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Food Safety Feature Articles


Spring cleaning in the freezer

Janet Hackert, 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 that is.

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 melt.

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 or cloth.

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 Storing Food in the Freezer (MP556) has a list of 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.


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Last update: Monday, March 20, 2017