BETHANY, Mo. – The ground has thawed. You might want to thaw your freezer as well for a yearly spring cleaning.

Keep manual freezers frost-free by defrosting them annually or whenever the frost is 1/4 inch thick or more, advises Janet Hackert, University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.

When you defrost, don’t leave the food out of the freezer for more than two hours, Hackert says.

Unplug the freezer. Put frozen food in insulated coolers or in newspaper-lined cardboard boxes to keep food cold.

Remove frost by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Put a towel in the bottom of the freezer to catch melting ice. Use a plastic spatula or wooden spoon to scrape out ice. Knives and metal spatulas can damage the freezer’s liner.

When the freezer is frost-free, wipe the interior with a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda per quart of water. Sponge clean with water only and dry with a towel or cloth.

Turn the freezer back on and close the door to let it cool. Mark items that have been out of the freezer for first use. Operate the freezer at zero degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

Cull items that need to be used soon, Hackert says. Toss or compost items of unknown age for safety and quality concerns.

MU Extension publication MP556, “Storing Food in the Freezer,” lists recommended freezer storage times. The free publication is available at

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