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how to defrost a mini fridge without making a mess

Mini fridges are a handy way to keep things cold and close at hand. But as time goes by, they can fill up with unwanted ice that makes them work harder and reduces available storage space. Defrosting is the best way to reverse this, but it can make a huge mess if you’re not careful.

In addition, the extra ice can gum up the works on the mini fridge and cause damage if not burn out the motor.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to defrost a mini fridge without making a mess (check out the buying guide on the best mini fridges), you’re in luck! Here I’ll break down the entire process step-by-step, offer tips to make your life easier, and touch on a few safety considerations you’ll want to keep in mind. Ready to begin? Then let’s get going!

How to Defrost a Mini Fridge Without Making a Mess

Remove mini fridge contents and the remove power source. Plan ahead and gather needed items to contain water/moisture. See bullet points below:

  • Observe all safety suggestions
  • Empty out, turn off, and unplug your mini fridge
  • Decide where you’ll defrost your appliance to avoid messes
  • Decide if you’ll add heat to speed up the process
  • Don’t use knives or ice picks that can damage your appliance 
  • Clean interior and door seals with soapy water, rinse, and dry.

This article goes into more detail in each section below, just keep the main points in mind and you’ll be fine. 

Empty Out and Deactivate Your Mini Fridge 

You’re going to need to completely empty your mini fridge to avoid the contents from spoiling and making a mess during the defrosting process. If you have a place to put these items, great! If not, you might consider going through the contents and throwing out anything past its best-by date. You can also wait until your fridge is empty or almost empty before defrosting, which will save you time and eliminate the need to redistribute frozen foods across your home’s refrigerators. 

Once that’s done, safely turn off and unplug your mini fridge before proceeding to the following steps. You’ll be surprised at how much power a mini fridge can use – enough to injure you if not kill you so be safe!

Also, lay a towel down in the bottom of your unit, and let it drape over the edge. As the ice melts, it will collect on this towel instead of making a mess by splashing everywhere.

Location, Location, Location

The next step is to determine if moving your mini fridge somewhere else for defrosting will help you avoid making a giant mess.

Most mini fridges have a drain (read more) of some type, but it may be located where it’s impossible to avoid melted ice getting all over your floor. Since you don’t want to make a mess that could cause damage to the flooring underneath, take a moment to find the drain hole, or consult the user’s manual to save some time. 

If the drain is situated to allow for defrosting the unit without moving it, you can probably use something like a shallow pan to collect meltwater. Keep an eye on your collection vessel to ensure it doesn’t overflow or get too full and leak all over the floor.

If you can’t collect melted water from your defrosting mini fridge without making a mess of the floor underneath, you’ll need to move it somewhere else. If you have a porch, this could be the perfect spot for all your defrosting needs. If you have a balcony, consider the ramifications of chilly water dripping down on neighbors and passersby below. 

For semi trucks and RVs, you may need to take the entire unit outside unless it’s permanently mounted. 

Wherever you end up moving your fridge, make sure it won’t get bumped into, tripped over, or otherwise disturbed. Keep a clear walking area around the mini fridge.

Not only will this reduce potential accidents and injuries, but it’ll keep water and ice from spilling out and creating a mess of your surroundings.

Natural VS. Assisted Defrosting

You can either wait patiently for your mini fridge to defrost on its own or give it a bit of extra help–the choice is yours. Either way, you’ll want to ensure that you keep all doors open wide to provide the most airflow and the fastest melting.

Defrosting naturally is the safest and easiest option, assuming you’re not in a rush. Simply open your fridge’s door(s) and allow nature to take its course. This allows you to focus on other tasks while the accumulated ice slowly melts away.

The other option involves speeding up the process with the addition of heat in some form. This can be as simple as setting a warm bowl of water inside the unit, or as involved as using a hairdryer to heat up the interior and promote melting. Since electricity and water can be a dangerous combination, you’ll want to ensure you’re not standing in any water or presenting other opportunities for tragedy to happen if you go the hairdryer route.

If you can do it safely, a hair dryer provides the best heat and will get the ice melted in a short amount of time. 

melting ice

Don’t Get Violent

As the ice gradually begins to melt away, it’ll be hard to resist the urge to use sharp tools like icepicks and knives to help things along. But try and resist! Otherwise, all you’re doing is increasing the chances of damaging your mini fridge and injuring yourself. 

Be patient and let the ice break up on its own. The extra time this takes is worth eliminating the risk of needing to repair or replace your fridge. It’s also preferable to describing the embarrassing events leading up to your injuries to emergency room staff.

