Declutter the Freezer

Keep your frozen assets in order by following these cleaning and storage tips.

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Defrost and Update Freezer to Keep Food Organized DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley LimitedHome freezers safeguard frozen foods, but there's such a thing as too safe. Defrost the freezer regularly when ice buildup interferes with organized access to frozen foods.

The freezer is a cold and lonely place, a natural refuge for forgotten food. Bulging containers with gaping lids join icy, unlabeled parcels in the Arctic wastes of this House of Mystery Food. The goal of a freezer declutter: to cull the contents to remove unusable food, and return the survivors to an organized space that makes the most of your household's frozen assets.

Freezer: To defrost or not to defrost?
Many modern freezers don't require defrosting, but you'll pay for the convenience of never having to haul out the pans of hot water. Automatic defrost freezers use up to 35 percent more energy than comparable manual defrost models; the auto defrost cycle sucks moisture from frozen food and can adversely affect food quality. Defrost manual defrost freezers when ice buildup reaches 1/4 to 1/2in (5mm to 1cm), or when ice builds up on compressor coils.

Defrosting dos:

  • Cut the power. Before defrosting, turn off the power to the freezer unit and unplug the freezer from the wall.
  • Empty the contents. Remove all the food from the freezer. Store it in ice chests while defrosting and cleaning the freezer.
  • Melt the ice. Either leave the freezer door open until the ice melts naturally (be sure to cover the floor with newspaper to guard against melt water and falling ice) or add heat to speed the process. Use pans of warm water from the sink to melt ice, or wield a blow dryer to force warm air onto the ice. As the ice melts, soak up drips with a sponge, utility towels or cleaning cloths.
  • Clean up. When the freezer is ice-free, scrub out the entire interior with a light paste of baking soda and water. Wipe clean and dry with a fresh cleaning cloth. The soda will absorb any lingering food odors and remove any food spills. If necessary, wash the shelves or the freezer baskets in warm, soapy water. Dry them thoroughly before returning them to the freezer.
  • Return to power. Close the freezer door, plug it in and turn the power back on. Let the freezer run for at least 15 minutes to allow it to cool before returning the frozen food stored in the ice chests.

Defrosting don'ts:

  • Gently does it. Don't use picks, knives or sharp instruments to remove ice from freezer walls. A slip can cause injuries, to you and to delicate freezer coils.
  • Safety first. If using a hair dryer to melt ice, be cautious about electric shock. Do not stand in puddled water or allow watery drips to touch the hair dryer.
  • Skip the suds. Don't wash freezer walls with soapy water. Soap is difficult to rinse clean; a soapy residue can affect the taste of stored food.

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Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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