Learn how to defrost a fridge, even if you only need to know how to defrost a mini fridge. Whether large or small, defrosting your refrigerator will keep it running efficiently and help your food stay fresh.
Prepare the Refrigerator
The week before you intend to defrost the refrigerator, try to use up any food from the refrigerator that can spoil easily and food from the freezer that would be difficult to refreeze, such as ice cream or meats.
- Turn off the refrigerator and unplug the unit.
- Leave the door open to start the defrosting process.
- Remove all the food from the freezer and refrigerator compartments, discarding expired or old food. Pack any remaining food with ice packs into insulated coolers and store the cooler in the coolest part of the house away from sunlight.
- Take out all removable shelves and drawers in the freezer and refrigerator compartment.
- Cover the floor in front and sides of fridge with absorbent towels. Place a few towels inside the fridge on the bottom shelf.
Wait it Out to Defrost the Refrigerator
When deciding how to defrost a fridge, you have a number of options. Depending upon the thickness of the ice layer you are dealing with, you may need to combine several methods.
If you’re wondering how long does it take to defrost a fridge, it depends on the size of your appliance, as well as the method you use. By combining a few different tactics, you may be able to completely defrost the appliance in a few hours.
Waiting it out is the safest method of defrosting a fridge, but it takes the longest time — anywhere from several hours to more than a day, depending on climate and ice thickness. All you have to do is prop the door open and wait, checking in periodically to clean up water as it collects. If you have a smaller fridge, you can move the appliance outside to expedite the process and make cleanup easier.
Use Boiling Water to Defrost
To speed up the defrosting process, you can place boiling water in the fridge, and the steam given off will help melt the ice. Simply fill a bowl, pot, or pan with boiling water, then place it in the freezer compartment and close the door. You may want to put the container on top of a folded towel to help soak up the water that melts. After 30 minutes, remove the bowl and wipe up any remaining water. Repeat as needed until all the ice is melted.
Melt Ice with Rubbing Alcohol to Defrost
Rubbing alcohol has a lower freezing point than water, so by dabbing it onto the ice in your freezer, you can speed up the melting process. To do this, dampen a cloth with hot water and pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol on it. You can then lay the hot cloth on an area of ice to loosen it up, or use it to dab ice on the sides and ceiling of your freezer. After a few minutes, use a plastic scraper or spatula to remove ice chunks.
Increase Circulation with a Box Fan or Hair Dryer to Defrost
If your house is fairly warm, you can speed up the melting process by increasing air circulation in the refrigerator. You can do this by setting up a box fan to blow into the interior of the freezer. You’ll want to check the progress every 30 minutes or so and wipe up collected water.
Alternatively, you can use a hair dryer to melt ice inside the appliance — however, this requires more effort on your part. You’ll need to hold the hair dryer, aiming it at large chunks of ice and mopping up water as you go. To ensure your safety, be sure your hands are completely dry before turning the tool on.
Use a Wet/Dry Vac to Defrost
If you have one, a wet and dry vacuum can be a useful tool when defrosting a refrigerator. Set the appliance for wet use, and alternate between the blowing setting to help melt the ice and the vacuum setting to suck up the water.
How to Defrost a Mini Fridge
If you are defrosting a mini fridge, it will be quicker and easier than a full-size appliance. Bring the fridge outside, if possible, to speed up the process, and simply point a box fan at the interior. This method will likely get the whole job done in less than an hour.
Clean the Refrigerator
Once the appliance is completely defrosted, clean it thoroughly before resuming use.
- Make a solution of hot, soapy water with one tablespoon of baking soda. Dip a sponge into the solution and wipe the interior of the freezer and refrigerator. Rinse with a clean damp cloth.
- Use a clean microfiber cloth and completely dry the interior of the freezer. Ensure no water is left behind on any interior surface since it will freeze when the unit is restarted.
- Thoroughly wash and dry all of the shelves and drawers. For any non-removable shelves, wipe down with an antibacterial wipe.
- Check the seal on the freezer; a bad seal can lead to frost buildup. Wipe the seal with a little oil on a cloth to prevent it drying out and maintain the suction to the door.
- Clean the floor around the refrigerator and make sure there is no standing water left behind.
- Plug the refrigerator back in and set it to the coldest temperature mark.
- Cool the appliance down for 30 minutes, then adjust back to the normal temperature.
- Transfer food back into the freezer and refrigerator.
Though most models now come with an automatic defrost feature, knowing how to defrost a refrigerator manually is still an important kitchen skill to have, particularly if you have a top freezer-refrigerator. This basic appliance maintenance keeps your kitchen running smoothly over the long term. Need supplies to defrost? The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.