If there’s anything I hate more than cleaning my fridge, it’s cleaning my freezer. Even though I don’t know how I’d meal prep without all the frozen soups and smoothies the appliance enables, and I use it probably more than anything else in my kitchen, I clean it, like, once a year (twice if I’m being real good). But it definitely needs to be cleaned more often than that. Otherwise it ends up caked with ice and covered in spills and crumbs—not a great home for food I eventually want to eat.
I clean my freezer so infrequently because I’ve always thought that there’s no way to do the chore without it being a whole ordeal. I was taught that you’re supposed to defrost it every time no matter what in order to give any ice buildup a chance to melt. Thing is, that can take hours and hours—sometimes even up to a full day. Before I wait for ice to melt, though, I also have to find a way to avoid accidentally spoiling any frozen food I might have in there, meaning I have to strategically plan cleaning sessions for those moments between grocery shopping trips when my freezer is basically empty. In short, what a nightmare.
As it turns out, though, you don’t ever have to let your freezer completely defrost if you play your cards right. According to Becky Rapinchuck, creator of Clean Mama keeping your freezer clean doesn’t have to take all day, as long as you have a few tools, regularly scheduled cleaning sessions, and tricks to keep it fresh in between. These are all her tips and tricks to keeping your freezer tidy and clean.
First of all, prevent ice from building up so you don’t have to worry about dealing with defrosting it.
If you’ve noticed that your freezer has a tendency to build up ice, your problem might be that you’re opening and closing it too often and for too long, says Rapinchuck. She says that if you never open the freezer door for more than a minute, you should never have a problem with ice buildup. That’s especially because modern refrigerators are designed to prevent too much ice from forming, she says. “The ice doesn’t build up like it used to in the older, less efficient models,” she explains.
Do a monthly mini clean where you check for spills, crumbs, etc. and do a wipe down.
At minimum, Rapinchuck says you’ll need to clean your freezer twice a year, but you should check on it monthly regardless. The more often you clean, the less intensive your cleaning sessions will eventually be. If you notice a spill that wasn’t there before, don’t wait months to wipe it up—by then it’ll probably be covered with ice anyway. Do it right away and your freezer will stay cleaner for longer.
If you do end up needing or wanting to do some defrosting, you actually don’t have to unplug it and worry about your stuff going bad. There’s an easier trick.
Rapinchuck says if you do end up needing to defrost your freezer, she says you can melt the ice simply by using a warm washcloth and hot soapy water—no need to unplug that sucker.
When you’re ready to clean it, all you really need is a damp cloth.
She says you’ll want to start by removing every last item from your freezer, that way you don’t miss any spills or stains that might be hiding. Then, use a vacuum cleaner with a hose to suck up any loose crumbs. After that, wipe the shelves with a lightly damp cloth (no need for cleaning supplies like vinegar or baking soda here). If you’re going to try to defrost ice, now is the time to use that warm wash cloth and hot soapy water to do it. If the ice is really on there, she says you can also use a chisel to get it off. After you’ve done all this, dry off the shelves and put everything back in.
And here are a couple tricks to keep it clean in the meantime.
To keep her freezer from getting messy, Rapinchuck says the secret is to keep everything super organized. She uses freezer-friendly baskets and bins to store like items with like items—that way things like meat don’t end up accidentally contaminating frozen fruits or veggies. She also keeps a box of open baking soda on one of her shelves to keep that funky freezer burn smell from forming.
Put these tricks into action and your freezer will be the coolest, cleanest freezer in town.