Manual-defrost machines (obviously) need periodic defrosting. Frost buildup consumes space inside the freezer and compromises the machine’s overall performance and efficiency, as frost hinders the freezer’s ability to pump heat out of the interior. The general rule of thumb is to defrost whenever the buildup reaches one-quarter of an inch, but you can put off this task by doing a few things:
- Open the freezer only as often as you need to, and then shut it as soon as you can. Every time you open the door, you let in humidity, which hastens the buildup of frost.
- Avoid an empty or partially empty freezer; leaving it that way increases air circulation and allows more room for warm air to enter every time you open the door.
- Keep the freezer away from heat sources like furnaces and water heaters.
- Keep the seal, or the gasket, clean. Replace it if it loosens. Inspect the gasket before purchasing, as a defective gasket can make an otherwise stellar freezer a real hassle.
When defrosting the machine, keep the door open, remove the drain plug, and place a pan beneath it to collect meltwater. The process will probably take several hours. Make sure the interior is completely dry (using paper towels) before turning the freezer back on, as any leftover water will just refreeze as frost once the freezer gets back down to 0 °F.
For long-term food storage, seal the food as tightly as possible to avoid freezer burn. Use a vacuum sealer if you have one, or double-wrap meats in wax paper.