If you own a mini fridge, especially a mini fridge with a freezer section, there’s a good chance you’re going to need to go through the process of defrosting it at some point in its lifetime.
This process might feel intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but it doesn’t have to be! A mini fridge ice build-up is the same as an ice build-up in any kind of deep freezer or full-size fridge.
In this article, we’re going to fully explain why ice build-up can happen in mini-fridges, and the steps you can take to remove ice build-up if your mini fridge has too much ice. Let’s dive in!
Why Does My Mini Fridge Keep Icing Up?
Frost buildup happens inside fridges and freezers due to a lack of temperature control between the freezer section, and any warmer exterior temperatures. Even though your fridge and freezer sections are separated by a freezer door, it still can’t entirely prevent moisture from escaping and then encountering warmer/cooler temperatures.
This lack of temperature control is the most common culprit when it comes to ice buildup in a fridge or freezer. Inside your mini fridge, residual moisture from the fridge contents or even outside air will interact with the freezer and freeze. This will slowly but surely lead up to a huge buildup of ice, usually coating the outside of your freezer bin, or inside of the freezer section.
If you find your freezer is constantly experiencing ice buildup, it could be a result of a number of common issues. These include:
- Broken Seal: The freezer door seal on your mini fridge could be slightly broken, not keeping the cold air in. When this seal is compromised, warm air gets in, and ice forms.
- Open Door: Ice building in your freezer could also be a result of accidentally leaving the door open. Even if you leave your door open by accident for just 15 minutes, it can let enough outside air and humidity inside to trigger an ice buildup.
- Broken Thermostat: There’s a chance that the thermostat dial on your mini fridge may be broken, causing your freezer coils to trigger on and off and thus not maintain a proper temperature.
- Broken Defrost Timer: Most modern-day refrigerators will have a defrost timer, which will work throughout the day to regularly run cycles to stop ice builds. If this is broken ice will eventually form.
- Broken Defrost Heater: Similar to the defrost timer, your mini fridge might have a defrost heater, which is supposed to help ice melt that is in contact with freezer evaporator coils. If it’s broken this process won’t happen, and ice builds.
Why Do I Need to Defrost My Mini Fridge?
You might be wondering why exactly defrosting a mini fridge even matters. While some people see frost buildup as more of a common annoyance, it can actually cause a lot more damage than you might think.
The biggest reason why preventing frost buildup matters is because of dangerous pathogens that can form in your ice buildup. Fridges in general can breed a ton of bacteria, simply because they are storing foods that can go bad with time. Dangerous food bacterias and pathogens can become frozen in your ice buildup, then start circulating through your fridge and impacting other stored foods.
Frost builds, especially on the back wall of a freezer, can also impact the performance of your fridge. It’s common for ice builds to lead to clogged vents and damage parts of the freezer like condenser coils which can lead to a broken fridge.
How To Prevent Mini Fridge Ice Build Up
There are different things you can do to help prevent frost builds inside of your mini fridge freezer. Try doing the following to properly maintain your mini fridge:
Keep Doors Closed
This one may sound obvious, but do your best to always ensure you keep your freezer door closed after going in there. Try to make it a habit to always ensure your freezer door is fully closed, and that there is no damage or bubbling happening around the door seal.
To check this, simply feel around the door seal, and try to see if you feel any cold airflow. If your fridge seal isn’t working properly, a good tip is to try rubbing the seal with petroleum jelly to stop air from escaping until you can replace the seal.
Check Door Hinges
While the door seal can often lead to ice buildup, door hinges can also affect the security of your door. If you think the hinges on your fridge door are weak, try to tighten them with a screwdriver.
Don’t Block Vents
When you first get your new refrigerator, check out the interior before you start putting food inside to locate the vents inside the fridge section and freezer section. Once you know where they are, do your best to ensure anything you store in there doesn’t block them. This will promote better air circulation and a better constant temperature.
