How to Clean a Freezer in 10 Simple Steps

I am so excited for this weekend! I get to clean a freezer!! Said no one, EVER.

This job is just one of those: “I hate it, and I really don’t want to do it” jobs and for that reason, it tends to get pushed down to the bottom of the cleaning to-do list. 

Unfortunately, NOT cleaning out your chest freezer, or any freezer for that matter, can shorten the life of this pretty expensive appliance. Not to mention risk the integrity of hundreds of dollars in frozen food.

a clean chest freezer

Today, we are going to get this chore checked off of your cleaning list once and for all by breaking it all down in super-simple steps. Just follow along one by one and before you know it, you will have a clean and shiny freezer even your mother would be proud of!

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How to Clean a Freezer

Step #1.  Pick the Best Day 

In order to correctly clean the inside of your freezer, you will need to remove all the frozen food. For that reason, you will want to pick a day that is not too hot so when you do empty everything out you have a bit more time before things begin to melt.

I love to do this chore in the winter. This way I can use the cold of outside to help keep my things cool as I work. Just be sure to have things in containers so as not to attract any unwanted guests.

This should lengthen your defrost times just a bit, keeping your food frozen longer. 

Step #2. Gather Your Supplies

  • You are going to need just a few things before you begin.
  • A large table you can use to save your back a bit as you are cleaning and sorting.
  • Several coolers to hold frozen items allowing them to stay frozen.

SLCG PRO TIP: Use the coolers to help you do a preliminary sort. You can have one for meats, one for poultry, one for produce, etc. This will also allow you to see better where you have quite a bit of one category and where you are lacking in another. 

  • A pen and paper for writing down anything you want to add to your shopping list.
  • A freezer inventory sheet so you can finally have a good count of what you have in your freezer.A
  • A large trash can with a few heavy-duty bags for any food that needs to be thrown away.

READ: HOW TO SET UP A DECLUTTERING KIT

Step #3.  Unplug Your Freezer

This is more for safety than any other reason. Water and electricity do not mix and to keep everyone safe let’s unplug your freezer now before we get started.  

Remember, once you unplug, the clock is ticking for you to clean your freezer, so be sure you have a large chunk of uninterrupted time before you tackle this project.

 

Step #4.  Location, Location, Location

a freezer full of frost. How to clean out a freezer to help it last longer.

You will want to be sure your freezer will not damage the floor from water. If your appliance is on concrete you should be fine here. If your freezer is on tile or other flooring make sure you have a backup plan in place before beginning. Have a few towels and maybe cardboard down on the floor before you get started. 

 

Step #5. Sort and Purge Your Freezer Food

As you remove an item, check the date and the appearance of the wrapping. If the food is outdated or the package or the food itself is damaged you may want to discard it. 

If the item is good, sort into coolers that are opened, labeled, and ready to be filled. 

Here are a few labels to have ready:

  • Poultry/Fish
  • Beef/Pork
  • Produce, both fruits and vegetables
  • Baked goods
  • Misc

DM PRO TIP: Don’t forget to have a pen and paper ready so you can make a good inventory of the foods you will have on hand in this freezer. More food is wasted because it is simply forgotten about. 

Not sure if your food is still good? Here are a few clues to look for.

  • Weird discoloration of the food inside.
  • You can actually smell that the food is sour or bad.
  • There is a thick layer of ice or frost on the food inside of the container.
  • The frozen item has been in your freezer for a very very long time. If you are not sure how long food can be stored, you can check out this handy food APP.

 

STEP #6.  Defrost Your freezer

Once all the food is out you will want to begin defrosting your freezer. This is the most important step when you clean a freezer, so don’t skip over it.

Since this part can take quite a while to do there are a few things you can do to speed things up just a bit. 

  1. Place a very hot container of water in the freezer and close the lid. The steam from the water will help the ice to melt a bit more quickly.
  2. You can also use a hairdryer but I am not a fan of this tip because of the risk of electric shock. If you choose to go this route, just be very careful you are following safety and keeping that dryer away from any water while you are using it.

Step #7.  Clean out Your Freezer

Once you have all the ice removed, take the time to give things a good and thorough cleaning. It always amazes me how things can spill in a freezer. We have this mysterious and baffling pile of red “goo” in our chest freezer, even though I have never had anything red in our freezer. Every time I am in there and I see it – it baffles me….which is quite a lot of baffling. (Seriously, I have never used that word so many times in one paragraph. ????)

Now is your chance to really remove anything that has been frozen and caked-on from old spills.

Remove any shelving or baskets and wash them in a large utility sink or kitchen sink using warm soapy water. Place on a large towel to dry.

To clean your freezer you will want to use a mild cleanser such as Dawn dish detergent or a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and water. With a rag wipe down the interior of the freezer being sure to get the sides, floor, and ceiling. If necessary rinse with a second rag to remove any soap left behind.

If you notice an odor that is not being removed as you clean you may want to put an open container of baking soda inside. Close the door and allow it to sit if you can for a bit and see if that helps eliminate some of the smell.

DM PRO TIP: Be sure to routinely check on your coolers to be sure your food is staying frozen. If you see things are beginning to melt you may want to add ice. Be sure to put the ice into freezer bags first to keep your frozen packages of food dry. 

I would also suggest keeping an open container of baking soda in your freezer to keep future smells from happening.

Step #8.  Replace the Shelving

Put back into place any bins, baskets, or shelving you removed to wash. Be sure things are locked securely into place so they can hold the weight of the food that you will be returning inside.

Step #9.  Organize and Replace

This is the fun part! No, seriously. Remember the more thorough you are with this step the easier it will be to know what food you have so you can better use it before you lose it in the future. Don’t forget to keep a count of how much you have of each food item. This freezer inventory sheet will be a great tool when you are making your weekly meal plan.

organized clean freezer

Be sure you have easy to use containers that will allow you to find what you need. This can be especially helpful in a deep chest freezer. I love these recycling bins and have been using them for years without a single crack. They hold quite a bit and even when full I am able to lift them in and out to get the items from below.

Oh, yes, and they totally save your back when you need to get down to the bottom of that chest freezer!

bins to organize a chest freezer

These baskets are the smaller ones, so be sure you check the measurements before you buy them. If you have a very large freezer you may need to jump up a size so you are sure it has a better fit.

Here are a few more organizing options for your chest freezer.


The main goal when organizing a chest freezer is to set things up so you can get in, find exactly what you need, and get out quickly. This will keep the cold air in allowing the integrity of the food inside to remain intact.

If you find you had quite a bit of food that was damaged you may want to invest in a vacuum food sealer. These have really come down in price and the money you will save in food waste I feel is a great trade-off for your investment.

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Step #10.  Don’t Forget the Outside

Most folks might think the job is done at this point, but there is one more important step. Cleaning the outside. You will want to do a good wipe down of the top, and sides of your freezer while inspecting the condition as you do. Look for any rust or rips in the door seal. If you see any damage that is questionable, take the time to repair it now while things are empty.

When you clean a freezer your biggest tool to have is time. Enough to empty, defrost, clean, and then organize so you can get it done in the fasted time possible.

Get this chore on your annual cleaning schedule so your freezer stays in good working order for many years to come.

What’s next? Why not clean out the refrigerator while you are in the zone? You can get your step by step guide here!

How to Clean Your Freezer step by step

 

 

 

 

One Comment

  1. I read this at just the right time. I got something out of the freezer beforehand and immediately starting thinking about how I needed to schedule time to do that dreaded task of defrosting and cleaning the freezer before I buy groceries again. Perfect timing and some great tips. This post will be a feature this week at the first party of 2023! #HomeMattersParty

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