Freezers are a crucial part of most households, allowing for food to be bought in bulk to save time and money. When a freezer starts to work improperly or break, it can cause huge, messy problems. Whether you have a chest or upright unit, you need to know the proper freezer maintenance to keep it running efficiently and smoothly for years to come.

Quick Tips for Freezer Maintenance

Check the owner’s manual for your particular unit. There are many different types of freezers, and they can have slightly different care instructions and placement of parts, so make sure that you are familiar with how yours works.

Place the freezer in a temperature-stable area. Extreme changes in temperature outside your unit will cause the freezer to work harder at its job, causing strain. It might seem like cold temperatures would help a freezer, but remember that it’s only designed to withstand freezing temperatures on the inside! Also be aware that condenser coils can emit heat, so make sure there is some space for airflow between the freezer and any walls or nearby items.

Check the thermostat regularly. Many freezers have a built-in thermostat, but if yours does not, you can use a thermometer. The temperature should be set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius), so adjust the controls when necessary. If your unit starts fluctuating on its own, you should get it checked.

Check the gasket regularly. The gasket, or seal, of your freezer makes sure that cold air stays in and warm air stays out of the unit. If the seal is damaged or broken, your freezer will leak and its performance will suffer. If you notice damage, get the gasket replaced immediately to save yourself some money on energy consumption.

Keep the freezer clean. You can easily clean your freezer with a damp rag and dish detergent. Make sure you reach all of the interior, exterior, and the seals. You can use a spray cleaner to remove tougher spills and deodorizers to remove nasty smells. Frost buildup is normal, and you need to periodically defrost the unit to remove the buildup (see below for more details).

Keep the freezer full. For the best results, keep your freezer at least half full of food. This helps stabilize the temperature and keep energy consumption down. It might seem counter-intuitive, but the food retains its temperature easier than plain air when the door is opened.

Maintaining Chest Freezers

Chest freezers do not have an automatic defrost, so you will have to do it manually. It’s best to do this at least once a year, or whenever half an inch of frost has built up on the walls. Here are the basic steps to defrost your chest freezer:

  1. Remove all food.
  2. Unplug the unit or turn off the thermostat.
  3. Unplug the drain once all ice has melted. Do not scrape away ice.
  4. Wait until the freezer is dry.
  5. Return the plug and turn the unit back on.
  6. Return food once the temperature returns to 0°F. This can take up to 24 hours.

Maintaining Upright Freezers

Automatic Defrost

Some upright freezers have an automatic defrost cycle that generally occurs twice a day and removes frost from the coils. The water then drains into a pan at the bottom of the unit. The water should evaporate naturally, so you shouldn’t need to empty the pan. However, you should check the pan once and a while and clean it with dish detergent to make sure it’s not filling up, getting stinky, or growing mold. Your owner’s manual will show you how to reach and remove the pan.

You also need to clean off dust and dirt from the condenser coils and cooling fan at least once a year. If you allow buildup to occur, your unit will have to work harder and use up more energy to stay cool. Unplug the unit and then use a bristle brush and vacuum cleaner to remove the dust, dirt, and animal hair. It’s best not to use condensed air to blow away dust, because this can result in the dust bunnies being crammed further into the unit, causing blockages, and lodging into the fan.

Manual Defrost

If your upright freezer requires manual defrost, or if half an inch of ice has built up on the walls, you will need to follow a similar routine to the one listed above. Remove all food from the freezer, turn it off, allow ice to melt on its own, turn the freezer back on, and replace the food once the temperature has returned to normal.

Hopefully this guide helps you take care of your chest or upright freezer. For more information, you can also check out our guide to refrigerator maintenance on the Complete Protection blog!