How to Deep-Clean Your Freezer

by Team HomeServe
A woman wearing a yellow latex glove scrubs the inside of a white freezer with an orange sponge

Do you know what's in the back of your freezer? If it's been a while since you've cleaned out your freezer, it might be time for a good, thorough clean.

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Toss the freezer-burned foods you'll never eat, get rid of the frost and clean the surfaces. Here’s what to do.

How Do You Deep-Clean a Refrigerator Freezer?

First, empty the contents of the freezer and unplug the unit from the wall to keep yourself safe. The food inside your refrigerator will be fine as long as you move quickly. Your food is safe in the fridge for up to 4 hours without power if you keep the door closed.

If your freezer isn't the self-defrosting type, defrost it before cleaning to get rid of the built-up ice. Wipe all surfaces inside the freezer with your cleaning solution. Warm, soapy water with a few drops of dish soap is an effective option. You can also use a cleaning solution made with equal parts of hot water and vinegar. Use a sponge or microfiber cloth to clean all surfaces inside the freezer. Wipe down shelves, ice bins, drawers and other features inside your freezer. Clean the gasket along the edge of the freezer as well. Go back over everything with a clean damp cloth and again with a dry towel to remove any remaining moisture.

Once you're done, you can plug the refrigerator back in and turn it on. If you took out any shelves, drawers or other features, put them back inside the freezer. Place the food back in the freezer.

How Do You Deep-Clean a Chest Freezer?

Cleaning a chest freezer is very similar to cleaning a refrigerator freezer. Start by unplugging the freezer, removing all the food and defrosting it if necessary. If your chest freezer has baskets or other organizers, remove them and clean them separately in soapy water.

Then you can start on the inside of the freezer. Start along the top edges and work down since the dirty water will run that way anyway. End with the bottom of the freezer. Wipe the interior down with a clean damp cloth to remove the soap. It's also a good idea to wipe down the gasket around the door thoroughly as well as the outside of the freezer. Dry everything with a towel once you're done cleaning.

When you're done, plug the freezer back in and load the food back into it. Check back regularly to ensure it's getting cold again. Your freezer should be at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) to keep your food safe.

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How Often Should You Deep-Clean Your Freezer?

It's a good idea to deep-clean your freezer about every three months or once per season. If you have a food spill or notice another reason to clean, you might need to deep-clean sooner than expected. If you notice crumbs or minor spills between cleanings, wipe them up to make your deep-cleaning easier.

What Should You Do With the Food While You Clean Your Freezer?

You want to keep the food cold while you clean to prevent it from thawing and growing bacteria. If you have two freezers in your home, transfer as much food from one to the other while you clean it. For example, the food from your refrigerator freezer might fit in your chest freezer while you clean it. Putting the food in the refrigerator for a short period can also work. You can also put the food in coolers while you clean. Handle the freezer cleaning quickly to get the food back in the freezer as fast as possible.

How Do You Defrost a Freezer?

If you have an older freezer that needs to be manually defrosted, the easiest way is to simply unplug it and let the ice thaw. Place towels in the bottom of the freezer to soak up the water. Check back frequently and swap out the towels as needed. You can also put a baking sheet or shallow pan in the freezer to catch the water. If you want to speed up the process, you can put a bowl of hot water in the freezer or use a hairdryer to heat up the ice, being careful not to get the hairdryer wet.