Having a deep freezer or chest freezer is incredibly nice to save food items longer while not filling up the freezer in your refrigerator. It is an ideal appliance if you want to stock up on food or save what you grow in your garden for use throughout the year.
As with any appliance, you do need to clean your freezer regularly. Depending on the model you have, this may involve removing and reorganizing your food stock or removing ice and frost build-up.
Since you need to do it routinely, add a spring cleaning freezer task to your list.
Reasons to Clean Your Freezer
If you aren’t entirely convinced that you need to clean your freezer often, it may help to consider the reasoning behind the task. The most important part of the cleaning process is going through your food items.
Food has storage limits for safety that you need to adhere to. You should make sure you don’t keep food items too long, and regular cleaning enables you to stay on top of expiring food.
Also, getting rid of food that is no longer good or you won’t eat frees up space for additional storage.
Cleaning also ensures that you get rid of ice or frost build-up that can impact the freezer’s operation. Too much build-up can reduce the effectiveness of the unit and lead to early food spoilage. It could also shorten the life of the freezer.
Recommended Read: How Does a Freezer Work: What You Need to Know
As with anything, you need to clean it because it just makes common sense. You will find your freezer is more efficient and effective if you regularly give it some attention.
When to Clean Your Freezer
You should aim to clean your chest or deep freezer at least two times per year. Cleaning in the spring and fall is often an excellent timetable to use.
You may want to clean more often if you use your freezer a lot. For example, if you put up your harvest from your garden each year, you may want to clean it out every time you add new food.
You don’t always have to do a full cleaning. You may do an abbreviated version as often as needed to remove old food and organize the contents.
Your goal should be to keep it working efficiently and ensure that it does not get into a state where it is not keeping food cool or where you cannot find anything in it because it is such a mess.
Steps to Clean Your Freezer
You can break a spring cleaning freezer task down into simple steps. The whole process is not too complicated, and you should be able to complete it in about an hour, depending on the size of your freezer.
Step 1: Turn off and unplug
Food Network states you should turn off the unit and unplug it before you begin.
Doing this protects you against electrical shock since you will be draining water from it. It will also ensure that the freezer can warm up to the right temperature to begin defrosting.
Step 2: Remove food
You need to remove everything from within the freezer. It is a good idea as you remove items, to organize them. Check dates and contents as you go.
Have a trash can handy to dispose of spoiled or outdated items. You can put the food you will keep in a camping cooler or tote to keep it from thawing as you finish up.
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states it is a good idea to keep a chart handy that lists expiration dates for common food items. You can tape it to your freezer or keep it nearby for when you do a cleaning.
Here is a chart for reference:
|Food Item||Safe to Freeze For Time Limit|
|Egg yolks or whites||1 year|
|Ground meat and stew meat||3 to 4 months|
|Whole ham||1 to 2 months|
|Hot dogs||1 to 2 months|
|Lunchmeat||1 to 2 months|
|Sausage||1 to 2 months|
|Steak||6 to 12 months|
|Pork chops||4 to 6 months|
|Roast||4 to 12 months|
|While chicken or turkey||1 year|
|Lean fish||6 to 8 months|
|Fatty fish||2 to 3 months|
|Shrimp||3 to 6 months|
|Chicken pieces||9 months|
|Soup||2 to 3 months|
|Baked pies||1 to 2 months|
Information in the table comes from the FDA and FoodSafety.gov.
Watch for signs of spoilage as you organize your food items. It is possible for something to go bad before it reaches its expiration date. Signs might include:
- Odd smells
- Frost directly on the food
You should toss anything you cannot identify or that you did not label with a date if you do not know how old it is. Keep a marker handy to label items you want to keep that don’t already have a label.
Step 3: Defrost
Once the freezer is empty, you can start to thaw any ice or frost. Keep in mind that you will need to let the freezer drain, so you need a bucket to catch the water unless you are fine with it draining on the floor.
Also, don’t forget to open the drain or remove the plug, or else you will have standing water in the bottom.
To defrost, you can leave the lid open and let nature take its course, or you can speed up the process using a couple of methods. The first option is to use a hairdryer to melt any ice and frost. The second option is to set a bowl of hot water inside and close the lid.
You may need to help along the process regardless of which defrost method you use. Some freezers come with a tool to help chip off stubborn ice or frost that you can use.
You can also use something plastic, like a spatula, but use caution. Do not go at it too roughly, or you could cause damage.
You may ask, “do you have to defrost a deep freezer?” You are smart to ask because many newer freezers have a function that makes it so that you do not have to defrost them.
However, it is always a good idea to make sure there is no frost build-up. Plus, you should do the other steps in the cleaning process even if you don’t need to defrost.
Recommended Read: The Best Chest Freezers on the Market
Step 4: Clean
Once the chest freezer properly defrosts, and all ice and frost are gone, you can clean. The safest and easiest option is to mix one part of water with one part of vinegar.
Wipe down the walls and areas inside the freezer. Also, clean the outside and any removable parts, such as shelves or baskets. Once clean, dry all surfaces with a cloth.
If you have mildew issues, you will need something stronger. Mix one cup of bleach with one gallon of water and use that to wipe the mildew away. Let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes before wiping it away. Do not close the lid while you let it sit.
If there is stubborn mildew, you can scrub it out with an old toothbrush. Make sure you complete the cleaning with a vinegar and water mix to ensure all bleach is gone.
For lingering bad smells, you can put an open box of baking soda in the bottom. Change it every three months.
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Step 5: Return food
You can finish your spring cleaning freezer task by organizing your food items and returning them to the freezer. Be sure to plug it back in and turn it on. Make sure the freezer temperature is back to zero or below before putting the food back in.
Recommended Read: Freezer Temperature: A Guide that Will Help You Understand the Basics
When putting food back in, do not pack it too tightly so you can allow for airflow in and around items. This helps them to freeze correctly and reduces freezer burn.
Every item you put back in the freezer should have a freezer-friendly label with a description and date. This is essential to ensure that you know when food items expire.
It also makes it easier to use food from the freezer and to clean it out in the future. If you do not label items, you will have to make guesses that could endanger your health.
When putting your food back in the freezer, you should arrange it so that the items expiring sooner are on top or in front. Proper organization makes a world of difference. It will significantly impact how easy it is to get food when you need it and as you clean out old food items.
Another trick to better freezer organization is to use similar containers or freezer bags for foods. If you do this, it makes it easier to stack items and fit them inside the freezer.
Once you have everything back in, take note of the free space you have. It is a good time to assess your freezer needs. If it is packed, you may want to consider buying another freezer so that you have more storage space.
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It may seem like a huge job to do a spring cleaning freezer task, but it doesn’t have to be. The more you clean out old foods and keep it tidy, the less work you’ll have when you do a deep clean.
Make sure that you tackle this task at least twice a year to minimize the hassle. The key is ensuring you organize and label food properly. Once you do that, cleaning is a snap.
Do you clean your freezer regularly? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.