How Long Does It Take to Defrost a Refrigerator Freezer?

How long does it take to defrost a refrigerator freezer? It could take as long as 1 hour to a day to defrost your refrigerator freezer completely. In some refrigerators or freezers with thick frost, it may even take you more than 24 hours to remove the frost.

Many people find ice formation in their refrigerators and freezers a big problem. One of the reasons for this is because of the difficulty in getting rid of frost after it has formed. While reading this article, you may even have your refrigerator door open, hoping the ice melts fast.

Before we go deeper into how long it takes and what factors determine the duration, we would take a quick look at what causes frost to form in freezers and steps you can follow to defrost your refrigerator quickly.

Let’s dive right in.

What Causes Frost Formation?

Most of the frost you see in your freezer is formed on the evaporator coils. The evaporator coil is responsible for producing cold gas from the refrigerant. So, as this gas goes through the coils it keeps your refrigerator cold.

Here are some factors that cause frost to form in your refrigerator freezer.

1. Humidity

If you allow warm air to get into your freezer, it will cause frost to form on the evaporator coils. If you don’t open your freezer for so long, moisture could be kept out with the aid of the auto-defrost fan. But, if this fan is damaged, you should expect to see ice buildup in your freezer any time soon.

Meanwhile, if you open the freezer door rather too frequently, the air that gets into your refrigerator freezes on the coils immediately. If this happens often, then the chances of a frost buildup will be high.

2. Insufficient or Too Much Refrigerant

Many people are not aware that their refrigerant may not be at optimum levels. And this causes problems with the refrigerator. What does this mean?

If your refrigerant is at low levels, the compressor could improperly compress the refrigerant to give off warm gas instead of cold gas; which passes over the coils. Meanwhile, too much refrigerant results in leakage of liquid refrigerant into the coils.

3. Faulty Compressor or Defrost Thermostat

So, you’re using a self-defrosting freezer and you think you can never find frost in your refrigerator freezer. Sorry to disappoint you, but this is not entirely true.

Any frost build-up in a self-defrosting freezer falls into a pan at the bottom. But, this may fail to happen when the compressor is not functioning. As a result, there will be frost build-up in your freezer.

Moreover, some refrigerators use a defrost thermostat to ensure that frost formation doesn’t occur. The defrost thermostat regulates the internal temperature of the freezer.

So, if your refrigerator’s defrost thermostat is damaged, you will find frost in your freezer.

Johnson Controls A19AAT-2C Freezer Temperature Controller (D132)

How Long Does It Take to Defrost a Refrigerator Freezer?

Defrosting your refrigerator freezer is a must-do if you want your refrigerator to last long. Failing to carry out this simple yet annoying task puts your refrigerator at risk of a short life span.

Of course, no one wants the refrigerator they purchased just a year ago to give up on them. One question anyone who wants to defrost a freezer asks is “how long does it take to do this?”

There’s no particular duration for defrosting your refrigerator freezer. For some people, it took them over five hours even after they placed large bowls of boiling water in their freezer. While for others, it took them just three hours.

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For you to say you have frost in your freezer and you need to carry out some defrosting action, it means that ice must be a bit thick. So, except you just want to scrape a thin layer of ice off the back of your refrigerator, you may spend some time.

Generally, the time spent on defrosting your refrigerator varies from three hours to a day or even more. Of course, you can decide to speed up the time by carrying out some activities (which will be discussed below).

Meanwhile, always pay close attention to your freezer so that ice doesn’t become to thick that you have to wait for several days.

What Factors Determine How Long it Takes to Defrost a Refrigerator Freezer?

Two major factors determine how long it takes to defrost a refrigerator freezer — the internal factors and the external factors.

1. Internal Factors

The main internal factor responsible for the length of time it takes for the frost in your freezer to melt is the thickness of the ice.

How thick is the frost in your freezer?

If it is really thick, then it is going to take a while to get rid of it. It may take over a day to completely defrost such a refrigerator even if you leave your refrigerator wide open throughout the period.

Also, faulty refrigerator parts such as the defrost thermostat or compressor in self-defrost refrigerators will result in a longer defrost time.

For instance, you may go on a long vacation and have to leave your refrigerator on to keep things preserved. A faulty compressor or defrost thermostat means frost builds up for a long time. If this happens, you will come back to meet a refrigerator full of ice.

2. External Factors 

For some people, defrosting their refrigerator involves leaving the doors open, and that’s all. No matter how thick the ice is, they sit down and wait for hours until everything goes down.

You would also agree that it will take longer to defrost your refrigerator freezer than when several bowls of hot water are sitting in your freezer with the door closed. This is because the steam coming from those bowls would hasten the melting process.

How to Defrost Your Refrigerator Freezer with a Bowl of Hot Water

There are two main stages involved in defrosting your refrigerator freezer. They are the preparation stage and the execution stage. Let’s take a brief look at the steps they involve.

