Freezer Cleaning & Maintenance 101 – How to Clean a Freezer

Eating clean and healthy food is the first step to living a healthy lifestyle. This starts with a clean freezer and refrigerator where you store your food. While your refrigerator receives more attention because it is more heavily used, the freezer is often neglected. However, it is important to keep your freezer clean and sanitized to maintain your family’s health because perishables like meat, fish, and poultry are stored for weeks, months, or even longer. 


If you want to know the best way to care for your freezer, you will find everything you need to know about cleaning any freezer model, along with some proven hacks. Let’s begin.  


In this article, we will cover:  

Why Is It Important to Clean the Freezer? 

A clean freezer can solve multiple health issues caused by unhealthy food. Apart from food-related problems, cleaning the freezer can also save money on electricity as it ensures the freezer’s optimal performance. This means you won't have to wonder why your frozen meat is contaminated before the expiry date. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised by your electricity bill.  

Freezers get dirty because of the food stored inside. Sometimes, the item is forgotten to the point where it becomes freezer burned, or the packaging has become compromised and exposed the contents. Spills and leaks are also excellent breeding grounds for mold and bacteria, which then contaminate the food around them. This can cause food poisoning and other health issues. Just like any other kitchen appliance, the freezer must be clean to keep food in the best condition for a long time. A clean and organized freezer will also have more storage space.

How Often Should a Freezer Be Cleaned? 

Whether you use the freezer attached to the fridge or have a standalone freezer, it should be thoroughly cleaned at least once or twice a year. While this is only a general rule and can vary depending on how loaded your freezer is and what type of food is primarily stocked, it is more hygienic and economical to keep your freezer clean and organized. Warning signs that your freezer needs a good clean is food spoiling before the expiry date, unpleasant odors, the unit frosting up faster, or spills or mold build-up.  

To keep your freezer in prime condition, wipe it down once a week. A simple wipe can go a long way in preventing bacterial buildup from spills and leaks. If you hate frequent shopping and prefer to stock food for up to a month, it is better to clean the freezer monthly. Simply remove the food and shelves, wipe down the interior, and clean the shelves.


How to Clean a Freezer - A Step-by-Step Guide 

Cleaning a freezer is easier than you think. It can be done in under an hour if you follow the right technique and use the right tools. The tools will not only streamline the process but will make the cleaning less messy even for the dirtiest freezers. If you balk at the thought, consider the benefits to your health of having a clean and sanitized freezer.  


You will need some supplies or tools ready before you start the process. The list includes a cleaning solution, a spray bottle, a microfiber cloth, a sponge, a few paper towels, a marker pen, and a few Ziploc bags or freezer-safe containers. You can use a store-bought cleaning solution, warm soapy water, or even make your own cleaning solution at home. We have summarized the entire procedure in a step-by-step guide to make it easier to follow. Check out the guide below. 


Defrost the freezer 

Modern freezers and refrigerators are already equipped with this amazing feature. You just need to press a button and the freezer defrosts itself. In case your freezer doesn't have this feature, consider turning it off, unplugging it, and letting it defrost for about 7 to 8 hours. You can place a towel or a cloth under the freezer to catch dripping water, which will save you significant cleaning later. Most freezers have a separate drainage system that does the job. 


Check the quality of all stocked items 

While your freezer is defrosting, check the items to determine which have expired. Discard anything that looks freezer burned or has layers of ice, smells off, or has damaged packaging. This means the item has been in the freezer too long. 


Transfer the food 

Make sure you transfer the frozen items immediately to the refrigerator or cooler to preserve their freshness and prevent thawing. If you are cleaning the freezer attached to your refrigerator, it’s not necessary to unplug the unit, just defrosting the freezer is adequate. Keep the fridge door closed to prevent loss of the cold air inside. If you are using a cooler to store the frozen items, transfer the ice from the freezer to the cooler. 


Detach the shelves 

Most freezers have detachable shelves that make cleaning a lot easier. Remove all detachable shelves along with baskets, racks, etc. that need cleaning. This is important to allow free access to clean the interior of the freezer. 


Fill up the spray bottle 

This step starts only after your freezer has defrosted completely and has no ice left. Fill the spray bottle with the cleaning solution of your choice. There are cleaning solutions specially formulated to clean freezers and refrigerators. You can also use warm soapy water, but soap tends to leave a film if not rinsed with water. The best cleaning solution can be a mix of equal parts of water and vinegar or a mix of 1 tablespoon of baking soda and a cup of water. This solution will not only leave the freezer fresh and clean but will also deodorize it. The added benefit of this solution is that it contains food-grade ingredients and protects food from harsh chemicals.  


After you have filled the spray bottle, open the freezer door and spray the solution generously all over the walls, ceiling, gaskets, and floor, including any non-detachable rack or shelf. Wait until dirt and spills start loosening. The longer spills or leaks have been in the freezer, the longer it will take for them to loosen. 


Wipe off the dirt 

Wipe off all the dirt with a microfiber cloth. Take time to reach every corner. If some spills or leaks refuse to come off even with the microfiber cloth, use the sponge to scrub them away. Avoid scrubbing too hard to prevent damaging the surface. You can also use an old toothbrush for this job. 


