Thursday, September 28, 2023


Defrosting the RV freezer/fridge correctly

By Chris Dougherty
Chris Dougherty is a certified RV technician. Here is a letter he received from a reader about an RV fridge while he was serving as’s technical editor.

Dear Chris,
Thank you for all your available helpful advice! Can you please tell me the best and fastest way to defrost the Dometic fridge in our coach? The fins get completely covered in ice every few weeks and there’s no temperature control. We are full-timers and defrosting this often is really inconvenient.

My husband was so impatient the last time that he did not even turn it off. He stuck a hair dryer in the fridge and freezer compartments, closed the doors and ended up melting one of the freezer door compartments, then put the food back in again while it was nice and hot. I will not let him do it like that again! Please help! —Ardis


Dear Ardis,
Thank you for the compliment!

The best way to defrost a refrigerator is to shut it off and open it up and let it defrost slowly. The manufacturers are clear that under no circumstances, for the reasons you stated above, should a heating appliance be used to defrost the unit.

Additionally, no tool should be used to remove the frost, like an awl or scraper. A pan of warm (not hot) water can be used to accelerate the process, but time is the main factor. When done, make sure the refrigerator is dry.

This is tough especially for full-timers, as the refrigerator runs continuously and is always loaded. Frosting accelerates when the refrigerator is opened frequently, especially in a humid environment.

This is what Norcold recommends to defrost RV freezer/fridge

The cooling fins of the refrigerator operate at below freezing temperature and will naturally form frost from humidity, which is always present in the air. The humidity inside the refrigerator increases with:
– higher outside temperature and humidity
– the storage of non-sealed fresh foods or warm foods
– the amount of time that the door(s) are open
– any air leakage into the refrigerator.

Although the refrigerator is not frost-free, it is made to limit frost on the cooling fins. At regular intervals, the temperature control system automatically melts most of the frost from the cooling fins. The water from the cooling fins drains into a collection cup that is attached to the back of the refrigerator. The heat of the cooling system evaporates the water from the collection cup.

It is normal for frost to collect inside the freezer. Excess frost decreases the cooling performance of the refrigerator. Defrost the refrigerator and freezer as necessary:
– Remove all food from the refrigerator.
– Turn the refrigerator OFF.

NOTE: Defrosting the refrigerator makes excess water inside the refrigerator.
– Remove the drain hose from the drip cup at the rear of the refrigerator.
– Put the drain hose into a half-gallon or larger container to capture water.
– Put dry towels (etc.) inside the refrigerator and freezer to absorb melted frost.

Do not use anything hot in refrigerator

CAUTION: High temperatures can cause the inside surfaces of the refrigerator to warp or melt. Do not use pans of HOT water, a hair dryer, or any other high-temperature devices to defrost the refrigerator. Do not use any hard or sharp objects to remove frost. Damage to the interior of the refrigerator can occur.

– To increase the speed of defrosting, put pans of WARM water in the refrigerator and freezer.
– Take out the wet towels (etc.) and dry the interior.
– Remove the drain hose from the large container and put the drain hose back into the drip cup.
– Remove the large container from the enclosure.
– Start up the refrigerator.
– Allow the refrigerator to cool down.
– Return all food to the refrigerator.

Also, some of our readers say they take care of the frosting and defrosting issue simply and quickly by lining the freezer with “very thin, flexible cutting boards. Cut the boards to fit the walls, floor and ceiling of your freezer. Put the panels in place – the food in the freezer will hold them in place. When ready to remove frost, simply take the food out, remove the thin panels, shake the buildup off them and replace. Total time for defrost: about 5 minutes.” Thanks, Walt K.! [Editor’s note: These super-thin cutting boards are available at Amazon.]


Easy tips to make sure your RV’s fridge stays cool all summer long


RV Travel
RV Travel
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1 year ago

I found a great way to speed this up. I filled a dish soap bottle with fairly warm water and just kept squirting it on the top over the fins. Be careful when dislodging the ice though; the fins are sharp.

2 years ago

I wonder if using velcro to attach the cutting boards to the sides and ceiling of the freezer would make it even easier?

William B McGullam
2 years ago

If you have a 4 door Dometic refrigerator you won’t have any coils in the freezer section. You will have what looks like 8 screw heads through the rear wall of the freezer… these are part of the temperature sensing for the freezer and should NOT be covered by a mat or flexible cutting board!

Also to the person that asked about the defrost timer on a Dometic 4 door unit the first defrost cycle will start 60 hrs after you turn the unit on and then every 48 hrs after that. When getting ready for a trip I always turn my fridge on at around 2pm. By doing this it means my defrost cycle will start a day and a half later at 2am when the fridge stay closed for several more hours recouping it’s temp. from the defrost cycle. Not sure if other units are the same but it’s worth looking into.

2 years ago

Does anyone know if it’s possible to turn off the automatic defrost on the norcold refrigerator? We have thermometers in our refrigerator and it gets awfully warm when it goes into the automatic defrost.

Maureen H.-B.
2 years ago

I place a very thin vinyl placemat up against the back wall of the freezer. When it is time to defrost, just take out the placemat and all the ice comes out with it.. QUICK and EASY!

Glenda Alexander
2 years ago

Here’s how I defrost my freezer. I do it when my supply of frozen foods is low. (1) Remove the ice trays and place two of them in the sink. (2) Place all the food on top of the two ice trays. (3) Place the other ice trays on top of the food and cover them with newspapers or towels to maintain the temperature. (4) Place newspapers on the bottom of the freezer. (5) Go for a walk, meal, whatever… (5) Return home and remove the soggy newspapers and put them in a trash bag. (6) Sop up the condensation from all surfaces of the freezer. (7) Return food to the freezer; it will not be thawed out.

2 years ago

great idea

Ron Lane
2 years ago

Your story says a lot about your husband’s intelligence.

Diane Mc
2 years ago

We’ve been using this process for the 19 yrs we’ve owned our coach. It takes 10 to 15 mins max. And yes, we use the hair dryer. However, we would never do what the gentleman mentioned in the article did. As husband moves the hair dryer back and forth (does not hold in one place) as soon as the ice starts to melt, I remove the large pieces of ice with my fingers….no tools….and put them in a bowl, then discard in sink. Not trying to melt all of the ice, just enough to slide it off the fins. We take a couple of long trips, so max we have to do it is 2 times a year. Many times it’s not bad enough and wait until we get home and let it naturally defrost after we empty the the refrigerator & freezer.

2 years ago

Good information on what aggravates the frost-up process, thanks.

People probably already know this, but a good way to keep the food cold while an empty fridge defrosts, if you don’t travel with big coolers: do the defrost the day after laundry, so your laundry baskets are empty. Line with a blanket/afghan/tarp whatever. Put the food in there, wrap up.

Judy G
2 years ago

I had purchased a clip-on fan to make me more comfortable when reading, etc. Clipped it to the freezer edge, facing in, with the door open. Did a quick job of defrosting and just had to ‘sop’ up the water with a towel.

H goff
2 years ago

Ours has a drip tube that routes meltwater outside

Chros Crosswhite
2 years ago

Defrosting a freezer goes a bit faster if there is a fan blowing air into it.

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