1. Preparation Stage

The following are the steps involved in the preparation stage of defrosting your freezer with hot water…

i. Empty the freezer

How you want to get rid of the items in your freezer is entirely up to you. For people with just a few dibbles in their freezer, you may decide to use those items up as the day for defrosting approaches. But if there are so many items in your freezer, you may need to place them in a cooler filled with ice to preserve them. When your freezer is empty, it becomes easier to get rid of all the ice.

ii. Turn off the freezer

Leaving your freezer turned on while you’re defrosting isn’t a good idea. Firstly, if your refrigerator is turned on, it will keep running and you may never completely get rid of the frost. You’ll only end up wasting so much time. Moreover, this may result in frost formation on the refrigerator coils. Also, you don’t want to get electrocuted while cleaning your freezer.

iii. Place old towels and trays at the bottom of your freezer

Defrosting your refrigerator would result in a large water puddle in your freezer. To avoid leakage and prevent your floor from getting soiled, place old rags at the bottom of the fridge. These old towels and trays would collect the water that forms after the ice melts. If the ice is very thick, you may have to squeeze these towels and drain the water after some time.

Other than defrosting with a bowl of hot water, you can also defrost your freezer with a fan. Check out the video below to learn how to:

2. Execution Stage

The following are the steps to execute the defrost process in a freezer using hot water…

i. Take out the shelves

In some refrigerators, the frost may get so thick that it also forms all over the shelves in the freezer. In this case, you have to get the shelves out to make the process easier. If the shelves are stuck, don’t worry too much. Just leave them there until the ice has melted a bit.

After removing the shelves, leave the door open. Closing the door while defrosting will only make the process take a very long time.

For refrigerators and freezers that have automatic closing doors, you need to use a bar or whatever item you have to prop it open.

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ii. Scrape off some of the ice

Scraping off some ice makes it faster for the frost in your refrigerator to get cleaned up. But, you must be very careful to use the right tool. Else, you risk damaging the internal components of your refrigerator. It is important that you use a plastic spatula or a defrosting tool that comes with your refrigerator or freezer. Avoid using instruments like glass or metal to scrape your freezer.

When you’ve scraped off the ice until it remains a thin layer, leave it to melt. You can also carry out further processes that will defrost the freezer faster like the next method…

iii. Put a bowl of hot water in the freezer

As mentioned above, it is very common for people to use hot water to defrost their freezer. Now, this doesn’t mean pouring hot water directly into your freezer.

If you want to hasten the defrost process, you can prepare several bowls of water to place on the shelves (if they’re still in there) or at the bottom of the freezer.

But ensure that you close the door as soon as you place the bowls of hot water in the freezer.

Meanwhile, you’ll need to check the freezer regularly because the water will get cold after a short while. So, ensure you replace the hot water in the bowl after five or ten minutes. Afterward, you can use the scraper to remove more ice from the walls of the freezer.

You Can Also Use a Blow-dryer

This is another procedure that gets your freezer clean in a short time. A blow dryer releases hot air that melts the ice. So, you can plug your blow dryer in and use it for this operation. But, you have to pay attention to the distance between your blow drier and the ice. To prevent electrocution, you should keep the blow drier about six inches away from the ice.

If you don’t have a blow dryer, you can also use a vacuum cleaner. It also releases hot air that can defrost your refrigerator freezer.

Clean Your Refrigerator Afterward

After getting rid of the ice and removing the water from the tray and old towels, you’ll need to clean your refrigerator.

It is a perfect time to clean the entire fridge right after defrosting. To do this, use soap to wash the shelves and rinse with clean water. Also, use a clean cloth to wipe out every drop of water in your freezer. Then, leave it to dry before plugging it back in.

Check out the video below to learn how to defrost your refrigerator without hassles:

Check out these other in-depth articles on defrosting refrigerators…

How to Avoid Frost in Your Refrigerator Freezer

Listed below are various activities you can carry out to prevent frost build-up in your refrigerator:

1. Reduce the Number of Times You Open the Freezer

When you leave your freezer door open, the cold air leaves and warm air enters. This warm air gives rise to moisture formation in the freezer. When the cold air released from the coils touches the moisture, it forms ice in your freezer.

2. Don’t Overstock Your Refrigerator

For every cubic foot of freezer space, store two to three pounds of food. Overstocking your freezer or storing less than that could lead to frost formation.

3. Check the Door for Leaks

Sometimes, the door seal may be damaged. A damaged door seal results in a leaking door. When the door leaks, cold air leaves, and warm air seeps in. As stated above, this leads to moisture buildup, and eventually, frost formation. If you notice that the seal is torn, replace the seal.

The door could also leak if the seal is dirty. The seal should be cleaned with a tablespoon of baking soda and lukewarm water.

4. Set Your Freezer Temperature

Most importantly, set the temperature of your freezer so that it is around zero degrees Fahrenheit. If it is set to lower temperatures, frost can form in your refrigerator.

