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How to Clean and
Disinfect a Freezer

September 29, 2021

How to clean a freezer

If you use a whole-house cleaning checklist to keep your home clean and fresh, then you know how handy a cleaning list can be. But is your kitchen cleaning checklist as comprehensive as you think it is? Sure, you probably have the fridge, stove, dishwasher, and maybe even your small appliances on the list, but what about your freezer? If cleaning your freezer hasn’t made the list, you’re not alone.

That’s because many of us don’t give a lot of thought to how to clean a freezer or how often we should do it. After all, everything in there is frozen! Frozen foods can’t get bacteria and mildew doesn’t grow in extreme cold, right? Wrong.

Freezers can grow mildew and there are plenty of bacteria that thrive in temperatures even colder than your freezer. When you don’t clean your freezer periodically, mildew and bacteria can cause odors, spoiled food, and even illness when the frozen food is eaten. So add freezer cleaning to your cleaning checklist and read on to learn how to clean a freezer and keep the food inside safe.

To fight mildew, odors, and other freezer foes, the best way to clean a freezer and disinfect it only takes four easy steps:

Step 1: Remove, Inspect, and Sort Your Freezer’s Contents

Before you can defrost and clean a freezer, you should pull everything out and get organized. You’ll need a trash can, a permanent marker, and a sharp sense of smell to sort your frozen food before restocking the freezer. Pull out all the food and put it on the kitchen counter and start taking inventory. For items you decide to keep, use the permanent marker to label them with the food name and the date.

If you can’t identify what food a particular item is or how long it has been in your freezer, the safest action may be to just throw it away. So, how long can you keep food frozen before it goes bad?

  • Raw chicken can be frozen safely for up to nine months
  • Raw egg whites and yolks are good for up to 12 months
  • Raw ground beef, cooked beef, and cooked poultry can be frozen for up to four months
  • Casseroles, soups, and most leftovers can safely last for up to three months
  • Bacon and sausage should be used after they have been frozen for a month

Even if you’re confident about what a particular frosty package contains and that it hasn’t been in the freezer too long, you still need to inspect it. If you spot food that is discolored, has frost on the food inside the packaging, or emits any offensive odors, it’s time to throw it away.

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Step 2: Defrost Your Freezer

The second step for cleaning a freezer is to defrost it. Many modern freezers come with a defrost setting, and although the process may be slow, it’s convenient and easy to use. If you don’t want to wait, or your freezer doesn’t have a defroster, you’ll need to unplug your freezer and manually defrost it. Of course, defrosting a freezer in a fridge/freezer combo by unplugging means you’ll also have to move food from your refrigerator to coolers.

To speed up the defrosting, you can put a large pot of hot water inside and close the door or you can use a hairdryer to melt down the ice. CAUTION: Using an electric appliance like a hairdryer near water is dangerous, so pay attention! Regardless of the defrost method you use, put some towels beneath the appliance to catch water. Remove shelving and drawers and clean them in the kitchen sink while the freezer defrosts.

Step 3: Clean and Disinfect the Freezer

When the freezer has defrosted, clean the inside with hot, soapy water, then wipe away the soap residue and grime with a clean, damp cloth. Use a toothbrush or cloth to clean the grooves in the freezer seal, then wipe them down. A popular way to disinfect a freezer is to use one tablespoon of bleach mixed with a gallon of water, but there are less toxic ways to get rid of germs.

A milder way to disinfect is to use one part distilled white vinegar, one part water, and three parts baking soda mixed into a paste. The vinegar is a natural disinfectant and the baking soda helps lighten stains and deodorize. Just mix up the paste and wipe down the inside of the freezer, then wipe away the paste with a clean, damp cloth.

Step 4: Cool Down and Restock

Once the freezer has dried inside, plug it in, shut the door, and let it get cold. When the temperature gets close to zero degrees Fahrenheit, you can safely put your food back in the freezer. Make sure everything is labeled with the name of the food and the date. While you’re restocking your freezer, take time to get things organized. Put items you won’t be using anytime soon on the bottom and store like foods together for convenience.

How to Clean a Deep Freezer

Chest freezers are handy for keeping bulk foods frozen and they’re pretty easy to clean and disinfect. While some people think unplugging it to defrost and hosing it out is enough to keep frozen food safe, there’s a bit more to it. To keep your freezer working at its best and your food edible, it’s important to clean and disinfect the freezer periodically.

Learning how to clean a deep freezer is simple when you follow these five proven steps:

Step 1: Cut the Power

Even if your chest freezer has a power switch, unplug it while you’re cleaning to avoid the potential of an electrical shock. Put some towels beneath the appliance to catch stray ice and the melting ice you’ll get from defrosting the freezer.

Step 2: Take Inventory

If you don’t know what a frozen item is or how long it’s been in the chest freezer, throw it out. Even though some of the food may be safe to eat, you may not get the delicious taste you were expecting! Label what you’re keeping with a permanent marker so you can quickly identify the frozen food when you need it.

Step 3: Defrost Your Deep Freezer

Pull out baskets and other removable parts and wash them in the kitchen sink, then defrost the freezer. Defrosting can take a while if you just leave the lid open and wait, so you may want to speed things up. Use a hairdryer to melt the frost, but be careful to not let the dryer get wet.

Step 4: Clean and Disinfect the Deep Freezer

Once all the ice has melted, use dish soap and water to wash the inside of the freezer. Use a toothbrush to clean the seals, then wipe off the soap residue and dirt with a clean, damp cloth. To disinfect and deodorize the freezer, use a paste of water, vinegar, and baking soda to wipe down the interior and the seals. Use a damp cloth to wipe up the paste and use a cloth or paper towels to dry the inside of the freezer.

Step 5: Freeze and Stock

Plug the chest freezer in and make sure it’s on. Let the temperature get down to around zero, then restock the freezer. Put items you won’t be using soon on the bottom and group similar food together so they’ll be easier to get to. Make a habit of labeling new freezer inventory with the name and date to make sure your frozen foods are safe and tasty when you thaw them.

How Often Should You Clean and Disinfect Your Freezer?

If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your freezer, it’s time to clean and disinfect it. Once your freezer is clean, you can make your future deep cleanings easier with a little cleaning maintenance. To keep your freezer clean and safe, wipe down the racks and clean out the seals every two weeks with a damp cloth. Keeping debris out of the seals on your freezer will ensure the door is snug, and the freezer stays cold enough.

About once a quarter, take an inventory of your freezer contents and give the freezer a thorough cleaning and disinfecting. Hopefully, you labeled everything before you put it back in the freezer the last time you cleaned it, so purging outdated food should be easy.

Now that you know how to clean a freezer and disinfect it, check out our other pro guides for cleaning all your other appliances. Whether you’re a house cleaning DIYer or you use one of our popular cleaning services, The Maids wants your home to be a cleaner, healthier place to live. Learn more about what we can do for your home when you get a free estimate online.

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