How often to clean a freezer — and the right way to do it

There are two especially important parts you need to clean.
by Karen B. Gibbs / / Source: Today
Freezer with food.
Could your freezer use a cleaning?Nicholas Piccillo / Shutterstock / Nicholas Piccillo

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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. It’s easy. Just follow these handy suggestions from Kate Mummaw, kitchen expert with Whirlpool Corporation Institute of Home Science, and Doug Rogers, president of Mr. Appliance.

How often should I clean my 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 manufacturer’s suggestions, however, since recommendations vary from model to model.

How long should it take?

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

How to clean the freezer

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 1 tablespoon baking soda to 1 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.

long handled brush

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: 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.

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 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 like-products, use open-work containers like wire bins. The open sides and bottom will allow air flow.

freezer basket

See, that wasn't so bad!

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