Regardless of the type of freezer selected, it should be placed in a convenient, cool, dry and well-ventilated place; never place it by the stove, water heater or in the sun. This would make it more difficult to maintain a temperature of 0°F or lower. Be sure the freezer sits level. Freezers with exposed coils should be 2-4 inches away from the wall. No space is needed between the freezer and the wall for newer models with enclosed coils.
Manual-defrost freezers need defrosting at least once a year or when there is more than one fourth inch of frost over a large area of the freezer surface. Accumulated freezer frost reduces storage space and increases operating costs. Defrosting should be scheduled when the food inventory is relatively low and when defrosting can be completed within one to two hours.
A manual-defrost model should be disconnected from the electrical supply before defrosting. Frozen packages should then be placed in large cardboard cartons or insulated ice chests. With a cardboard carton, several layers of newspapers may be used for extra insulation. Clean the freezer as quickly as possible, following your manufacturer's instructions. A few manufacturers say to place Pans of hot water in the freezer and close it. Then, remove the frost as it loosens and replace the water as it cools. Make sure the freezer is completely cool before restarting it. Other manufacturers do not recommend using pans of hot water because in their freezers, refrigerant pressure could build up in the evaporator, making restarting the freezer difficult. These manufacturers recommend allowing the frost to thaw naturally or with the aid of a fan.
Place towels in the bottom of the freezer to catch water and frost. The loose frost can be removed using a wooden or plastic scraper.
When all the frost has been removed, sponge out the interior with a cleaning solution made of one tablespoon of baking soda per quart of water. Sponge with clean water and dry with an absorbent cloth. Turn the freezer on and close the door to allow the freezer to become chilled (15 to 30 minutes) before returning the food. If food packages are frosty, scrape or wipe them to remove frost or moisture before placing the food in the freezer in an organized manner. Mark these packages for first use.
A frost-free freezer does not need defrosting. However, it should be cleaned out once a year or more often if dirt or food residues are visible. In cleaning the freezer, follow the procedure described above. Turn off the power source. Empty the freezer, wipe it with a baking-soda solution, rinse, towel it dry and then replace the food.
If food has spoiled in a freezer because of a power failure or some other reason, undesirable odors can develop. To eliminate the odor, remove the food and wash the inside of the freezer with one tablespoon of baking soda in a quart of tap water or with one cup of vinegar in a gallon of tap water. Allow the surface to dry.
If the odor still persists, use activated charcoal. This type of charcoal is extra dry and absorbs odors more quickly than cooking type charcoal. It can be purchased at a drug store or pet supply store.
To use it, unplug the freezer. Put the charcoal in pans or on paper in the bottom of the freezer for several days. If the odor remains, put in new charcoal. When the odor is gone, rinse and dry the inside of the freezer. Turn on the freezer and it is ready for food.
When odor gets into the freezer's insulation, write the company for any suggestions it may have for solving the problem. However, sometimes, there is nothing that can be done.
This document was extracted from "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.