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How To Defrost A Fridge

Defrosting a fridge is an important process that removes ice buildup and consequently increases the performance and energy efficiency of your refrigerator. The layer of ice makes the fridge work harder to maintain the right temperature, thus consuming more energy. Frost buildup also results in bad odours, which is why defrosting is essential. 

It’s not the most fun way to spend an afternoon, but it will both make your fridge last longer, and provide plenty of space in the freezer that can be used for that extra box of ice cream that just won’t fit when the ice starts to pile up. 

This guide will help you defrost your fridge efficiently and safely.

How To Defrost A Fridge: 8 Steps To Take 

Understanding the process of freezer and fridge defrosting will keep your food safe and your appliances in good condition. The steps outlined below will help you on your defrosting path.

Note: Before you start, it’s a good idea to check your fridge’s user manual to make sure you’re not going against any guidance set by the manufacturer.

1. Prepare Everything Before Defrosting

Make sure to prepare a large bowl, some clean cloths, some old towels or cloths and some washing up liquid. Also figure out where you want to store food during defrosting. You can get some cool bags or boxes, or you can eat what you can and store the rest in a neighbour’s fridge for the day. 

2. Unplug The Fridge

Unplug the fridge and leave the doors open. This will speed up the melting process. 

3. Remove All The Contents

Place all the food from the fridge in a cool storage space. Throw away any food that’s been in the fridge for too long or has gone off. 

Depending on your chosen temporary storage space, you can defrost your fridge on a hot day (as it will melt faster), or in the middle of winter (so you can keep your items cool on the terrace on in the windows). 

4. Remove The Shelves And Drawers

Remove the shelves and drawers in order to clean them thoroughly while the fridge is defrosting. Removing those parts will also speed up the defrosting process because warm air will circulate better inside the fridge.

5. Place Towels/Cloths To Catch The Water

As the ice from the freezer melts, there will be a fair amount of water draining out. Make sure to pad the floor around the fridge and the bottom part of the freezer to soak up the water. You can also place a container there to capture most of the water, but don’t forget the cloths, you will need them. 

6. Wait For The Ice To Melt

It can take a long time for the ice in your freezer to melt, but you can speed it up by removing the shelves and drawers and keeping the doors wide open. Ideally, you want to stay home and occasionally snap away large bits of melted ice, to both save your floors and speed the process up. 

7. Clean The Fridge And Freezer

Once the ice has melted, clean the inside of the fridge and freezer using washing up liquid first and then an antibacterial solution to disinfect the surfaces. After you finish cleaning, use the clean cloths to dry the inside.

8. Turn The Fridge Back On

Once the fridge is clean, turn it back on. Ideally, you want to leave it on for at least 6 hours, but preferably 12 before you start putting food back inside, as this is how long it will take for it to cool down

How Long Does It Take to Defrost a Fridge?

Depending on the fridge’s size and amount of ice buildup, it can take 8-24 hours for a fridge and freezer to completely defrost. Since waiting that long is not always an option, you can speed the process up.

Note that you do need to let the freezer defrost completely before you turn it back on. Don’t leave any ice inside, but feel free to help things along. 

How Can I Defrost My Refrigerator Quickly?

There are a couple of ways you can defrost your fridge and freezer quickly:

  • Use a pot of hot water

Boil a large pot of water and place it in the freezer compartment with a towel beneath it and close the freezer door. The heat from the pot will quickly melt the ice. When the water cools down, boil it again and repeat the process until the ice has melted away.

  • Use a hairdryer

You can use a hairdryer to melt the ice, but use it with caution. Make sure that there is no contact between the hairdryer and the fridge to avoid getting water inside the hairdryer. Blow the air from a safe distance. 

  • Scrape off the ice

Once the ice has thawed a bit, you can use a plastic spatula to scrape the ice from the sides. You can also use your fingers to get rid of larger blocks as they start to melt. Make sure you don’t use anything metal and sharp, such as a knife, because it can easily pierce the freezer and cause the cooling liquid to leak out.

How Do I Defrost a Refrigerator Without Turning It Off?

If you don’t turn off your fridge, it will likely not defrost properly, and you will only be wasting energy and slowing down the defrosting process. 

However, if you really want to keep the fridge on during defrosting, you should remove all the food and place several bowls of boiling water inside the freezer to thaw the ice. After the ice thaws a bit, use a plastic ice scraper or spatula to scrape it off.

Be cautious when placing the bowls with hot water. You will need to place a cloth underneath to protect the plastic parts of the freezer. Also note that this is a very wasteful way to defrost your fridge and it is not at all recommended. 

Do You Defrost a Fridge with The Door Open or Closed?

Keep the fridge door open when defrosting because it allows more warm air from the room to enter the fridge and speed up the defrosting process. 

Having warm air circulate inside the fridge warms up the appliance and significantly reduces the time needed to thaw the ice and remove the frost.

When Should I Defrost My Fridge?

Defrost a fridge as soon as you notice that the ice thickness has reached a ¼ or ½ inch (6mm – 13mm), or even sooner. Don’t wait for the ice buildup to grow until you can’t close the fridge or freezer door.

Failing to defrost your fridge on time and letting ice build up will cause your fridge to work harder to maintain an optimal temperature, which increases energy consumption and results in a higher electricity bill. Additionally, the ice buildup obstructs normal air circulation, which makes the temperature inside less consistent, and poses a food safety risk. Not to mention there will be less room in the freezer. 

How Often Should I Defrost My Fridge?

The frequency of defrosting a fridge depends on a few factors, including how much you use your fridge, how big the ice buildup is, and how humid your climate is. In general, defrost it at least once a year to keep the ice buildup to a minimum and to sanitise the surfaces in the fridge.

If you live in a humid area, you will probably need to defrost your fridge multiple times a year because the ice will probably form faster.

You can also check your user manual to see how often the manufacturer suggests you should defrost their fridge.

What Happens If I Don’t Defrost My Fridge?

If you don’t defrost your fridge, ice will build up inside and form a thick layer. It will take up space in your fridge, obstruct natural air circulation, and cause the appliance to work harder and use more energy to maintain a proper temperature. Consequently, its parts will wear out faster.

All things considered, it is not recommended to completely skip defrosting your fridge. Aside from the increased costs and higher wear on the appliance, not defrosting can also pose a safety risk for your food if you don’t sanitise the surfaces and if the temperature becomes inconsistent.

Wrapping Up 

Put defrosting the fridge on your yearly list of household tasks and set yourself a reminder to do it. It may be a hassle, but you’ll feel great once you start refilling your fridge with fresh items, and the freezer is suddenly clean and ice-free. 

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