Defrosting your freezer is a must when it comes to preserving your food and helping your freezer to maintain the energy level it should be using. A good way to know that it is time to defrost is when you see around 1/2 inch thickness of ice around the inside of the freezer. You can also look for ice crystals forming on packages. It is also nice to be able to freely grab an item without it sticking to something else.
If you are dealing with an upright freezer you can go about defrosting it a couple different ways. The first step it to remove all the food from it. You can do one of two things: place everything in a cooler if you have the room or you can wrap everything tightly in newspaper and store in a cool place. This is also a good time to discard of old food and clean out things you do not want or cannot use.
Next, turn off the power. You will either have a separate knob to turn off the freezer, especially if it is joined with your fridge or you can turn off the whole unit by unplugging it. You may also want to take this opportunity to place towels around the bottom of the freezer and the edges of the door to catch any melted ice that may overflow.
Once the power is off you can start the melting process. If you are in no hurry you can let nature take its course by allowing it to melt freely. Make sure if you have a drip tray that it is in position to catch the melt off. If you decide you want to get the job done in a real hurry you can get a pan of boiling water or several for that matter, and place them about the freezer. As the ice begins to melt soak up the water with towels or a sponge.
See if you can pull large chunks of ice off the walls to speed up the process. Never, never use an icepick or other sharp object to dislodge the ice, this will tear up our freezer. You will probably need to reboil the water at some point to keep the process moving quickly. If you do not like the boiling water idea you can use a hairdryer to melt ice. This is not particularly the safest route though. If you use this method be sure to keep the hairdryer away from the water.
Once you have the ice completely removed and all the water soaked up, take the time to clean it while it is empty. A good solution to clean with is to make a paste of baking soda and water. This not only disinfects but takes away and prevents any further odors. Make sure you completely towel dry any remaining water before you turn the power back on.
Let the freezer get back up to its original temperature before putting the food back in. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Also before returning the food be sure and get any ice or water off all the packages for a fresh clean start.
If you have a chest freezer it is basically the same concept in defrosting except the clean up may be a bit harder. You can soak up with towels which may take a while or if you have a wet vac, that would be a good quick way to get the standing water.
Luckily most freezers today are made to be frost-free and require little or no defrosting. However if you have an older model and you want to keep it running efficiently, use these steps to do so. Taking the time to defrost periodically will save you the headache of having a huge mess later down the road.