Instructions for Defrosting a Chest Freezer

Updated February 21, 2017

Chest freezers are large units often found in garages or basements. Homeowners commonly use chest freezers for overflow food. Some chest freezers are self-defrosting, but if yours is not, you will need to periodically remove built-up frost to keep the unit running efficiently. Defrost the chest freezer when the ice is more than 1/4 inch thick.

Unplug the chest freezer, and remove any food.

Remove the drain cover in the lower portion of the chest freezer. Place a bucket under the drain to catch the water as the freezer defrosts. Some models allow you to attach a hose to the drain to direct the water outside. Check the bucket once every 30 minutes to make sure it does not overflow.

Keep the freezer lid open. Fill two or three 5-gallon buckets with hot water, and place them inside the freezer. Set up a portable fan so that it is facing into the freezer, and turn it on. Wait for the ice to begin to melt.

Scrape the frost from the sides of the freezer. Use a plastic scraper to avoid scratches. Remove the buckets of hot water after you have scraped off all the ice, and use absorbent towels to wipe down the sides and the bottom of the freezer. If the water cools before the ice melts, dump out the buckets and replace the hot water.

Replace the food. Plug in the freezer.


If you want to clean the inside of the freezer before you refill it, use mild soapy water.

Things You'll Need

  • Buckets
  • Hose
  • Hot water
  • Electric fan
  • Towels
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Based in Richmond, Va., Dawn Gibbs writes about topics such as history, fashion, literature, crafts, alternative medicine and healthy living. Her work has appeared on and several style websites. Gibbs holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Virginia Commonwealth University.