Clean the shelves 

Clean the detached shelves separately in a solution of warm water and dish wash soap. If you use soapy water, rinse thoroughly with water again to prevent a soapy film. You also use vinegar or baking soda solution for this purpose. 


Thoroughly clean the exterior 

Don’t forget to clean the exterior of the freezer as well. It is a crucial part of the cleaning process as it prevents any surface dirt or grime from transferring from your hands onto the food as you reach into the freezer. Otherwise, this can lead to cross-contamination.  


To clean the freezer exterior, use the same cleaning solution and spray it all over the door, handle, sides, and top of the freezer. You can also use the cleaning solution if the exterior is made of stainless steel. Remember to clean the condenser coils as well. This can significantly boost the performance of your freezer. Condenser coils are usually located at the rear of the unit. You can check the user manual to find them and dust them off with a dry cloth. 


Dry the interior and replace the shelves 

Wipe away the solution from the interior of the freezer with a clean paper towel. Ensure you do not leave any cleaning solution behind, which can cause build-up. After drying the interior, replace the cleaned shelves and racks. 


Organize the food items 

Switch on the freezer and let it cool to at least 0 degrees C or 32 degrees F. While the freezer is reaching the desired temperature, use the time to pack and mark food items. Use Ziploc bags or freezer-safe containers to store each item separately. Use the marker pen to note the expiration date on each item to indicate which needs to be cooked the soonest. 


Freezer Cleaning Checklist 

If you still feel that cleaning the freezer is a lot of work and you genuinely don't have the time to do this every month or in six months, here is a great idea. Schedule the cleaning when the freezer is almost empty, such as before or after a vacation. To further simplify the process, below is a checklist of how and when to clean the freezer, including which parts need or don't need frequent cleaning.  


Freezer parts How to clean When to clean

Shelves and racks

Spray a cleaning solution and wipe off the dirt if it is not stubborn. For stubborn spots, consider thorough cleansing after detaching the shelf/ rack.

At least once in 6 months or when you notice a build-up or stain.

Gaskets, ceiling, and floor

For small stains, spray a cleaning solution and wipe them off. For stubborn build-up, soak a sponge in a cleaning solution and scrub it out. 

Once in 6 months or a year, or when you notice a build-up or stain.

Door handle and door

Spray a cleaning solution and wipe it off with a microfiber cloth.

Once a week or when you notice grease and dirt. 

Outer sides and top

Spray a cleaning solution and wipe it off with a microfiber cloth. 

At least once in 6 months. 

Condenser coils

Use a dry soft cloth to remove dust and dirt.

Once or twice a year. 

FAQs About Freezer Maintenance

What should be used to clean the freezer interior? 

The best cleaner for the freezer interior is a homemade solution of vinegar and water or baking soda and water. Soapy water can leave a film on the surface, and store-bought cleaners have harsh chemicals that can be harmful if they come in contact with food. Homemade cleaners are made from food-grade ingredients and are also effective in removing bad odors from the freezer. 


How do you clean and deodorize a freezer? 

Using a solution of equal parts of vinegar and water or 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a cup of water can be an excellent cleanser. Besides removing the most stubborn build-up, these cleaners can naturally deodorize the freezer. 


Should I turn off the freezer when cleaning? 

Yes, it should be turned off and completely defrosted before cleaning. This will ensure proper cleaning and also prevent any mechanical damage. If your freezer is attached to the refrigerator, you don’t need to switch it off. Simply defrost the freezer and keep the refrigerator door closed. 


How do you clean a freezer naturally? 

Start by defrosting the freezer and emptying all the items. Remove all detachable parts like shelves and racks to clean them separately. Spray the cleaning solution to loosen stains and build-up. Wipe away the dirt with a microfiber cloth, and scrub out problem areas with a sponge. Wipe with a dry, clean towel, and replace the shelves. Switch on the freezer and organize the food. 


How long after cleaning the freezer can it be used? 

Switch on the freezer after you have cleaned it and wiped it dry. Check the temperature to determine when it reached 0 degrees C or 30 degrees F. After your freezer reaches this temperature, start organizing the food inside. 


Can you use baking soda to clean the freezer? 

Yes, the sodium bicarbonate in the baking soda is not just good for making pancakes fluffier. It is also great cleaning and deodorizing agent. Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a cup of water, and use it as a cleaning solution to wipe away all the dirt from the freezer. 


Can I clean the freezer with vinegar? 

Vinegar is a great natural food-grade ingredient to clean the freezer. It can also remove bad odors while leaving the freezer spotless. Mix equal parts of vinegar and water to make a cleaning solution, and wipe away all the grime from the freezer. 


Final Thoughts 

A freezer is an essential kitchen appliance especially if you don’t or can’t shop frequently. If the freezer attached to your refrigerator is not large enough for your needs, it is time to invest in a standalone freezer that can make life a lot easier. You can also upgrade your existing fridge/freezer to a model that fits your needs. Coast Appliances has a wide collection of freezers from 50+ top brands. You can check the entire collection online and also our freezer buying guide to determine which one meets your budget and needs.