How to Clean a Freezer

Written by: Paul Cathro

Updated on: November 30, 2020

Learn how to clean a freezer with the least effort with our guide. We also explain how to do the deed without any defrosting too!

meat and vegetables in the freezer

While you’ll soon notice if you don’t clean your fridge, it’s possible to neglect your freezer and barely notice. With the potential for food remnants and other debris to build up, ignoring the cleaning needs of your freezer is a bad idea.

The good news is that it’s not as difficult as you might think - once you know how to tackle it. Follow our simple guide and you’ll soon have a sparkling freezer which works the way it should.

Do you want to know the most simple, step-by-step methods for cleaning your freezer, prolonging its life and improving its efficiency?

Why Cleaning Your Freezer is Important 

If you’ve got a long list of household chores to do, you might be reluctant to add another. However, cleaning your freezer is an important task - especially if you want to save money.

You’re probably familiar with the detritus that can build up in the freezer. After all, who hasn’t encountered a handful of rogue peas scattered on one of the shelves?

Cleaning your freezer gives you the chance to clear out the drawers, sort out the shelves, and get rid of any scraps that have escaped.

A clean also gives you the chance to check the expiry dates on your food. It’s easy to forget about the food that you’ve tossed into the freezer, saving for another day. Getting rid of food that’s been there for too long or has become frost-damaged ensures your freezer stays clutter-free and hygienic.

Person cleaning Refrigerator

Cleaning your freezer isn’t just about sweeping up remnants and clearing out old food; dust, dirt and grime can also start to build up. This can all start to collect in the doors and the vents, affecting the overall efficiency of your appliance.

Your freezer will need more energy to continue working, which means higher energy bills. If it continues for long enough, it could even compromise how well your freezer works.

Recommended: How does a freezer actually work?

How to Clean Your Freezer

It's not as hard as you might think but you'll need a few things to start off.

What You’ll Need:

  • Large cool-box
  • Bowl
  • Empty spray bottle
  • Hot water
  • Sponge (or dishcloth)
  • Vinegar
  • Paper towels
  • Dish soap (fragrance-free)
  • Rubber gloves (recommended)
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Toothbrush (optional)

What to do:

Close-up Of Shocked African Young Woman Looking At Empty Refrigerator

  1. Switch the freezer off using either the switch or the plug
  2. Empty the ice from any trays into a suitable bowl and store in your cool-box
  3. Soak the empty trays in the sink in soapy, warm water. Fragrance-free dish soap is preferable as it prevents any scent transfer to the food and ice
  4. Remove food items from the freezer and put them in the cool-box
  5. Remove any shelves or drawers which are detachable
  6. Set the shelving and drawers to one side to warm to room temperature. Washing them while freezing can cause cracking or weaken them
  7. When at room temperature, wash thoroughly in warm water (using fragrance-free dish-soap) rinse and leave to dry.
  8. Make a cleaning solution using hot water and vinegar (equal parts). Alternatively, use hot water and baking soda (two tablespoons per quart). Note: do not use baking soda and vinegar together or you’ll end up with a big, foaming mess without any cleaning power
  9. Put the cleaning solution in an empty spray bottle and spray liberally around the inside of the freezer
  10. Using your sponge or dishcloth, wipe out the inside of the freezer. Spray more cleaning solution as needed
  11. If there are any areas with food particles that won’t easily wipe away, soak a paper towel with the cleaning solution and then place over the top. Leave for 10 minutes; you should now be able to remove the stubborn food. You can also use an (old!) toothbrush to scrub tricky areas
  12. Wipe down the seal, using the same toothbrush to get into the folds, before wiping down the door
  13. Use more paper towels to dry the inside of the freezer
  14. Once dry, replace the detachable shelving and drawers
  15. Remove the food from your cool-box and replace in the freezer. You can also replace and refreeze the ice, or you can make new ice
  16. Use the opportunity to organize your food as you replace it in the freezer - and be ruthless about binning anything you won’t use
  17. Switch the freezer back on!

This is the best way to clean your freezer but it is possible to do it without defrosting it, which we’ll cover next.

Related: Need a new freezer? Don't miss our recommended small freezers!

How to Clean A Freezer Without Defrosting

Female hand in protective gloves are wiping refrigerator inside

What You’ll Need:

  • Bowl
  • Empty spray bottle (optional)
  • Hot water
  • Sponge (or dishcloth)
  • Vinegar (or baking soda)
  • Paper towels
  • Dish soap (fragrance-free)
  • Rubber gloves (recommended)
  • Toothbrush (recommended)

What to do: 

  1. Remove the food and stash it in the cool-box or your fridge. If you don’t have a cool-box and there’s no space in your fridge, a container lined with newspaper will work well as a temporary measure
  2. Don’t be tempted to try and clean your freezer without removing the food. You won’t be able to reach the messiest parts at the back
  3. Any ice needs to be removed before you clean. Do not use a knife to do this as it could damage the freezer walls and impair its ability to stay cold. It’s also easy to slip on the ice and injure yourself
  4. Dip your cloth or sponge in warm, soapy water and wipe over the ice. This will melt the edges and allow the ice to be broken off easily. Do not use boiling water as it could damage the walls.
  5. Throw the ice in the sink and allow to melt
  6. Refer to previous instructions on “How to Clean a Freezer” and follow steps 5-14.
  7. Close the door on the freezer and wait for 15 minutes. This gives sufficient time for the temperature to drop.
  8. Remove your food from the cool-box and return to the freezer, sorting as you go, checking dates and throwing out damaged or frost-burned food.
  9. Close the door and enjoy your shiny clean freezer!

Recommended: What's the optimum temperature for a freezer?

How Often Should I Clean the Freezer?

Cleaning a freezer is nowhere near as painful as it used to be, thanks to the technology in modern freezers. In the past, defrosting the freezer would have been a long, time-consuming affair but that’s not the case now, thankfully!

The even better news is that you don’t need to undertake a full clean every time. If you keep on top of the small freezer cleaning jobs, you’ll only have to do a big clean periodically.

Here’s our suggested routine for freezer cleaning:

Things to Clean Weekly

Young woman cleaning fridge in hygiene concept

Fill a bowl with warm water and dish soap, grab a cloth or a sponge and wipe down the following:

  • Shelves
  • Any nooks and crannies (don’t forget the corners)
  • The seal
  • The door

This won’t take long to do, so there’s no need to switch your freezer off.

Things to Clean Less Frequently

In addition to giving it a quick wipe-down once a month, you should check the contents of your freezer. This allows you to discard damaged, freezer-burned or out of date items to free up space. This will also make it more accessible and easier to clean.

A thorough cleaning only needs to be carried out every 6-12 months, depending on the age and model of your freezer, and the conditions it’s being kept in. Cleaning a freezer should only take an hour so it’s not a huge commitment to ensure your freezer stays in tip-top condition!

About the Author Paul Cathro

Paul is an ex-HVAC engineer with 5 years 'in the trade'.

He acquired in 2022 and aims to make it the internet's most comprehensive HVAC resource for small homes in the next few years.

You can learn more about Paul's story here.

Browse his published work on the website here.

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