I don’t know about you but I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my deep chest freezer for years.
It’s great when you need that extra space for the Thanksgiving turkey or when you need to stock up on the latest frozen pizza sale.
But when I need to find an item or worse, try to pull out that whole frozen chicken at the bottom, I just want to scream.
That is until I found a way to avoid those headaches.
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If you have a deep chest freezer that you love but sometimes hate, I get it.
Below I will give you the steps and tips you need to:
- empty and purge your freezer
- defrost, drain, and clean your freezer
- and finally, organize your chest freezer the easy way
Cleaning Out Your Chest Freezer
Emptying Your Freezer
I find the best day to clean and organize your deep chest freezer is the day before a big grocery shopping trip.
This way, the refrigerator/freezer has fewer items.
So, before you begin the steps in this post, make sure you have room to relocate your items.
If you don’t have the room to put everything in your refrigerator’s freezer, that’s ok.
Place bulky meats like a whole chicken or roast in the refrigerator instead.
They won’t have much of a chance to defrost.
Save your refrigerator’s freezer for items like ice cream that can easily melt in the refrigerator.
If you just have too much, consider using a cooler (filled with ice, of course).
Borrow coolers from friends and neighbors, if need be.
When your chest freezer is empty, go ahead and unplug it.
Don’t just switch it off.
It’s better to completely disconnect your freezer to prevent any possibility of electric shock.
Then allow some time for it to defrost.
Examining and Purging Your Freezer’s Contents
As you relocate your frozen foods, check each item to see if it is still good.
If it looks or smells funny, toss it.
Freezer-burned food is safe to eat but personally, I would get rid of it.
It’s up to you to decide.
If you are uncertain how long you should be keeping frozen foods, click here for the FDA’s food storage guidelines.
Use these guidelines to help you decide what needs to go and what you can keep.
Draining Your Deep Chest Freezer
Once you’ve relocated all your foods, remove any baskets, bins, or dividers.
Once your freezer has defrosted, you will need to drain any standing water.
Follow your chest freezer’s recommendations for draining it.
In case you don’t have the manual, look for a spout on the outside of the freezer where you can connect a garden hose to it.
Others like my own, only have an opening (capped) and no way to attach a hose.
We keep our freezer in the garage so draining our freezer isn’t a hassle.
However, if your chest freezer is located in the home, you may need to either move the freezer outside to drain it or sop up as much water as possible with towels rather than opening the spout.
Note that not all of the water will drain so you will still need to use some sort of towel to absorb the rest.
For Small Chest Freezers:
Because I’m short, I usually tip the chest freezer onto its side to clean it properly.
It’s really the only way I can reach the bottom of the freezer.
You are not supposed to do that because it displaces the oil in the compressor.
However, if you can clean the freezer quickly, do so and then stand it upright again.
If you had it tipped for 30 minutes then let it stand for 30 minutes before plugging it back again.
If you had it tipped for 1 hour then let it stand 1 hour before plugging it back again.
You get the picture.
2023 Update: This year we purchased a larger chest freezer and realized that tipping wouldn’t be a good idea.
Instead, I purchased a telescoping car scrubber (seen below) making it so easy to clean the inside of the freezer.
Homemade Cleaner Recipes You Can Use for Your Freezer
If your freezer requires some serious cleaning I suggest this recipe:
- 3 cups of baking soda
- 1 tablespoon of dish detergent
- enough water to create a paste
Slather the inside of your freezer with the paste above. Then spray with vinegar. Let it sit for a bit.
Use a scrub brush if there are any stubborn stains.
Next, with a wet cloth (I recommend using a hand towel), begin wiping down the inside of the freezer until you have collected all of the paste. Then, use a dry cloth to wipe down the surfaces.
If your freezer just needs a little cleaning, use this recipe:
- 1 cup of vinegar
- 2 cups of water
- about 2-3 drops of dish liquid
Mix the above ingredients into a spray bottle and spray the inside of your freezer. Then wipe down with a damp cloth.
Once your freezer is cleaned, go ahead and plug it in.
You will need to wait a bit for the freezer to be at the ideal temperature before returning your items.
This may take a while so, in the meantime, go ahead and clean those removable baskets and bins.
You can use any of the recipes above on them as well.
My Favorite and Free Organizers
The following is how I came about creating my organizers.
Not only did it not cost me a thing, but it kept my freezer clean.
Oh, and it makes it easy to remove heavy food items like that whole chicken.
So, what am I referring to?
I repurpose reusable wine bottle bags that I get for free from my grocer.
For a while, I was getting free wine bottle bags from my grocery store.
These cloth bags come with 6 divided pockets for small wine bottles.
While I liked receiving these bags for free, I started to accumulate them because I forgot to bring them with me whenever I shopped for wine.
And because of the pockets, I really didn’t have another use for them.
One day I decided to cut out the dividers so that I could reuse them for all my grocery shopping.
And this worked.
Soon after that, while running late from grocery shopping, I shoved the bags that were holding my frozen foods into the chest freezer until later when I could put my food away properly.
When I returned home, I immediately went to the freezer to remove the bags to put the items away in the very same freezer.
I can’t tell you how nice it was to remove the whole bags of food effortlessly.
Then came my lightbulb moment.
Keep reading below to see how best to organize your freezer with wine bottle bags.
First, Sort Your Foods
What you will want to do is sort your food.
Personally, I sort them by chicken, other meats, potatoes, snacks, bread, and breakfast.
I suggest sorting whichever way makes sense to you.
Sorting your food will also help you determine how many bags you may need.
If you have wine bottle bags, go ahead and cut out the dividers.
You can also use regular reusable bags but make sure they are washable.
Next, fit your sorted foods into the bags.
Then label the bags.
You will want to label the outside of the bag on either side and most importantly, on the bag handles.
This will help make finding what you need so much easier.
Oh, and, I no longer need any of those organizing baskets.
Getting rid of the basket actually freed up my freezer space even more.
I no longer had to wrestle with it when placing something weirdly shaped like a whole turkey.
Below are pictures of my deep chest freezer with two layers of bags.
And I still have room for more.
Make sure to lay the bag handles on top of the bags instead of letting them fall to the sides.
Whenever I put the bags in they actually do this automatically.
This will make finding the handles easier.
And because I label the handles I avoid pulling out a bag I don’t need.
2023 Update/Reader’s Tip
I had a reader who loved the above method for organizing her food.
However, she took it to the next level of organization.
She purchased different colored bags and sorted her foods accordingly.
Such a clever way to avoid having to label bags and it makes it even quicker to find your bags.
Maintaining Your Deep Chest Freezer
Now, because I use these bags, my freezer stays relatively clean and I only clean it once a year mostly to remove any ice/frost buildup.
If you decide to use this method, you will see what I mean.
Also, once a month, I replace all the bags.
I toss the used bags into the wash with my kitchen towels and reuse them the following month.
These bags are normally 99 cents so if I see bags getting frayed from washing and use, I don’t mind shelling out a buck here or there for a bag.
It’s worth it just to keep my freezer clean and to make it easy to remove my foods from the deepest part of my freezer!