Keep Fridge Away From the Sun
It’s also a good idea to try to keep your fridge out of direct sunlight if you can. Sometimes, the heat from the sun can impact your fridge’s thermostat, causing it to overwork itself. Over time this can damage your fridge’s condenser coils and lead to poor temperature control, and eventually, frost buildup due to faulty equipment.
Clean it Regularly
Regularly cleaning your fridge can also help to prevent frost buildup. Try to regularly empty your fridge and disinfect the shelves and walls, then dry it completely with a dry towel. This will get rid of harmful bacteria buildup and can help to remove any remaining moisture from foods in the fridge to create a dryer environment.
Keep Food Spaced Out
Another great tip for promoting better air circulation in your fridge is to space out foods, and not overpack your freezer or fridge! It can be tempting to cram as much as you can into your space, but this will block vents and not allow air to properly flow through your unit.
Over time, this will lead to ice buildup, and can even damage your fridge’s parts and have it not stay as cool. If you find your refrigerator is nearly always packed, it could be time for a second fridge!
Pick the Right Setting
Most people think the best thing to do for their freezer is to just put it in the coldest setting possible, but you shouldn’t do that! This can cause over freezing, and eventually, frost buildup.
Instead, you need to find a freezer temperature that is ideal for you, depending on where your fridge is.
Carefully Store Wet Foods
You should also take care to be careful about the way you store wet foods in your fridge. Wet foods can naturally infiltrate and circulate through your unit, bringing moisture throughout your fridge and freezer.
To avoid condensation and evaporation like this causing frost buildups, take care when storing wet foods. If foods are hot, allow them to totally cool before storing them so containers don’t form condensation in the fridge. If storing liquids, always keep them in sealed containers, so they don’t infiltrate the fridge air.
How to Defrost Mini Fridge Ice Buildup
Defrosting a mini fridge is actually a pretty straightforward process! Here are the steps you need to take to manually defrost a mini fridge:
Step 1: Empty Your Mini Fridge
The first step is to take everything you’re storing inside your refrigerator out. This includes both the items in the main body of your mini fridge, anything in the freezer, and anything being stored in the refrigerator door.
The process of defrosting a mini fridge does take some time, so it’s a good idea to find a sufficient storage area for food items. If you need to store food during the defrost process, consider storing them in a cooler on ice.
Step 2: Turn Off Your Fridge
Once your mini fridge is empty, you need to turn it off. The defrost process will simply consist of allowing the ice to melt while the refrigerator is unplugged.
Step 3: Lay Down Towels
As you are allowing the ice in your mini fridge to slowly melt away, you’ll want to take steps to soak up the excess water that will accumulate as the ice melts. The easiest way to do this is to place towels underneath your mini fridge, and inside the fridge interior.
Step 4: Allow Ice to Defrost
Now, it’s simply a waiting game! Allow your mini fridge to slowly melt away the built-up ice.
This process can take anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on the severity of the ice build-up.
If you have any particularly large chunks of ice, you can try to chip away at them to remove pieces. Proceed with this step with caution, though, as chipping at the ice could unintentionally damage your fridge if you use too much force.
It’s best to do this when the ice is partially melted to make the chipping process easier and minimize potential damage to your fridge. You can look into buying a fridge ice scraper to do this.
Step 5: Dry and Clean Mini Fridge
Once your mini fridge has completely defrosted, you’ll want to make sure it is completely dry. You can use a dry towel or microfiber cloth here to ensure you soak up any and all leftover moisture in the fridge and freezer sections.
This is also a good opportunity to give your mini fridge a really thorough deep clean while being unplugged and empty of food. A great cleaning solution for your fridge is a mixture of two parts hot water, and one part vinegar. You can either put this in a spray bottle or simply use a wet rag to clean your mini fridge walls, fridge doors, and the interior shelves.
Once cleaned, wipe down one more time with a dry towel to remove residual moisture from the cleaning solution. Note that while this homemade solution can leave a vinegar odor, it should disappear after 24 hours.
