How Long It Takes to Defrost a Freezer (5 Tips To Defrost Fast)

Have you ever wondered: How long it takes to defrost a freezer? Nobody enjoys thawing their freezer, but this task needs to be done if the appliance is going to work efficiently.

It shouldn’t take much longer than 2-4 hours to defrost your freezer. Freezer defrost times vary depending on the size of the appliance, the amount of ice in it, and whether you manually speed things up or just allow the ice buildup to melt on its own.

It’s important to understand these time spans because they will make a difference in how you store your frozen food during the process and how you go about defrosting the freezer. In this article, I will explore everything you need to know about thawing out a freezer.

How long does it take to defrost a freezer

How Long Does It Take to Defrost a Freezer?

There are quite a few variables when it comes to estimating the defrost time. For example, a big freezer with a lot of ice buildup is going to take longer to thaw than a small freezer with just a small amount of ice. The ambient temperature will also make a difference. In a cold room, a freezer will thaw more slowly than in a hot room. The variables include:

  • Whether you use products to speed up the process (e.g. hot water, defrost spray, etc.)
  • How warm the room is
  • How much air is circulating around the ice
  • How thick the ice buildup is
  • The size of the freezer

The longest estimate for most freezers should be 24 hours to completely defrost. This assumes that you are not adding any products, using hot water, or otherwise speeding up the process. You can leave your freezer alone with the door open, come back 24 hours later, and there should be very little residual ice if any.

Of course, it isn’t always that simple, especially if you have lots of frozen food that you need to get back into a cold environment as soon as possible. We will look at five of the best ways you can speed up the thawing process below.

Note: Turn your freezer off before trying any of these.

Tip 1) Use Hot Water To Quickly Defrost A Freezer

Hot water is one of the quickest ways to encourage your freezer to thaw. You can fill bowls of water from the kettle and place these on a towel in the freezer, and then shut the door. The steam will rise from the water and gradually melt the ice in the appliance (as long as you remembered to turn the freezer off that is).

Use Hot Water To Quickly Defrost A Freezer
Use steaming hot water to melt the ice in your freezer.

Don’t put the hot bowl directly onto any plastic surface in your freezer, as the heat may cause the plastic to warp.

Keep replenishing the hot water until the ice has completely melted. Some people do this as frequently as every 15 minutes. The more frequently you replace the water, the faster the ice will melt. You can massively reduce the defrosting time, possibly to as little as 2 hours, with this method.

Once the ice has melted, you can wipe the insides of the freezer down with a towel and turn it back on.

Tip 2) Use Thawing Spray Helps Freezer Ice To Thaw

Some people like to buy defrost spray (made for automotive windows), and use this to tackle the ice. It is intended to speed up the thawing process and make the ice disappear more quickly.

However, it gets mixed reviews, so you may prefer to stick to the hot water method, which does not require any purchases.

Tip 3) Use A Hot Towel To Melt Freezer Ice

If you like to be more hands-on, you can put a towel in hot water, and then wring it out and use this to wipe the ice down. The combination of the hot towel and the friction should encourage the ice to break up and melt.

However, you need to make sure you are wringing the towel out thoroughly every time you add hot water, or you’ll be putting more water into the freezer. This will all need to be dried before you turn the freezer back in, or it will just turn into frost.

Tip 4) Scrape The Ice Off Freezer Surfaces

Another hands-on option involves getting a scraper to remove some of the ice. This can be useful if it has formed a very thick layer in some parts of the freezer, as these will take a long time to defrost.

You can use any blunt tool for scraping, but the best and safest option is a plastic spatula. You need to make sure that you do not damage the freezer. Avoid all sharp tools, and scrape gently. If the ice is firmly stuck, loosen it using the other methods, so you don’t slip and hit the freezer itself with your tool.

Don’t use sharp tools or try to cut the ice out. There is a very high risk of damaging the freezer or hurting yourself.

Tip 5) Increase The Ambient Temperature To Defrost Freezer Fast

If you can, warm the room around the freezer up, and this should help to bring its temperature up too, especially if you have the door open. This doesn’t necessarily mean turning your heating on to full blast.

