A freezer frozen solid.
June 22, 2005 5:24 PM   Subscribe

I have a pint-sized fridge. When I moved in it was about 30% full of frost, now, with the onset of the humid season, it's about 95% full. Is there some interesting way to get rid of it, besides just shutting it off and waiting? (I don't own a hair dryer.)

Gratuitous pic:

My completely frozen freezer
posted by crickets to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
Well, this involves even more waiting, but this happened to our little fridge at work, and I turned the temperature to "less cold" and it slowly defrosted. I think I see a little drip catcher in your picture. This fills up with water and every day you'll have to dump it out or soak up it somehow. We only did it this way because we couldn't get everyone to remove their stuff, so we couldn't just unplug it.
posted by peep at 5:28 PM on June 22, 2005

Normally, I'd place a towel in it and then douse it with hot water. You seem to be past that point. Maybe controlled bursts of hot salt water?

Don't chisel at it with a knife. You risk the knife glancing off the ice and into the bed of the freezer, which is where the refrigerant usually is. Then you wind up with no fridge or freezer at all, and possibly a frost burn on your stabbin' hand.
posted by boo_radley at 5:32 PM on June 22, 2005

You can chip away if you want with screwdriver or knife, but I don't recommend it. You won't totally clear the ice away, you'll risk puncturing tubes of coolant, and it's no fun to do. Wait... no, it is fun to do. Don't do it, anyway. It's too risky.

Either do the full-on defrost or do it gradually, as peep suggests.
posted by dreamsign at 5:33 PM on June 22, 2005

If it comes to using a hair dryer - they are really fairly cheap at the drug store. 10 bucks or so for one that would work perfectly fine for your purposes.
posted by Wolfie at 5:34 PM on June 22, 2005

Get a putty knife and heat up the blade in boiling water. It's pretty easy to work a hot putty knife between the ice and the freezer wall --- you should be able to pry the ice loose without too much force.
posted by nathan_teske at 6:21 PM on June 22, 2005

I used to use a blowtorch for this problem. Just be careful not to melt any plastic.
posted by bh at 6:37 PM on June 22, 2005

The guy who came to repair our frig when my mom damaged it by chipping at the ice says that impatient people are his best customers. I'm just saying...
posted by sexymofo at 6:48 PM on June 22, 2005

Instead of the towel you can also put in a few bowls of hot water (once they fit).
posted by fvw at 6:50 PM on June 22, 2005

boil water on the stove and put the pot into the freezer till it cools, then do it again.
posted by judith at 7:01 PM on June 22, 2005

How good is the seal between the door and the frame of the fridge? Maybe cleaning the frame so the rubber gasket will form a better seal will help prevent it in the future? Does anyone know of any products (liquid silicon?) that can "renew" old gaskets?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 7:05 PM on June 22, 2005

Put hot tap water in a sprayer (mister) set the spray to a jet, and cut it off in chunks. Almost as fast as a laser gun.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:47 PM on June 22, 2005

Most people have a vacuum cleaner around. Plug your hose into the exhaust and point it at the frozen freezer. Not as hot as a hair dryer, but probably much more flow. It should defrost the freezer in 30-60 min, so you don't even really need to worry about the contents of the fridge other than to move them out of the way of the water/ice that may fall.
posted by GeneticFreek at 9:52 PM on June 22, 2005

You may be getting accumulation of frost because the freon charge in the fridge is low. You may need a fridge repairman to recharge it (although it may also have a leak).
posted by Doohickie at 9:57 PM on June 22, 2005

Doohickie, can you explain how that works? It doesn't make any sense to me at all...
posted by Chuckles at 11:34 PM on June 22, 2005

Leave it open, aim a fan to blow across it, and cool the room.
posted by pracowity at 12:47 AM on June 23, 2005

Don't use a knife, but a spoon can be effective or a tough spatula.
posted by biffa at 3:06 AM on June 23, 2005

Chuckles: All I know is that when charges are low on air conditioning systems and refrigerators, the coils ice up. Not exactly sure "how it works"; I only got a C in Thermodynamics.
posted by Doohickie at 6:48 AM on June 23, 2005

A low refrigerant charge will sometimes cause localized icing because the thermostat sense tube isn't getting cold enough because there is only enough refrigerant to cool part of the evaporator coil. So even though the part of coil with the ice is below 0 the unit thinks it need to cool more and the compressor runs continuously which can cause more icing. Rinse lather repeat until the coil is completely iced over though usually with a low charge the unit isn't capable of sustaining that much ice.

I've seen more damage by impatient people than I can shake a stick at. Do not use electric kettles, knives, chisels, screwdrivers, spatulas(even plastic), forks, hammers, knitting needles, ice picks[1] or any other object you would mind people poking you with. Even a wooden spoon can damage the soft aluminum coils of the evaporator. Be warned that if you damage the unit and this is a rental you will have to pay. Many refrigerators have internal pieces made with a fairly low temp thermoplastic. 80-90C will deform some of this stuff.

Looks like the fridge is a really small unit. If you can haul it outside you could turn a hose on the ice build up to quickly melt it.

PS: refrigerators should be defrosted whenever you get a 1/4" of frost on the evaporator. If you do it at that point it takes about an hour and your fridge isn't straining to cool stuff down.

[1] These are all the cause of punctured evaporators that I've changed out over the years. Well except for the electric kettles which result in defrost tray and evaporator door replacements.
posted by Mitheral at 9:44 AM on June 23, 2005

Another vote for avoiding the use of anything sharp: While defrosting an old freezer with a knife a few years ago, I managed to puncture it. A nice whooshing noise and mist as if a genie was emerging from the freezer, and it became a worthless hunk of metal.

With a fridge that small, I'd probably just go to the supermarket and get a block of dry ice and a styrofoam cooler, move all of your food into the cooler, then leave the fridge outside unplugged for a day or two.
posted by mmoncur at 1:09 PM on June 23, 2005

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