Step 6: Plug In Fridge
Now you’re essentially done! Once clean and dry, you can plug your mini fridge back in, close the doors, and set it to its proper temperature.
After this defrost process, it can take your mini fridge a few hours to reach its ideal temperature once more. Make sure your fridge has hit its ideal temperature before you open the door and put your food back inside. Storing food inside of your mini fridge before it hits the right temperature can be dangerous, and lead to spoiled food.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have more questions? Here are the most common questions people have regarding mini-fridges and the defrosting process.
How long does it take to defrost a mini fridge?
In general, the defrosting process for a mini fridge can take anywhere from 2-3 hours. However, this timing can vary for a number of reasons.
The timeline of 2-3 hours refers to regular defrosting, where you’re melting ice build-up that’s a 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. However, if you’ve allowed your mini fridge to build up ice for longer than 3 months, the ice layer could be thicker, and thus take longer to melt.
How long does it take for a mini fridge to get cold?
A mini fridge takes longer to get cold than you’d think! In general, to warm up a mini fridge takes around 24 hours at minimum to reach an ideal consistent cold temperature. This can take even longer for freezer sections in a mini fridge.
If this process takes longer than 24 hours, there could be a chance that your fridge’s cooling mechanisms have become faulty or damaged.
Why do I need to defrost a mini fridge?
Defrosting a mini fridge is important for a number of reasons! One of the biggest reasons why is to prevent damage to your mini-fridges parts.
When frost builds up in a mini fridge, it can impact the fridges working parts, block vents, and inhibit air circulation. With time this can compromise the function of your fridge, and lead to poorer temperature control, and even a breakdown of the overall system.
The other reason why defrosting a mini fridge is important is related to food safety. The ice build-up in a mini fridge can contain dangerous bacteria and pathogens from the food items stored in your fridge, which can eventually infect other things stored in the freezer. This can lead to sickness and other problems, which are no good!
Do mini fridges have defrost settings?
Depending on your specific mini fridge model, there is a chance your mini fridge has a defrost setting, meaning you don’t have to perform a manual defrost.
A manual defrost involves emptying and unplugging your mini fridge, allowing it to naturally melt and drain before cleaning it and plugging it back in.
With a built-in defrost setting, the process can be slightly different. To do this, empty the fridge, keep it closed, put a drip pan in place, and push the defrost button. Your fridge will then begin the process of lowering in temperature, allowing all ice to melt, then bringing itself back up to temperature once the process is complete. Once done, all you have to do is remove the drip pan to discard melted water.
How often should I defrost a mini fridge?
In general, it’s a good idea to try and defrost your mini fridge at least once every 3 months.
Some people might not think this is necessary, but even small, minimal ice buildups in your mini fridge can cause damage and harm over time. If you regularly defrost your mini fridge you can avoid a lot of potential issues.
Defrosting regularly can also help to make the process, in general, much easier! Smaller buildups will be much faster to clean than ice build-ups that take place over 6-12 month periods.
Can I make the defrosting process faster?
Though the defrosting process will always take a fair amount of time, there are some things you can do to make it faster.
If you find you have some particularly stuck ice buildup, you can try to use the power of steam to get rid of it. To do this, pour hot water into a bowl and place it in your mini fridge, then close the door. The steam should cause your fridge interior to get hot, and melt the ice buildup much faster.
Can I use a hair dryer to defrost a mini fridge?
No, you should never use a hair dryer to assist with defrosting a mini fridge.
While a blow dryer might help to melt frost, it will also make quick work of melting the plastic interior of your fridge! Using a blow dryer could potentially lead to warped or melted plastic inside of your fridge, making this process not worth it.
If you really do need to speed up the defrost process, it’s best to use the hot water method outlined above.
Hey, I’m Joey. I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid and love everything about it. You can find my writing about food, kitchen appliances (such as blenders) and much more. Thanks for stopping by!