Defrost switch? The 101 of best practices in defrosting

Written by Adam Morris
5 Min read

Why do we need to defrost a refrigerator?

Defrosting is a crucial process for maintaining the efficiency and longevity of refrigerators, which are essential household appliances relied upon by millions of people worldwide to keep their food fresh and prevent spoilage. Despite most refrigerator owners being familiar with their appliance’s basic functions, the defrost switch is a feature that often goes unnoticed. Typically located on the front of the refrigerator, this switch is frequently pressed by many people without understanding its purpose and importance.

It’s important to note that while most modern refrigerators have automatic defrost cycles, some older models may require manual defrosting. In these cases, the defrost switch is even more crucial, as it allows you to manually activate the defrost cycle.

Using the switch properly is crucial to ensuring your refrigerator functions efficiently. Most switches are designed to be pressed for a short period, typically between 15 and 20 minutes, after which the switch will turn off automatically. It’s essential to avoid leaving the switch on for an extended period, as this can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the heating element and potentially damage your refrigerator.

Understanding the purpose and importance of the switch is crucial in maintaining the efficiency and longevity of your refrigerator. By using it correctly and as needed, you can help ensure that your appliance runs in top condition, saving energy and potentially extending its lifespan.

The red button Is a defrost switch

The red button you see on the front of your refrigerator is a defrost switch—which should be used regularly to melt any frost or ice buildup on your appliance. Without regular use, frost can build up on the coils, making it difficult for your fridge to maintain an optimal temperature and causing damage to the unit itself. By pressing the switch, you can help prevent this from happening.

defrost switch

Transfer perishable food

Before you begin, transfer any high-perishable food, such as fresh produce, eggs, or dairy, to an insulated cooler or another refrigerated area. This will help keep your food cold while you’re defrosting the appliance.

Avoid sharp objects

Avoid using sharp objects such as knives or screwdrivers to break the ice—it could cause damage to the internal components of your appliance. Instead, use boiling water to slowly melt any frost buildup.

Clean the refrigerator

Once the process is complete, take the time to give your refrigerator a good clean. Wipe down the shelves, drawers, and walls with a mild cleaning solution and dry thoroughly.

Prevent frost buildup

Now that you understand the importance of pressing the switch regularly, here are a few simple steps you can take to help prevent frost buildup in your refrigerator:

Keep the door closed

Make sure to check that the door is closed securely each time you put food in or take food out of the fridge. Leaving it open even slightly can cause frost buildup on internal components.

Check the temperature

Set the thermostat to the correct temperature to ensure the refrigerator is running at its optimal level. The ideal temperature for a refrigerator is between 35°F and 38°F (1.6°C and 3.3°C).

Don’t store warm food

When putting leftovers or large dishes in the refrigerator, allow them to cool down to a safe temperature before storing. Warm food will cause condensation, leading to frost buildup.


Pressing the red button on your refrigerator regularly is essential for keeping the appliance running in top condition. Best practices for defrosting your refrigerator include transferring high-perishable food, avoiding sharp objects, using boiling water, and cleaning the refrigerator. To prevent frost buildup, keep the door closed, check the temperature, and don’t store warm food. Following these tips and regularly use of the switch will help you save time, stress, and money in the long run.

Expert Tip:

To prevent frost buildup in between defrosting cycles, place a bowl of salt in the fridge—the salt will absorb moisture and help keep the appliance running smoothly.

Why Is defrosting important?

Removing the frost from your refrigerator is important for a variety of reasons. By melting any frost or ice buildup, you can ensure that the appliance is able to maintain an optimal temperature and prevent damage to the unit. Regularly defrosting also helps avoid wasting energy, as a refrigerator with a heavy layer of frost must work harder to keep cool.

What Is an automatic defrost refrigerator?

In this case, the refrigerator is equipped with an internal timer that turns on at regular intervals and melts the frost or ice buildup automatically. This type of feature is convenient as it requires less effort to keep the appliance running in top condition. However, you may still need to do it manually on occasion.

How often should I defrost my refrigerator?

Ideally, you should defrost your refrigerator periodically (once every 3-6 months). If you notice frost buildup quite often, you may need to increase the frequency of your attempts.

Can I use a hairdryer to remove the frost?

While a hair dryer is an effective way to remove frost in a refrigerator, it should be used with caution. Overheating the appliance can cause damage to the internal components, so be sure to keep the heat setting to a minimum.

What safety measures should I take when removing the frost from a refrigerator?

When defrosting a refrigerator, always wear rubber gloves, safety glasses, and a face shield. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of an emergency. Never attempt to defrost a refrigerator if it is plugged in, as this can cause severe shock.

Do I need special tools to defrost my refrigerator?

No, you don’t need any special tools to defrost your refrigerator. You can use boiling water, a damp cloth, a spatula, and a vacuum cleaner to remove any frost buildup.

What else can I do to maintain my refrigerator?

To keep your refrigerator in top condition, make sure to check the door seal regularly. A broken or worn seal can cause warm air to enter the appliance, resulting in condensation and frost buildup. Additionally, it’s a good idea to regularly check the temperature settings—the ideal temperature for a refrigerator is between 35 °F and 38 °F (1.6 °C and 3.3 °C).

What should I do if my refrigerator does not defrost properly?

If your refrigerator does not seem to defrost properly, the first step is to check the temperature settings. If the thermostat is set too low, it can cause frost buildup. Additionally, you can try using boiling water to gently melt any ice buildup. If these solutions don’t work, it’s time to call a qualified technician.

Can I use a refrigerator without a defrost switch?

Yes, some modern refrigerators are equipped with an auto-defrost feature, which eliminates the need for a defrost switch. However, even if your appliance has an auto-defrost feature, it’s still important to regularly check for frost buildup and manually defrost when necessary.

Are there specific requirements for storing food in a refrigerator?

Yes, there are certain guidelines for storing food in a refrigerator. High-perishables foods, such as meat and dairy, should always be kept at the bottom of the refrigerator. Additionally, leftovers should be stored in a shallow container and placed on the top shelf. Eating any food that is past its expiration date could cause food poisoning.

Refrigerators are a common appliance all around the world, and many do not understand the purpose of the red defrost switch located on the front. This article has provided an informative guide on what the defrost switch does, why it’s important to use it, and how you can use it to maintain your refrigerator in top condition. Best practices for defrosting include transferring perishable food, avoiding sharp objects, using boiling water, cleaning the refrigerator and preventing frost buildup by keeping the door closed, checking the temperature, and not storing warm food. Remember to regularly defrost your refrigerator about every 3–6 months for optimal results.

Appliances made simple. 

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