Frost Buildup in Freezer: Why it Happens and How to Prevent It

If you need to don a parka and grab an ice pick every time you need something from the freezer, you may be dealing with a bad case of frost buildup. (Now read that sentence again in Jeff Foxworthy's voice.) But seriously folks, it's not good if frost accumulates in the freezer - it means something isn't working properly. Discover what causes frost buildup in a freezer and what you can do to prevent it.

Why does it happen?

Frost can build up if the door is left open for a long time or opened and closed frequently. If the door seal (also known as the gasket) isn't sealing properly when the door is closed, cold air will escape and warm air will seep in. The entire purpose of the gasket is to create an airtight seal. Frost is created when the moisture in warm air freezes. 

Remember, frost buildup is a byproduct of the issue. The real issue is that, as long as the freezer compartment isn't closing securely, the freezer will need to constantly work hard to keep everything cold. This will waste energy and money. After a while, nothing in the freezer will actually be frozen and the appliance itself will be at risk of totally dying on you.

The best way to keep your freezer frost-free and working properly is to open your freezer door as infrequently as possible, as briefly as possible. Of course, if the gasket isn't creating an airtight seal when the door is closed, resolving to cut down on your trips to the freezer won't do any good. You'll need to repair or replace the gasket.

Gasket Repair

You'll need to determine whether your gasket has to be repaired or replaced. A gasket naturally attracts lots of dirt which can get in the way. Also, a gasket may dry out and crack with age. With the door closed, feel for cold air as you run your fingers around the door at the spot where the gasket meets the appliance. This will tell you where the gasket is leaking. As long as the gap is small enough (a piece of paper shouldn't be able to slide easily into the gap), there are a couple of things to try before replacing the gasket. 

If the gasket is dirty, use a rag and warm water and clean the gasket thoroughly. If the issue was simply a matter of too much dirt, the gasket should work properly now. Close the door and check for cold air leaks again.

Another tried and tested solution, although temporary, is smearing a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the gasket. The Vaseline will help seal up smaller gaps and will moisturize a dried-out gasket as well. Be sure to clean the gasket before applying the petroleum jelly. Again, this isn't a permanent solution, but it should make the seal airtight until you get a chance to replace the gasket.

If the gasket isn't sealing properly and it's torn, cracked, moldy, or warped, you'll need to replace it.

Frost Buildup Prevention Tips

  • Open your freezer door as infrequently as possible, for as briefly as possible.
  • Position the freezer away from heat sources like the water heater and furnace.
  • Give the coils on the back of the freezer some breathing room - don't push the freezer flush against the wall.
  • Clean your gasket regularly - don't let the dirt and grime get out of hand.

Regular freezer maintenance will keep your freezer operating for a long time. As my late Aunt Ida used to say: "If you treat the freezer warmly, it will always be cold."  

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