manual says not to use the pot method. Don't put the hairdryer down inside the freezer, because leaving an electrical appliance on a wet surface is dangerous. Hold the hairdryer and let it soften the ice, or stand it on a shelf or table pointing into the appliance.
Scrape ice off the surfaces of the freezer with a wooden spoon. Except in chest models, expect the ice on the top of the freezer to soften first, because the heat from the hairdryer bounces up. Collect the shards in a towel and remove them.
Continue applying heat with the hairdryer and scraping off sections of softening ice until the interior of the freezer is ice free.
Clean the Freezer
Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda into 1 quart of water. Dip a sponge in the mixture and use it to clean the inside of the freezer.
Rinse the sponge, and then dip it in clean water. Rinse the inside of the freezer.
Dry the inside of the freezer with a towel. Plug the appliance back in, and close the freezer door while it cools back down. Wait 15 to 30 minutes before putting the food in the cooler back into the freezer.
Things You Will Need
Owner's manual (optional)
1 tablespoon baking soda
Freezers are more likely to accumulate frost if they don't seal properly when closed. If your freezer ices up more often than it should, clean the seal around the door to see if this solves the problem. If not, consider replacing the seal.
Don't leave food in the freezer while you defrost it.
Don't use sharp objects to scrape the ice out of the freezer. You can injure yourself or damage the appliance.