Freezer Week

The Biggest Mistakes People Make with Their Freezers, According to Appliance Repair Pros

updated Aug 14, 2020
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The recent heat wave (and warnings from my electric company about possible blackouts) has me thinking a lot about my freezer. Right now, I’m about ready to move into my freezer — or at least open the door and stick my head in until I stop sweating. But, you know, that would be bad for the freezer and everything inside. (Instead, I’m just eating lots of ice cream.) Leaving your freezer door open is a pretty obvious don’t, but there are some less obvious mistakes you may be making when it comes to this VIP appliance. So, I asked a handful of appliance repair pros to find you what else you’re probably doing wrong when it comes to your freezer. Here’s what they had to say.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. You’re leaving the door open.

Yes, I mentioned this one already, but do you know why this is actually bad for your freezer? Leaving the door open, either because you forgot to close it, you’re hunting around for too long, or because your door’s seal isn’t working (more on that below), allows for excess frost to form, says Shirley Hood, appliance expert at Abt Electronics, “which will stop airflow and the compressor fan from spinning.” 

2. You’re overloading your freezer.

If your freezer is basically a case study in a how-much-can-I-fit-into-a-small-space experiment, you’re going to have problems, says Hood. Harry Raker, who runs the online appliance repair training site Uncle Harry’s Appliance Repair School, agrees. His advice? “Avoid overpacking and keep items away from its internal parts, such as the evaporator fan or ice maker.” The general rule is that your freezer (and your fridge, for that matter) should only be about 70 percent of the way full.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. You’re under-loading your freezer.

A freezer that’s nearly empty is also problematic, according to Chris Zeisler, a master technician and repair guru at “Freezers actually run less and more efficiently if they have a lot of food in them,” he says. The takeaway? Think like Goldilocks and keep your freezer full, but not too full. Again, aim for that 70 percent rate of fullness.

4. You’re not cleaning your condenser coils.

All three experts recommend periodically cleaning the freezer’s condenser coils, which attract dust and grime and will eventually overheat. Because these coils are often found behind a grate underneath or behind your refrigerator, chances are you’re not cleaning them frequently enough (if at all). Zeisler recommends using a vacuum brush attachment or a coil cleaning brush at least twice a year.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. You’re not cleaning the door gasket.

The door gasket is the rubber seal that helps keep cold air in to prevent spoilage. Over time, this seal can get dirty or start to warp, both of which will cause cold air to escape. “Use soap and hot water to wipe down the door gasket and dry it with a clean towel,” says Zeisler. “Once the door gasket is clean and dry, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the sealing surface of the gasket to extend the life of the gasket.”

6. You’re not storing your food correctly.

Hood says that improper food storage, rather than the freezer itself, can be an issue. “The most effective way to prevent foods from going bad in a freezer is to make sure they are stored in containers or bags designed for freezer storage,” she advises.

Related: I’ve Tested Nearly Every Food Storage Container on the Market. This Is a List of the Best of the Best.

7. You’re not defrosting your freezer often enough.

Another tip from Hood: “Set up a thawing schedule once a year or whenver you start to see ice buildup that’s 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch.” And, whatever you do, do not use an ice pick to get rid of that ice buildup, she adds, as “doing so could puncture the walls or damage the compressor.” Instead, put your groceries in a cooler and let the freezer defrost on its own.