How to defrost a fridge freezer in 7 simple steps

Are your freezer drawers sticking? Or are you noticing ice buildup at the back of your fridge? Follow these simple steps to get your fridge freezer frost-free in no time.

Updated 2 October 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time7 minutes

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Knowing how to defrost a fridge freezer is one of those slightly boring but necessary life skills we all need. After all, it’s hard to imagine living without this nifty appliance. So, it’s important to do everything you can to keep yours in great condition.

Knowing the steps is essential if you have a manual defrost fridge freezer. But even if you have a ‘frost-free’ model, these can still build up a thin layer of ice over time. So, you might not be able to get away without doing the occasional defrost.

And it’s definitely worth doing. Defrosting your fridge freezer will not only make it much easier to open drawers and get food out. Besides, it’ll make sure it’s operating as efficiently as possible. So, you’ll save yourself a bit on your electricity bill too. After all, a Purdue University study found that certain defrosting methods can lower the energy consumption of household refrigerators.[1]

Plus, it’s a great opportunity to give your fridge freezer a proper clear out and a thorough clean – so don’t forget to take a look at our top fridge cleaning tips too.

Before you start: check the manual

The steps to defrost a fridge freezer are usually similar from model to model. However, it’s important to check your appliance’s user manual before you start to make sure you’re not going against any of the guidance.

The manual is also a great place to check how often you need to defrost your fridge freezer. As a rule, it’s usually once or twice a year. However, the manual will give you the definitive answer for your specific model.

How to defrost a fridge freezer

You will need:

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  • Method

    1. 1

      Unplug the fridge freezer

      The first step to defrost a fridge freezer is to turn it off and unplug it. It’s important to make sure you leave the doors open to allow it to warm up faster.

      person opening a fridge
    2. 2

      Remove all the contents

      This is where those cool bags and some ice blocks will come in very handy. If you move quickly, you should be able to preserve the most important contents from your fridge freezer in cool bags.

      This is also a great opportunity to go through the contents of both compartments and throw away anything that’s been there too long. After all, studies show that people usually forget about the contents of their fridge. Moreover, they only consume about 50% of the food they store.[2]

      (If you don’t have cool bags, try to store everything in a cool place. But remember, some foods – like raw chicken – can’t be refrozen once they’ve thawed. So, try to use these up in the week before you defrost.)

      person removing food from fridge
    3. 3

      Take the shelves and drawers out

      Not only will this help speed up the defrosting process, but removing shelves and drawers will give you a great opportunity to give them a thorough clean.

      Simply wash them in the sink or a washing up bowl with water and some good quality washing up liquid. Now, if the drawers are a bit too big, you can wipe them down with antibacterial spray and a clean cloth.

      washing fridge shelves in sink
    4. 4

      Arrange towels/cloths around the bottom of the fridge freezer

      Melting the ice in the freezer is going to result in a fair amount of water draining out. So it’s important to pad out the floor around the freezer with some old towels or cloths to soak up the water. Otherwise, the pooling water will prompt you to learn how to clean floor tile grout.

    5. 5

      Melt the ice

      This is the part of the process which can take a long time and which most people are desperate to speed up. Don’t fear, we’ve got some suggestions to do just that below.

      There will be water to drain or soak up when you’re defrosting the fridge so mop this up with a towel as you go.
    6. 6

      Clean the fridge freezer

      With everything out of the fridge freezer and the ice melted, now is the perfect time to clean and dry the inside surfaces.

      Take a look at our fridge cleaning guide for more tips on getting your fridge freezer sparklingly clean. And we’ve got some great advice on getting rid of bad smells in your fridge too.

      person cleaning inside of a fridge
    7. 7

      Replace the food and turn the fridge freezer back on

      You’re almost there. Now it’s time to replace the contents of your fridge freezer, which gives you a great opportunity to arrange everything exactly as you want it.

      Make sure to double-check any frozen food to see if it’s still frozen. If it’s raw meat or any other product that expressly says not to refreeze it, then you’ll need to use it up as soon as possible. If you can’t do that, unfortunately, you might need to dispose of the item.

      person putting food back in fridge

How do you defrost a fridge freezer combo quickly?

