Why is ice building up in my freezer? Game-changing tips to stop your freezer icing up

Keep the mini freezer ice-bergs at bay

Blue kitchen with wooden worktops and floor, a stainless steel fridge freezer and a yellow bistro chair
(Image credit: Future PLC/Fraser Marr)

Freezers are one of the key appliances in any kitchen, whether yours is packed with frozen fruit for homemade smoothies or batch-cooked meals to save time during the week. But they can easily become iced up, impacting storage space and efficiency but why is ice building up in my freezer at all?

If you've gone through the tedium of how to defrost a freezer more frequently than you'd like, don't worry we've asked the experts to help offer up some answers, and tips on how to stop it happening.

'Ice may be building up in your freezer if you haven't defrosted it for a long time,' explains Brian Johnson of Myjobquote.co.uk. 'It could also be because the door seal is failing due to an obstruction, poor installation or damage to the seal.' 

A white country style kitchen

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Why is ice building up in my freezer?

1. Opening the door frequently

'Ice buildup in a freezer typically occurs when there is an influx of warm, humid air,'  says Matt Ayres appliance expert at RDO. 'This can happen if the freezer door is opened frequently, allowing more humid air into the freezer and if the seal of the freezer door is damaged, this may also contribute to the build-up of ice.'

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

(Image credit: Future PLC)

2. Improperly storing food

One reason for ice build-up, you may not have realised, is the food you are storing in the freezer. 'Improperly storing your food can also contribute to ice build-up,' adds Matt. 'Placing warm food in the freezer or leaving food containers uncovered can also add more humidity to the freezer, so be sure you’re covering your food properly and allowing it to cool fully before placing it in the freezer.'

A grey kitchen with a central island and bridge yellow bar stools

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Merewether)

3. The thermostat has malfunctioned

Another factor that can cause ice build-up, is if your freezer isn't working properly. 'A build-up of frost may also indicate that the thermostat has malfunctioned,' continues Matt. 'Thermostats typically regulate the temperature in the freezer to keep it consistent, but if this isn’t working properly it will keep cooling the freezer, even when it’s no longer necessary. This excessive cooling will lead to a build-up of ice.' 

4. Not properly closing the door

One of the most common reasons that ice is building up in the freezer is the door. 'The usual suspect for ice build-up in the freezer is improperly closing the freezer door or it being poorly sealed,' explains Rachael Kiss of Alliance Online. 'If the freezer door doesn’t seal properly or is left open, warm air from the surrounding environment can enter the freezer. When the warm air comes into contact with the cold air inside, it can lead to condensation and ice formation.'

How do I stop ice build up in my freezer?

Hopefully now you have figured out why ice is building up in your freezer, so we can go through some practical ways to stop it from happening again.

1. Check the door seal regularly

A bit of regular maintenance can help keep your freezer in top condition. 'Ensure that the freezer door seal is in good condition and properly seals the door,' explains Rachael. 'Replace the gasket if it is damaged or worn or contact your manufacturer to help you find a gasket replacement.'

Souble silver fridge freezer in kitchen with blue cabinetry

(Image credit: Future PLC)

2. Don't overload your freezer

We are all guilty of shoving loads of stuff in our freezers, but if yours is jam-packed it can cause damage. 'Leave space for air to circulate inside the freezer,' says Rachael. 'Overloading it can obstruct proper airflow, leading to uneven cooling and potential ice build-up.

'It is also recommended to store food in airtight containers to minimise moisture release.' If you don't already have some lying around, you can easily purchase airtight containers on Amazon.

A regular inventory of what you have in your freezer can help prevent it from becoming overloaded. Chuck anything that has frost damage or that has been stored for a long time, making a list of meals and ingredients stored can help prevent you from overbuying things you already have.

3. Set the correct temperature

Rachael also suggests checking your freezer's temperature is set correctly: 'Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the optimal temperature setting for your freezer. Setting the temperature too low can result in excess frost and ice.'

Bank of tall units with a stainless steel fridge freezer behind a kitchen table with blue wooden chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

4. Don't leave the door open

Leaving the door open a lot can create build up so try and keep this to a minimum. 'Try to minimise the frequency and duration of door openings,' says Rachael. 'Each time you open the door, warm air enters the freezer, and when it meets the cold air, it can lead to condensation and ice formation.' 

If you're putting away the food shop make sure you shut the door rather than leaving it open as you unpack everything.

5. Regularly defrost your freezer

Although none of us relish the idea of defrosting a freezer, doing it regularly will prevent a heavy build up of ice from taking over and damaging the appliance. 

'Follow a regular defrosting schedule; doing it annually should suffice,' advises Rachael. 'This prevents the accumulation of excessive ice on the evaporator coils. While doing this, it’s also a good time to check that the defrost system components (such as the defrost timer, defrost heater and defrost thermostat) are functioning properly. 

If any of these components are faulty, they may contribute to ice build up.' Looking at how to defrost a freezer quickly can mean it doesn't take as long as you think.

small kitchen with stainless steel fridge freezer

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Giles)


Why does ice build up in the top of the freezer?

If you're noticing that ice is building up regularly at the top of your freezer there are a few reasons for it. 'Warm air rises, so if it enters the freezer, it rises and can condense on the upper surfaces, leading to ice buildup,' explains Matt. 

'Avoid opening and closing the freezer door too often to prevent this. If there is a problem with the freezer’s insulation, it may also cause temperature variations. These variations cause ice to melt and then freeze up again, causing a build up of ice.' 

Another cause of ice build up in the top of the freezer is not waiting until food is at room temperature before you freeze it. 'Putting warm food into your freezer can cause the humid air to freeze and ice to build up,' explains Brian. 'Make sure the food is at room temperature before putting it into the freezer and always use freezer-safe storage containers.'

Why does ice build up in the bottom of the freezer?

A few checks can help prevent ice building up in the bottom of the freezer. 'If the freezer's drainage system is clogged or malfunctioning, water from melted ice may collect at the bottom and refreeze,' explains Matt. 'Check that the drainage system of your freezer isn’t blocked every six months, as this will help prevent a build-up of ice on the bottom of the freezer.'

What number should a freezer be set at?

Always check the instruction manual that came with your freezer for advice on settings to keep it running in top condition. 'It is recommended that your freezer’s temperature should be -18℃ or lower. It’s important to check your freezer’s temperature regularly using a thermometer to ensure that it stays within the safe range,' explains Rachael.

Hopefully your days of chipping away at an ice-y fridge to cram some last minute shopping supplies in will finally be at an end.

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.