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Freezer smelling a little funky? Here's the best way to clean it, and how often to do it

There are two especially important parts you need to clean.
It's time to get rid of “UFOs” (unidentified frozen objects) and give the freezer a good cleaning.
It's time to get rid of “UFOs” (unidentified frozen objects) and give the freezer a good cleaning.
/ Source: Today

If you’re like most people, the exact contents of your freezer are something of a mystery. Once items enter that frigid “black hole,” it’s out of sight, out of mind.

Now’s the time to get rid of “UFOs” (unidentified frozen objects) and give the freezer a good cleaning. Just follow these handy suggestions from Kate Mummaw, kitchen expert with Whirlpool Corporation Institute of Home Science, Doug Rogers, the executive vice president and general manager of the home services platform Neighborly, and Marla Mock, president of Molly Maid.

How often to clean your freezer | How to clean a freezer without defrosting | How to clean a freezer with ice buildup | How to clean a freezer | How long does it take? | How to properly load the freezer | The best products for cleaning your freezer

How often should you clean your freezer?

Unless there’s a lot of spillage, a prolonged power outage or you live in a high-humidity area, most freezers can get a thorough cleaning once a year, says Mummaw. Follow the manufacturer’s suggestions, however, since recommendations vary from model to model.

How do you clean a freezer without defrosting it?

Defrosting your entire freezer can be an ordeal, so it's ideal if you don't have to do it. Here are Mock's tips on cleaning your freezer efficiently without dealing with the defrost.

In order to clean your freezer without defrosting it, you'll need to remove any food in the freezer.

Next, create a solution of equal parts hot water and white vinegar and wipe down any ice buildup with a towel/cloth dipped in the solution. (The ice will need to be melted in order to properly clean.)

Dip a microfiber cloth or sponge into a solution of hot water, soap and baking soda to wipe down the doors, sides and floor of the freezer.

Then, make sure you dry your freezer with a clean microfiber cloth before putting anything back inside the freezer. This will help prevent future ice buildup.

Put everything back in your freezer!

How to clean a freezer with ice buildup

To clean a freezer with ice buildup, you'll want to follow Mock's instructions above. Easy peasy!

How to clean a freezer

If you want to do a yearly deep cleaning of your freezer, the steps are similar to the above with a couple extra steps.



Unplug it: Start by unplugging the freezer. Never clean a freezer while it is running or you could damage it.

Keep the food cold: Frozen food will usually remain frozen while you clean the freezer if you place it in an ice chest or a newspaper-lined container, like a laundry basket, sink or box. Ice cream and other products that defrost quickly should be placed in an ice chest with a piece of dry ice on top.

Wipe it: Using a microfiber cloth, wipe shelves and the inside of the freezer with either a mixture of one tablespoon of baking soda to one quart of warm water or a mild soap and water solution. Do not use abrasive cleaners, cleaning waxes, concentrated detergents, bleaches or cleaners containing petroleum or plastic parts, as this can cause damage, cautions Mummaw.

Dust the coils: For a refrigerator/freezer combo, vacuum coils every six months, advises Rogers. Dirty coils are inefficient, cost more to run and can wear out the compressor more quickly. Clean coils with a long-handled bristle brush, then vacuum the dust that falls off. If you have pets that shed or if the freezer is in a dusty area, the coils may need to be cleaned more frequently. This same cleaning method can be used with stand-alone freezers where the coils are located at the front or bottom of the unit, says Rogers. However, if the coils are built into the outer cabinet of the freezer, you get a pass because they're not accessible.

Check the gasket (the rubber that seals the door): Clean and inspect door gaskets yearly or as needed. Clean the gasket with a mild soap and water solution, a microfiber cloth and a toothbrush. Check for tears or holes as you clean.

How long does it take to clean your freezer?

It should only take an hour or so to clean the freezer on average. Tack on more time if there are lots of spills.

Pro tip: To test the seal of the gasket, Rogers suggests shutting the door on a dollar bill. If it offers resistance when you pull it out, the seal is good. If it pulls out easily, the gasket needs to be replaced. Test the corners, top, bottom and sides of the gasket.

Most freezers are frost-free, so defrosting is not an issue. For freezers that need defrosting, Mummaw suggests that you follow instructions in your use and care guide.

How to properly load the freezer

As you reload the freezer, allow for proper airflow by leaving space between the walls and the items, as well as between the items themselves. This will help food freeze properly and can reduce freezer burn, says Mummaw. If you’re using bins to organize similar products, use open-work containers like wire bins. The open sides and bottom will allow airflow.