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How to clean the freezer and get rid of freezer smells

No idea how to clean your freezer? Discover the best way to clean a freezer with our tips.


By Cleanipedia Team

hand cleaning empty freezer
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Key Steps

Remember these basic instructions for freezer cleaning:

  1. Defrost your freezer a couple of times a year. Do not try to forcibly remove ice, let it melt. Read our guide to quick freezer defrosting for more tips.

  2. Turn it off and unplug it during cleaning. Remove drawers to wash them thoroughly.

  3. Remove debris from the door seal and check for damage.

  4. Clean the outside of the freezer door at the end.

  5. Restock your freezer with food. Always follow safety guidelines and make sure food is safe to be frozen. Our guide on what meals you can, and can't, freeze will help with this. 

A warm day is ideal for defrosting your freezer to ensure the ice melts quickly! Once the freezer has defrosted, using an anti-bacterial spray like ones from Cif and a cloth is a quick way to clean the inside and outside.

How to clean a freezer

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These days there are two types of the freezer: the traditional models that fill with ice and have to be defrosted before cleaning; and the newer frost-free versions that don’t. If you have the latter, you’re going to find the cleaning process a lot faster; defrosting a traditional freezer can take some time – you’ll need to monitor the process closely, or you may end up with water all over your kitchen floor!

Before you get to the cleaning part, you will need to do the following steps:

  1. Consult the manufacturer’s manual and check whether your freezer has a defrost mode. Some freezers – particularly combined models – don’t need to be unplugged from the electricity to defrost. Others should be emptied and unplugged to start defrosting.

  2. Open the door of your freezer, empty food into a cool box, and remove any drawers or racks to be washed separately.

  3. Put a large bowl and towels at the bottom of the freezer to catch the water and ice as it melts.

  4. Empty the drip tray or bowl, and wring out towels frequently.

  5. Help ice dislodge from the walls of your fridge by gently levering it off with a plastic utensil, being careful not to damage the freezer.

  6. Standing a bowl of hot water in the bottom of the freezer and closing the door will speed up the melting process. Avoid using electrical appliances like hairdryers to do the same job – you may end up electrocuting yourself!

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Food trapped in the ice is often source of a bad smell in the freezer, so defrosting it will almost immediately solve that particular problem.

Once the freezer has been defrosted, put on some rubber gloves, make sure your clothes are protected, and you’ve laid down newspaper or towels to catch any stray water. Then, do the following:

  1. Using a clean cloth and an anti-bacterial spray like ones from Cif (read the instructions on the label) or a solution of hot water and white vinegar (1 part vinegar to 5 parts water), wipe down the interior of the freezer.

  2. Use clean hot water to rinse away any detergent and dry the inside surfaces with a tea towel or paper towel.

  3. Wash drawers or racks in a similar way and replace them in the freezer.

  4. Wipe down the outside of the freezer, paying special attention to the handle.

  5. Replace food in the freezer and return it to freeze mode, or plug it back in. If meat or perishable produce has thawed then do not re-freeze it. Follow instructions on the food packets in regards to re-freezing.

What to do if your freezer smells bad

If you’ve done a thorough clean but you still need to know how to get rid of a bad smell in the freezer, you might want to try placing a bowl of baking soda or coffee grains inside, shutting the door, and leave it to deodorise overnight.

Originally published