Keep it Clean

Now that your mini fridge is defrosted, it’s time to go over the interior and any door seals with clean (more suggestions here), soapy water–you won’t have another opportunity this good until the next time you defrost. 

Once that’s done, give everything a thorough rinse to wash away any soap residue. Keeping an old towel or newspaper handy will help you clean up any messes that materialize in this stage.

Once you’ve washed and rinsed your mini fridge, the last step is to dry everything. This serves a few purposes. First, it ensures you’re not leaving behind any moisture that will simply turn into frost once freezing temperatures are again achieved. Second, it helps keep potential messes to a minimum as there won’t be any dripping water or slippery chunks of ice skittering across your floor. Last, a clean and dry mini fridge won’t harbor any unexpected puddles of water to pour out onto the ground as you return it to its original position, reducing the chances of suffering any accidents or electrocutions.

Can You Defrost a Mini Fridge Without Turning It Off?

Because the melting water can get into the electrical components while it’s running mini fridges should never be defrosted while the unit is running. 

Sadly, mini fridges cannot be safely defrosted while still turned on. Even if yours lets you turn the thermostat all the way down, it’s still not safe to mix electricity with water (there’s still electricity going to the unit).

You never know where chunks of disgruntled ice could be lurking, just waiting for the temperature to rise enough to let their melting wreak havoc on circuit boards and cause shorts. 

You’re still thinking about it despite the dangers, aren’t you? While I can’t condone your reckless lifestyle, I will offer you the following advice should you choose to take your life into your own hands:

  • Make sure your life insurance is paid up and hug your loved ones. (yes we’re being funny)
  • Prepare to follow the same procedure as before, only skipping the unplugging step.
  • Re-evaluate your decision and unplug the mini fridge because your life is a beautiful gift you shouldn’t needlessly throw away.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but it’s for your own good. There’s simply no good reason to defrost your mini fridge without unplugging it first–anyone that says otherwise likely stands to gain something by your untimely demise.

Sure, you can find people that have successfully defrosted a freezer without unplugging it first, but you can also find people that ride motorcycles without helmets. In fact, they’re probably the same people. While they may choose not to take advantage of every reasonable safety precaution, I strongly recommend that you do.

How Long Does It Take to Defrost a Mini Fridge?

The local temperature will determine how quickly your mini fridge defrosts. Most homes maintain a high enough temperature to successfully defrost your appliance any time of the year. That said, ambient temperature can accelerate or slow this process down, so expect things to take longer in cold weather.

Generally speaking, it’s best to let your mini fridge defrost overnight if you have the time. This gives it plenty of time for every bit of ice to melt and drain away. This also provides an opportunity for the meltwater to evaporate, making later cleanup easier.

If you can’t afford to wait until tomorrow to get your mini fridge back in action, you can eliminate hours of defrosting time by adding heat. Everything from a hairdryer to a hot spatula can help here, as long as it doesn’t damage your fridge’s interior or lead to your electrocution. 

Harness your inner problem solver and get creative! Try adding an assortment of bowls with warm water to every shelf, heat up some oven-safe metal utensils, or place a fan directly in front of your mini fridge to blast warm air into its interior. Every bit of heat you add without damaging your appliance will cut minutes or hours off the time it needs to fully defrost.

If you can’t wait overnight to defrost your mini fridge, but don’t want to take the chance of applying too much heat too quickly, you can employ a variety of other methods to decrease the time needed to defrost your fridge. 

Douse a towel in hot water, pour rubbing alcohol on it, and get to scrubbing. Or, carefully scrape away the edges of melting ice, which will expose new surface area to melt, speeding things up. You can also use a wet/dry vac to blow warm air directly onto the ice with the smallest nozzle you’ve got.


There you have it! Now you know exactly how to defrost a mini fridge without making a mess. With just a few simple steps, you can bring your mini fridge back up to its peak operating efficiency with little more than a bowl of warm water, some patience, and a few squirts of elbow grease. 

how to defrost a mini fridge without making a mess

Remember to think ahead, as knowing how much time you have to defrost and your options for speeding up the process will let you defrost your mini fridge as quickly as desired without making a huge mess. Observing recommended safety precautions is also critical, so don’t forget to pull that plug before you get started. 

Seeing clean, smooth walls where once only crusty ice had been will make you glad you invested the time and effort into performing this simple maintenance task and give you all the incentive you need to do the same in the future.

Need more mini fridge tips? Check out how to meal prep with a small fridge.

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