How long does it take to defrost a freezer? This is how much time to schedule in

Our experts explain how long it takes to defrost a freezer, and shortcuts to help speed the process up

Silver fridge freezer with table
(Image credit: Future PLC/Still Pictures)

One of the reasons many of us put off defrosting a freezer is the uncertainty around how long the task actually takes. We've asked the experts how long it takes to defrost a freezer properly, so you can schedule the best time to tackle this chore.

Learning how to defrost a freezer isn't tricky, but it can be time-consuming. However, it is important to defrost your freezer regularly to keep it working in top condition. If it's left to build up ice, it can cause the freezer to work harder, which uses more energy and your freezer with cost more to run.

'Defrosting a freezer can be a pain if you’re unsure of what to do,' says Nick Small,  refrigeration expert at 'But there is no need to worry, it’s a simple enough job to do if done properly!'

How long does it take to defrost a freezer?

If you leave your freezer to defrost on its own it takes a lot longer, but this also involves the least amount of effort. 'How long it takes to defrost your freezer will depend on the size of your appliance, how much ice build-up there is and the method you use,' says Brian Johnson of 'If you leave the door open and put towels down to absorb the water, you can leave your freezer to defrost for 12-24 hours.'

A neutral kitchen with a red fridge freezer and freestanding island

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

What is the quickest time you can defrost a freezer?

You can defrost a freezer in under an hour if you're looking for how to defrost a freezer quickly. To manage this feat you will need a bowl of hot water and a warm cloth. This approach requires more effort but is better suited if you haven't been able to empty your freezer of food before the task.

Brian also agrees that using bowls of hot water is the way to speed up the defrosting process but chipping away at the ice also helps: 'The quickest time to defrost a freezer is two or three hours. You can do this by placing a bowl of hot water in the freezer and closing the door. To hurry the process along you can use a plastic spatula to chip away at the ice but don't use metal or sharp objects as they may damage your freezer.'

It's important to take care when defrosting your freezer and not to use anything that may damage it even if you think it will speed up the process. 'If you're in a hurry, you can use a bowl of hot water in the freezer and defrost it in a couple of hours, but using a hair dryer to defrost a freezer is not recommended as it can damage internal sensors,' adds Brian about this major freezer defrosting mistake. 


Will a freezer defrost in 2 hours?

One of the quickest ways to speed up the defrosting process is by using hot water to melt the ice. 'Take a bowl of hot water and place this onto the bottom shelf,' explains Nick. 'You can now leave the freezer to defrost, this should take a couple of hours. Once the ice has melted, remove the bowl of water and take your sponge. Wipe down the insides of the freezer with the sponge to remove any moisture and dry up the appliance.'

It's worth changing the bowl of water regularly as it can easily cool down as the ice melts and drips into it. Making sure your freezer is switched off will also speed up the process.

Blue kitchen with gold hardware, wooden parquet floor and silver fridge freezer

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Do you leave a freezer door open when defrosting?

If you leave the door closed while defrosting your freezer it can take longer, and it is easier to defrost if the door is open as you can soak up the melted ice more easily. 'Ideally, you shouldn’t leave the freezer door open when defrosting it. When you defrost your freezer, it’s best to keep the door closed to maintain a more controlled environment and speed up the thawing process. But, overall, leaving the door open or closed doesn’t make a huge difference,'  explains Rachael Kiss of Alliance Online.

Brian prefers to leave a freezer door open when defrosting: 'It is best to leave the freezer door open when defrosting as this will speed the process up. Remember to take all the food out of the freezer first and store it in a cooler with ice blocks to stop it from thawing out.'

How long after defrosting can I put food back in?

After your freezer has fully defrosted, it's a good idea to give it a good clean and wipe away any food residue that might have built up. 'Once the inside of your appliance is nice and clean, plug it back in and allow the cold air to build before placing your food back on the trays,' advises Nick.

To stop frozen food from defrosting, check your freezer is at the right temperature before loading it up again. 'You should wait until your freezer has returned to its ideal temperature before putting food back inside after defrosting,' says Brian. 'The temperature range is -16C to -24C.'

If you're not sure how often to defrost a freezer, you should be tackling this job every couple of months. The more regularly you do it the quicker the chore will take and the cheaper your energy bill will be. 

It's a win-win.

Amy Hodge

Amy Hodge has been working on interiors magazines for over 11 years. She's a freelance writer and sub editor who has worked for some of the UK's leading interiors magazines including Ideal Home, Style at Home and Country Homes & Interiors. She started at Style at Home just after it launched as food editor and is now chief sub editor for Ideal Home, Style at Home and Country Homes & Interiors.