5. Don’t Place Hot or Warm Foods in the Freezer

You shouldn’t put hot or warm foods in their freezer because it will cause your fridge to use more energy to cool down the warm foods. So, ensure that you allow the food to get cool outside the freezer before putting it in your freezer. Also, keep your food covered while doing this, to protect it from microorganisms.

How Long to Defrost Refrigerator Coils?

It takes an average of four hours for the evaporator coils in your refrigerator to defrost. However, this time is only an estimate, and several factors can increase or reduce it. For example, the defrost method significantly affects this time. If you allow the refrigerator to self-defrost, it may take a long time, especially if there is a lot of frost.

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And if you manually defrost it, it may take even longer because you may rely on natural air instead of a heating element. In such a case, it may take as long as 12 hours. The extent of the frost also affect the defrost time. If there is a significant amount of frost on the coils, you may need to use a heat source to hasten the defrost process.

Note that constant frost accumulation on the evaporator coils can eventually damage them. Therefore, determine the cause of the frost and fix it as quickly as possible.


It takes about four hours to defrost a refrigerator freezer, but it can be more or less. The length of time it takes for your freezer to defrost usually depends on the thickness of the frost and the defrost method.

You can prevent frost from forming in the refrigerator freezer, as it can damage the coils and other components. This can be done by checking for leakages, setting the right temperature, and storing the right amount of items in the freezer.

So, with all these said, be sure to keep your refrigerator freezer in the right condition. And because frost formation has the potential to damage your refrigerator, it is advisable to get rid of frost as frequently as you possibly can.

You can also watch this video for tips on how to troubleshoot refrigerator defrost problems:

Related FAQs – How Long Does It Take to Defrost a Refrigerator Freezer?

1. How Often Should I Defrost My Fridge?

You should defrost your refrigerator freezer every time you notice up to a quarter-inch of ice build-up on its interior walls. If you do not use your refrigerator very often, you should defrost at least once a year. But usually, your refrigerator freezer would require defrosting more often.

Defrosting is also a great way to clean your freezer and free up more room for food and other items. To avoid frequent build-up of ice in the future, minimize the number of times that you leave your refrigerator door open.

2. What Happens If I Don’t Defrost My Freezer?

If you don’t defrost your freezer, it would become inoperable especially if it has a mass of frost over an extended period of time. Usually, your refrigerator freezer would not work efficiently if you fail to defrost it anytime it has an ice build-up. Failing to defrost will also block air circulation in the freezer as the freezer’s evaporator coils may frost over.

Accumulated frost also takes up room in your refrigerator, making it harder for you to store up as much food as you would normally do. To keep your refrigerator freezer working efficiently, you should defrost as and when due.

3. How Do You Defrost a Refrigerator Freezer Without Turning It Off?

To defrost your refrigerator freezer without turning it off:

  1. Remove the items in the freezer and pack them in the refrigerator.
  2. Shut the refrigerator door tightly to prevent warm air from entering the unit.
  3. Place dry towels on the ground to soak up water from melted ice.
  4. Place a bowl of hot water in the freezer to melt the mass of frost. You may need to use more than one bowl depending on how much frost you’re dealing with.
  5. To make the process faster, use a wooden spatula to chip off lumps of frost.

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4. Why Is My Refrigerator Not Self-defrosting?

Your self-defrosting refrigerator may not self-defrost if the main control board is defective. Usually, the defrost thermostat on the control board is supposed to turn off the cooling system several times a day, and turn on the defrost heater to melt away any mass of frost. Any change in this pattern can stop your refrigerator from self-defrosting.

When there is a fault in the main control board, either the defrost thermostat, the defrost heater, or defrost timer fails to do its job, leading to an endless build-up of frost on the freezer’s interior walls.

Note that not every refrigerator can self-defrost. It must have an automatic defrost system before it can self-defrost.

5. Can You Pour Hot Water to Defrost a Freezer?

You shouldn’t pour hot water in your freezer to defrost or pour it directly on the walls of the refrigerator. To defrost your freezer with hot water, simply place a bowl of hot water at the bottom of the freezer.

After you place the bowl of hot water in the freezer, shut the freezer door tightly and wait for the steam to heat up the inside of the freezer and melt the ice. If the bowl of hot water cools off in the process, consider replacing it till the job is done.

6. Can I Leave Freezer Door Open to Defrost?

You can leave your freezer door open to defrost it. If you are leaving your freezer door open to defrost, ensure you turn it off and unplug it. Also, place dry towels under the appliance to catch excess water. Make sure you also have another means to preserve your food till the freezer defrosts completely, as it may take many hours.

Leaving your freezer door open to defrost may take a longer time than using other defrosting techniques. You can speed up the process by chipping off frost with a wooden spatula while taking care not to damage the freezer’s internal elements.

To preserve the safety of your food items during the defrost process, you can place the food items in an ice cooler with good insulation.

Igloo Polar Cooler (120-Quart, White)

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