Simply fill a large bowl full of boiling water and place it in the freezer compartment with a towel under it and close the door. (If there’s ice buildup on the back of your fridge, you can do the same in there too.)

You can use a hairdryer to speed up the melting process, but be careful! Electrical implements and water aren’t a good combination. Over 400,000 electricity-related injuries and accidents are recorded in the UK every year.[3] So, make sure you don’t touch the hairdryer to the appliance.

This method is usually easier once the ice has melted a little. Use a plastic spatula or other plastic implement to scrape the ice from the sides. Make sure you don’t use anything metallic, particularly not a knife! For more tips on melting the ice quickly, take a look at our guide to defrosting your freezer fast.

Frequently asked questions about defrosting a fridge freezer

Q. How do you defrost a fridge freezer without turning it off?

It’s not possible to properly defrost a fridge freezer without turning it off. But if you’re worried about your food unfreezing, don’t fear. Follow our handy tips above to speed up the defrosting process.

Q. How long does it take to defrost a fridge freezer?

Without any help, it can take up to eight hours for a fridge freezer to completely defrost. However, if you follow some of the suggestions above, it’ll be much, much quicker than that.

Q. Is defrosting good for a refrigerator?

Defrosting a fridge is important for multiple reasons. As the fridge operates, moisture from the air can condense and form ice on the evaporator coils and other interior surfaces. This ice build-up can hinder the fridge's cooling efficiency, leading to uneven temperature distribution and potential spoilage of perishable food items.[4] 

Defrosting allows the fridge to function optimally by removing accumulated ice, improving airflow, and ensuring consistent cooling throughout. It also helps prevent excessive energy consumption and extends the lifespan of the appliance. Regular defrosting is key to maintaining food freshness, reducing energy costs, and promoting the efficient operation of the refrigerator.

Q: How many times should you defrost a refrigerator?

The frequency of the defrosting process will depend on how you use your fridge. Moreover, you must also consider whether you’re using a manual-defrost fridge freezer. Generally, you should perform this maintenance procedure at least twice a year. However, ideally, you should defrost your fridge freezer whenever you notice excessive ice buildup.

Cleaning and Maintaining a Defrosted Freezer

Cleaning and maintaining a defrosted freezer is a crucial step in ensuring the long-term efficiency and hygiene of your appliance. Here's a comprehensive approach to this essential task:

  1. 1

    Thorough Cleaning: After defrosting, remove all shelves, drawers, and removable parts. Wash them with warm, soapy water, rinse, and dry completely before placing them back in the freezer.

  2. 2

    Interior Cleaning: Wipe down the interior of the freezer with a mixture of water and vinegar or a mild detergent to remove any remaining residue or odors. Ensure all surfaces are completely dry to prevent frost buildup.

  3. 3

    Inspect the Seal: Check the freezer door seal (gasket) for signs of wear or damage. A properly sealing door is crucial for energy efficiency. Replace the seal if necessary.

  4. 4

    Organise and Label: Reorganize the freezer, placing older items at the front for easier access. Label food with purchase or freezing dates to minimise food waste.

  5. 5

    Regular Maintenance: Schedule routine maintenance, including periodic defrosting and cleaning, to keep your freezer in top shape and prevent ice buildup.

By following these cleaning and maintenance steps, you can prolong the life of your freezer, maintain food quality, and ensure its optimal performance.


1. Knabben, F. T., & Melo, C. (2016). An Experimental Study on the Effect of a new Defrosting Strategy on the Energy Consumption of Household Refrigerators. International Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Conference.

2. Davenport, M., Qi, D., & Roe, B. E. (2019). Food-related routines, product characteristics, and household food waste in the United States: A refrigerator-based pilot study. Resources Conservation and Recycling, 150, 104440.

3. Barrett, M. L., O’Connell, K., Sung, C., & Stokes, G. (2010). Analysis of electrical accidents in UK domestic properties. Building Services Engineering Research and Technology, 31(3), 237–249.

4. Malik, A. N., Khan, S. A., & Lazoğlu, İ. (2020). A novel hybrid frost detection and defrosting system for domestic refrigerators. International Journal of Refrigeration, 117, 256–268.

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