The autumn is a time of transition. As the nights draw in and temperatures start to fall, the way we use our home changes. We tend to eat in more. Not only that, we eat different foods. As a result, this time of year is perfect for defrosting your freezer.
A freezer can only work properly if it’s clean, clear of ice and stocked properly. This is why a lot of modern freezers include a self-defrosting function. Even then, however, you might need to help things along a little.
Before you start stocking up on winter foods, defrost your freezer this autumn. And if you’re not sure how to proceed, here are eight simple hacks that make the job easier.
1. Use time as a defrosting tool
It’s great that you’ve decided to defrost your freezer. But jumping straight into it may cause you more problems in the long run. If your freezer is packed with ice and frost, this process is going to take time. And rushing things could make things more difficult.
Gradually run down the contents of your freezer. This might mean changing your menu choices for a few days. Ideally, you’re going to need eight hours, which means anything that has to come out of your freezer will need to be discarded.
The easiest way to defrost your freezer is to simply switch it off — and wait. You should cover the surrounding floors with towels, as there’s likely to be a lot of meltwater. Open the freezer door, and get on with your day. Of course, you’ll need to choose a time when you won’t need access to either your freezer or your kitchen.
Every hour or so, check how things are progressing. Use more towels, sponges and mops to soak up excess meltwater.
2. Blow dry your freezer
If you’re like most householders these days, you may not have time to wait for a freezer to defrost naturally. Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to hurry things along. For example, you could use a blow dryer to tackle particularly thick accumulations of ice.
But you should proceed with caution. Stand clear of any water, and make sure the cord is dry. It’s also a good idea to line the walls of the freezer with absorbent towels.
Blow hot air at the side of ice accumulations. The quickest route to success is to get the air behind the ice.
3. Get the air moving
Moving air accelerates the melting process. Open windows and doors in the room to allow fresh air to rush in. If you want to accelerate the process further, use a fan. Prop open the freezer door, and position the fan so it blows air directly inside.
But proceed with care. Water and electricity create very dangerous situations. If you think that meltwater might come into contact with your fan, stop what you’re doing and think again.
4. Use hot water
Never pour hot water into an ice-covered freezer compartment. This could cause damage to the unit. And the risk of scolding is high. But you can use hot water safely.
Fill a bowl with hot water from your tap, and place the bowl on the floor of the freezer. If you have shelves, put a bowl on each one. The steam produced will accelerate the melting process.
Avoid the temptation to use boiling water straight from your kettle — the risk of a serious scold just isn’t worth the potential reward. Also, place each bowl onto a thick towel. Excess heat might cause serious damage to the inner surfaces of your freezer.
Hot water cools very quickly inside a cold freezer. For the best results, change the water every 15 minutes or so.
5. Use a spatula
If you have a stainless steel spatula, you can use it to scrape off excessive amounts of ice. But for the best results, make sure you heat the spatula first. You can either do this in your oven, or by submerging it in hot water. But make sure you wear protective gloves when you pick up the hot spatula.
6. Hot cloths
If time is of the essence, you probably need to remove the ice in your fridge as quickly as possible. You can speed up the process considerably by using hot cloths and a little rubbing alcohol.
Fill your kitchen sink with hot, soapy water. Dip the cloth into the water, and wring it out to remove any excess.
Pour some rubbing alcohol over the large accumulations of ice, and start rubbing at the sides with your hot, damp cloth. The heat and friction melt the ice. But, crucially, the alcohol reduces the freezing point of the frozen water — hastening the melting process.
7. Use a scraper
The quickest way to remove ice from a defrosting freezer is to scrape away large accumulations. But this method involves a lot of elbow grease.
If you decide to scrape, it’s important that you proceed with care. Scraping too vigorously may cause damage to the relatively fragile surfaces inside your freezer.
Don’t use an old wallpaper scraper. Metal can cause serious and irreversible damage. Instead, use a plastic spatula, a dedicated ice scraper or a wooden spoon. And take your time.
For the best results, start by scraping the largest accumulations of ice — and introduce the measures above afterwards.
8. Use a handheld steam cleaner
A handheld steam cleaner is agile, lightweight and powerful. It delivers a stream of superheated steam exactly where it’s needed — making it perfect for defrosting and cleaning a freezer.
With your freezer switched off, direct the steam jet to the largest accumulations of ice. Just make sure you have lots of absorbent towels inside and around the freezer. The ice will turn into meltwater very quickly.
This is a contactless way to clear excess ice from your freezer, which means the chances of causing damage are next to none. It’s also a great way of cleaning as you defrost. Remember: steam doesn’t just remove dirt and food, it also kills bacteria.
If you have a wet-dry vacuum cleaner, you can use the blow function to fire warm air at ice and the suck function to remove meltwater.
When all the ice and meltwater is gone, you should give all the surfaces a thorough wipedown. And if you’ve used steam, you won’t need to do any more cleaning. If you need to clean, however, do so with baking powder and a little hot, soapy water. There’s absolutely no need for expensive cleaning chemicals.
Defrosting your freezer at this time of year helps you to prepare your kitchen for the winter ahead. Do it right, and your freezer will work more efficiently — and keep your food safe and edible at all times.