Freezer with icicles.
August 11, 2010 8:57 PM   Subscribe

Why is there an ice age in my freezer?

So check this out, guys: today I got home from work. It was a very long day, and it's very hot outside. The significance of this will become obvious shortly.

Anyway, it's very hot outside, and recently I had traded in a car to get a slower car, because I got a speeding ticket that may or may not be dismissed because the car dealer who sold me my new car took my old car to a calibration shop, which reported that my speedometer was off by a significant bit.

It's a bigger vehicle, and new. And I waxed it yesterday. Some bird shat on it today. The shit was grainy and green. I used a Kleenex from a colleague's car to try to get it off. We were outside and talking about bird shit and patients. It was very hot outside.

I got home and decided that nothing would be better than a ice-cold glass of water with ice. I don't normally use ice, and use it so infrequently that when I do have occasion or need for ice, the ice trays hold only half-cubes, because of some mad science having to do with freezing, evaporation and re-freezing. Then I have to perform twice as many twists of the tray with four times the amount of muscle effort to get the same amount of ice, and it's very frustrating considering how eco-friendly I want to be, and knowing that every bit of effort I exert requires fuel, and fuel is food, and food comes from Cheetos, and Cheetos are made of corn requiring fifty billion gallons of water and beef and puffed with greenhouse gases. So I try to move very little to save the earth. Economy of motion.

Anyway, what could be worse than having to use four times the muscle effort to twist trays twice as much for a single glass of ice water? Man, lemme tell you: doing it all for TWO glasses of ice water.

Yes, I had company. Yes, she was hot. I didn't reach for the pre-chilled San Pellegrino, because she's an earthy girl, and she's seen my eating habits and knows I'm trying to be an earthy guy. And hippies don't drink San Pellegrino, because everyone knows that Italians don't care about the planet. Also, I bought the case of San Pellegrino from Costco. And trucked it back in my SUV. At high speeds. Ok, yes, maybe I'm guilty of speeding. And don't really care about the environment. But man, she was hot. And thirsty.

Baby, you look hot. And thirsty. May I get you anything to drink?
"Sure, whatcha got? Chewchewchew." (She likes gum).
I've got just what you need. Something that'll really hit the spot.
"Hee hee! Ohkay!"

And I smoothly opened the cabinets and got a couple of mugs out (because the glasses are fancy, and she didn't seem the fancy type, and they're all in the dishwasher anyway, and the dishwasher's broken and only fills up with water and doesn't seem to drain, and I stopped using it anyway cuz I'm trying to be green and hand-wash everything. Also the mugs are pretty awesome and ugly and I figured the thick ceramic has more thermal mass and, while taking longer to cool, would keep the water cooler for longer), and glided to the fridge. I bent over to open the freezer so she could look at my hipster designer selvage jeans and my recently more athletic buttocks (I've been cutting down on Cheetos).

And then I just stood there. Ass in air. One hand on the fridge grip, the other halfway into the freezer. Everything was partially frozen over. Not the whole-block, everything's-encased-in-ice deal I had dealt with in undergrad with mini-fridges, but, like, a perfect ice age. There's snow and frost. Icicles. On everything.

I broke off some icicles and put them in the mug and started to chuckle a bit at the novelty of having icicle water, but she was not amused. There was a distinct look of disgust and horror on her face which in retrospect communicated the following:

1. WTF
2. You have your freezer turned up too high
3. You are using too much electricity
4. You are destroying the ozone layer
5. I wish I were smarter so I could communicate, scientifically, how you're destroying the environment by having your freezer turned up too high and quantify how much of an asshole you are for it, but I'm not that smart, though I'm pretty sure there are no units of measurement for assholeness
6. WTF.

End result: girl gone. Two mugs of icicles. Much sadness. Icicles melted. I drank from both mugs: the water was not refreshing: the water tasted of tears wept in a harsh, harsh winter.

I'm over it now, sorta. But I can't figure out what happened. It hasn't been that long since I've had a Hot Pocket, and the freezer seemed fine then. It's been a bit more humid lately, but I don't think that would cause the problem. I'm afraid of turning down the freezer and having a bunch of water leak out onto the floor.