Instead, open the curtains to let the sun in, or open the door to allow more air circulation. This should help to warm the freezer up and encourage the ice to melt.

Bonus Tip) Use a Hair Dryer To Defrost Your Freezer

Using a standard hair dryer can be a great way to speed up the defrosting of your freezer. However, keep in mind that water and electricity don’t mix well, so make sure that you’re not standing in a puddle of water if you plan to use this method.

Use a Hair Dryer To Defrost Your Freezer

Also, only use low to medium heat when using a blow dryer. Low to medium heat will produce plenty of warmth to quickly thaw the ice in your freezer without too much heat (i.e. the high heat setting) damaging any of your freezer components.

Why Does My Freezer Need Defrosting?

Even modern freezers, which tend to have a no-frost function, will need defrosting from time to time. Unfortunately, ice buildup in freezers is pretty inevitable. Every time you add food to the freezer, you are also introducing moisture.

This comes in the form of condensation on the packaging, steam from the food, or moisture from the air that gets let in when you open the door. This moisture condenses and then freezes, forming ice.

The ice will stop the appliance from working effectively, especially when it gets thick. You need to make sure you defrost the freezer at least once per year, or whenever the ice buildup gets to more than ¼ of an inch.

The more frequently you open your freezer, the more frequently you will need to defrost it. Minimize the amount of time that the door is open and you shouldn’t need to defrost it as often.

Why Is My Freezer Icing Up So Fast?

If your freezer seems to get icy multiple times in a year so you are defrosting it every 3 months or so, there may be a problem with the freezer’s thermostat. Alternatively, the drain or the seal might have degraded.

You should get someone out to look at your freezer, or inspect it yourself for signs of wear and tear. If something is going wrong, the freezer won’t be running efficiently, and you’ll be spending a lot more time than necessary defrosting it.

It’s therefore important to get this sorted as soon as possible so your freezer stays frost-free for longer, and runs better.

Where Should I Put Food While The Freezer Thaws?

If you’re looking at the time estimates above with a sinking feeling, you may be wondering what you should do with all your frozen food. After all, few people have the option of defrosting their freezer when it’s empty.

If you don’t have a secondary freezer, you will need to store your frozen food carefully. See if any friends, neighbors, or family members have a bit of space in their freezers for some of your foodstuffs.

You can also use ice boxes, thermal bags, and your fridge to chill food while the freezer is out of operation. Food will take a surprising amount of time to thaw if it is placed in the fridge, and you can even safely re-freeze some foods provided they have been kept in the fridge while thawed.

Try to bunch frozen foods up together, as this will keep them colder. You can wrap them in foil to further keep the cold in. Be particularly careful about meat and fish, as these are the foods that pose the greatest risk of food poisoning if they are improperly handled.

Do I Need To Clean The Freezer?

Most freezers don’t come into direct contact with food, but it’s still worth giving the insides a quick wipe down with a damp, soapy cloth once the ice has gone. Wipe the seal to remove any dirt that would prevent it from sealing tightly, and then thoroughly dry the insides of the freezer. The drier you can get it, the less frost will reform when it cools again.

Turn the freezer back on and restock it with your frozen goods. You can also take this as an opportunity to get rid of expired foods you aren’t going to eat. Dry the food you are putting back into the freezer as best you can to further reduce the amount of water being added.

Watch how to defrost a freezer in as little as 15 minutes.

Do I Have To Turn The Freezer Off To Thaw It?

You do need to turn the unit off before you start thawing it. That might be annoying if your freezer is connected to your fridge, but it is necessary. If you try to thaw the freezer while it is still switched on, it will be constantly pulling moisture from the air and freezing this.

Although you will probably gradually reduce the amount of ice in the freezer, it will be using a lot of electricity in trying to freeze the air, and it will make methods like adding hot water much less effective. You should therefore always turn the freezer off before you start.

How Long It Takes to Defrost a Freezer – Conclusion

Defrosting a freezer can take anywhere from 2 hours up to 24 hours if it’s in a bad state and you leave it to defrost naturally. However, you can massively reduce this period if you add hot water, scrape off the ice with a spatula, or increase the ambient room temperature.