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How to Defrost a Freezer

Sort your freezer with this quick and simple defrosting guide

Houzz UK and Ireland Editor.

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Defrosting an icy freezer might not be top of the list when it come to fun household jobs (or even in the top 10), but it’s actually a relatively simple chore to get done if you follow these easy steps.

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Clear the decks
First of all you’ll obviously need to empty out the freezer, so pack everything carefully into cool bags and surround with ice packs. Alternatively, ask a neighbour if you can borrow a little of their freezer space to ensure nothing has a chance to defrost. Better still, work up to a defrost by trying to clear the freezer of food over the course of a couple of weeks, and make a point of cooking and eating anything that is coming up to its ‘best before’ date first.

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Remove shelves and drawers
Next, remove all of the shelves and drawers, and set them aside for a good scrub while the freezer is out of action. A good soak in hot soapy water or a mild disinfectant will get them squeaky clean, but bear in mind they will be storing food so steer clear of strong chemicals and use natural products where possible.

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Switch it off and open the door
There are many so-called ‘quick fixes’ when it comes to defrosting, but the simplest method is just to unplug the freezer (or switch the temperature control to the ‘off’ setting), prop the door open and allow the ice to melt naturally. Attempting to speed it up by using a hairdryer or de-icing spray is hazardous and unnecessary when nature will do the job for you given enough time.

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Line the floor with newspaper and towels
Melting ice is going to create a fair amount of water, so line the floor around (and under) the freezer with layers of newspaper and place dry towels in the bottom of the freezer to soak up the ice as it melts. You will need to keep any eye on these and replace them with new ones as soon as they start to get waterlogged.

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Speed things up with a hot cloth
If you need to speed up the process, you can tackle stubborn ice residue with a hot cloth. Soak the cloth in a bowl of boiled water, then scrub the ice build-up with the cloth to encourage speedy melting.

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Put the knife down
A common mistake to make when defrosting is to try and prise away the ice with a knife, a flat blade or even a screwdriver. Don’t do it! The chances are you’ll scratch and damage the inside walls of the freezer and cause expensive damage, however careful you think you’re being. Also, ice is, obviously, very slippery and trying to break chunks off with a sharp knife is just asking for trouble. This really is one of those chores where patience is a virtue.

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Clean up
Once the ice has all melted away, take the opportunity to gently clean the inside walls of the freezer and remove any dirt or food residue. Use a natural, chemical-free cleaner for this, as you don’t want to use any strong chemicals in a sealed environment.

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Put everything back
After you’ve cleaned the freezer, thoroughly dry the inside with a clean towel, then replace the shelves and racks, ensuring they’re all completely dry first (any water will just turn to ice, undoing all your good work).

Switch the freezer back on and wait for it to reach the right temperature before replacing all of the food. Do check that none of the food has defrosted while it’s been stored elsewhere before refreezing it.

Do you have any defrosting or household cleaning tips? Share them with us in the Comments section.

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