Anyone have any solutions or answers?

tl;dr: See this pic. Help.
Note: 10-90% of this may be fictional.
posted by herrdoktor to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Long-term advice: freezers always work better when they've got more stuff in them. Keep your freezer fuller and there won't be any room for icicles to form.

Short-term advice -- defrost and start over. Put all the food in a cooler while you work, then get a big pan of hot water and start squeezing it out onto the iced-up bits with a sponge and mop up what melted and squeeze it into the sink, over and over until it's all clear. Or use a hair dryer to melt the ice (maybe not smart for the way-in-the-back bits of the freezer, but it leads to a neat effect -- if your freezer is cold enough, the hot air from the dryer will run into the cold air from the freezer and create sparks, just like hot-and-cold fronts in the atmosphere create lightning. This happened while I was defrosting a freezer once and I was blown away.) When the freezer is de-iced, wipe everything down with a sponge, load the food back in, and you're good to go. Just put more stuff in there so it doesn't have room to ice over again.

Warning: do NOT hack at the blocks of ice with a knife or something, because you may chip the walls of the freezer and that would wreck the freezer itself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:11 PM on August 11, 2010

Best answer: Did you possibly leave the door a bit ajar? It looks just like my freezer did when I left the door not quite shut on a very hot day. Are you sure there is a tight seal so that the cold air is kept inside?

And I new it was you, dok, as soon as I started reading the question! :)
posted by gemmy at 9:13 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your electricity went out and then after everything had started to unfreeze, it came back on.

Reading this post reminded me of the Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavras County
posted by Brent Parker at 9:14 PM on August 11, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, this happens when you leave the door ajar.

Also, I hope no one comes into this thread and says "cool story, bro." Because that would be tragic.
posted by zinfandel at 9:17 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Defrost. And really, just ask your fucking question dude.
posted by sanko at 9:21 PM on August 11, 2010 [36 favorites]

Response by poster: Hmn. It is possible the freezer wasn't fully shut. I keep a dishrag/washtowel on the fridge grip. Pretty sure the power hasn't gone out recently, as I haven't had to reset the kitchen clocks.

Man, if this is from the towel, I'm gonna be so relieved. Brilliant! I'm gonna leave it closed and check on it in a few days. Will mark best answer if there's no change. If there's progression of this ice age, I'm coming back. With weapons.
posted by herrdoktor at 9:21 PM on August 11, 2010

Best answer: Your freezer door was not completely shut. Extremely hot days usually yield extremely high moisture content in the air (i.e., high humidity). Note also that the majority of the ice is located right in front, below where you would find the leak. The air coming in through that leak would rapidly cool and sink, heading straight down to the front of the rack there.

Hot, moisture-laden air seeps into ice-cold freezer--> condensation and how---> crazy amounts of ice---> awkward ice-cube wrangling---> you not getting any. Or perhaps she thought you were weird for storing your egg timer in the freezer.

posted by holterbarbour at 9:36 PM on August 11, 2010

Just leaving the door shut for a few days won't help. You're going to have to defrost the freezer to get rid of your little ice age. Then you can make sure the door stays shut. Same thing happened to me last week when my two year old played with our little mini freezer. If you just leave it alone the ice and frost will just stay where they are.

Next time you write your question can we get a little less creative writing class and a little more question writing? If I wasn't so bored you'd have lost me at the speeding ticket.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:49 PM on August 11, 2010

Mod note: Heya, herrdoktor, in exchange for not standing between you and getting your actual question answered here, I'm gonna politely ask that you never, ever do this sort of thing again. Ask your actual question and leave it at that, okay? Everybody, carry on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:51 PM on August 11, 2010 [19 favorites]

cortex, well said. Get a blog.
posted by jrockway at 9:56 PM on August 11, 2010

Best answer: Oops. I meant to add this, although everyone else already told you: The air in your freezer is bone dry. As outside air enters, moisture enters as well, and it freezes.

[insert long story about a car and a hippie here]

[more story about the car here]

[it's a hot day. More of that here]

[...did I mention the hippie?]

