Food Safety Feature Articles
Spring cleaning – in the freezer
Janet Hackert, regional nutrition and health education specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension
With spring upon us, this is a good time for spring cleaning
- in the freezer
If a freezer does not automatically defrost, it is a good idea
to defrost it occasionally. Defrost manual models at least once
each year or more often if the frost is 1/4-inch thick or more.
Although it is most efficient to operate a freezer full or near
full, the best time to defrost is when the freezer is somewhat empty.
For food safety reasons, be sure the process takes two hours or
less with food sitting out of the freezer.
Unplug the freezer for this process. Place frozen food in insulated
coolers or in newspaper-lined cardboard boxes to keep food cold.
Remove frost by following the manufacturer’s instructions. A plastic
spatula or wooden spoon can be used to scrape out ice. And a towel
in the bottom of the freezer can help catch water and frost as things
When the freezer is frost free, wipe it out with a solution of
one tablespoon baking soda per quart of water to clean and freshen
the interior. Sponge clean with water only and dry with a towel
Turn the freezer back on and close the door to let it cool down
again. After about 15 to 30 minutes, when chilled, replace the frozen
food. Since these items have been out of the freezer, mark them
for first use. The freezer should be operated at 0° F or colder.
While the food is out, this is a good time to cull out items that need to be used sooner than later. MU Extension publication A Quick Consumer Guide to Safe Food Handling (MP 689) has a chart showing recommended freezer storage times. If food has been in the freezer longer than that, quality concerns may become an issue. Anything unidentifiable may just need to be tossed or composted to make ready for the coming planting and harvesting when new items will need to be stored.
Source: “So Easy to Preserve,” 5th Ed, 2006, Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens.
Last update: Monday, April 05, 2010