The door on your freezer was not properly sealed. It's happened to us all at some point. If you have any doubt about your freezer... [hang on... I forgot to add a really cool story about a hipster and a hippopotamus on a humid afternoon. Ah, I'll save that for another time] I was saying... if you have any doubts about your freezer, pop a thermometer in there to make sure the food you're freezing is in fact safe to eat.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:57 PM on August 11, 2010

Response by poster: So I was sitting at home, well hydrated and bored off my rocker, and found myself trying to figure out the best
Lesson learned. Forgive me.
posted by herrdoktor at 10:11 PM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

When you defrost your freezer, don't do what my (thankfully ex) housemate did, and put a pan of hot water in there near the icicles but leave the freezer on and half the contents still in it.

This will lead to more icicles. And possibly food poisoning.
posted by emilyw at 1:52 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, if your ice cubes are evaporating in their trays because you're letting them sit to long, try dumping them out into a Ziploc freezer bag after they've frozen solid enough to do so. They also will avoid absorbing any funky freezer smells that way.
posted by Jugwine at 6:36 AM on August 12, 2010

Just in case you find that it's not working right anymore: When we left our freezer slightly ajar in humid weather, it stopped working because the coils froze over. (They're not visible inside the freezer, so we didn't realize until hours later.) We had to turn it off and leave it open overnight, and then the next morning start it up again and put some ice packs and ice-cube trays in it to see when it was at freezing temp, then add back the rest of our stuff (of which some had to be thrown away, sadly, whatever wouldn't fit in our small inside freezer for the overnight defrost). Anyway, that's a possibility. But if all you have in there is Hotpockets and ice cubes, it's not a tragedy.
posted by palliser at 7:55 AM on August 12, 2010

Mod note: Seriously, askme is not for metacommentary. Skip the thin excuse-for-an-answer framing and just send him a mefimail if you want to chat.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:15 AM on August 12, 2010

Best answer: My vote is that the door didn't get closed all the way the last time you opened it. You probably took that Hot Pocket and the door got caught on something, leaving just a small crack for air exchange. Probably done in a hurry and with your mind not on it - you were thinking about picking up the hotty in your dope new whip! And I can't say that I blame you. Anyway that little bit of air exchange allowed a bunch of moisture to get in the freezer, and the compressor started working overtime just to keep the temp down, causing all that excess moisture to freeze onto everything it touched.

I think you'll probably have to completely defrost (remove/eat food, unplug, leave doors open, let dry out) to fix it.
posted by Big_B at 2:10 PM on August 12, 2010

Best answer: Herrdoktor, while I am interested in chatting with you and will send you a mefi mail to do so (rather than using askme for metacommentary) here is my answer to your question, keeping in mind I am skipping the thin-excuse-for-an-answer framing:

Anytime I've had issues with a freezer that resulted in icicles and snow like you have depicted, it's been the result of a leaky or misshapen door gasket (they sometimes tend to warp over time.) I'd advise inspecting and/or replacing the gasket, or having a service technician do so for you.

Another possibility is the magnet that holds the door closed may have weakened, and that could result in the door not properly closing, allowing air to seep into the freezer. Again, you may want to have a service technician replace it.

Much less likely, but still possible, the door itself may have warped slightly over time and is not closing properly as a result. There have been cases in the past where specific models warp over time and don't form a proper seal when shut.

At any rate, I suspect the problem is that the door is not closing properly and air is seeping inside even when the door appears to be firmly shut.
posted by notmydesk at 3:40 PM on August 12, 2010

Response by poster: Update: upon closer examination, it appeared that the seal/gasket/thing was in bad shape. But upon even closer examination, I noticed that something was keeping the freezer door from completely closing.

Anyway, I used a considerable amount of Force powers to make the door shut. I used Force Push, Force Bash, Force Fury of Five Thousand Angry Bachelors, and chunks of ice flew all over the place, and BLAMMO! Something dislodged and the freezer door shut. Completely. Perfect seal.

So now the sequence of events seems to have been: towel hanging from fridge door kept part of freezer door open. Ice formed. More ice formed. Either the ice grew out and pushed the freezer door open more, or something else must've blocked the door from closing completely, like a box of Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits kept in the top shelf. This led to the ice age.

Thanks for the answers, which I've marked as "best." Seriously speaking, you've saved me from either calling a repairman, making a huge mess, a large electricity bill, or a wasting money on a new fridge.
posted by herrdoktor at 6:20 PM on August 12, 2010

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