How To Defrost An RV Refrigerator The Simple And Easy Way

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If it’s time to defrost an RV refrigerator in your rig, don’t feel bad. Frost often builds up inside RV freezers and refrigerators.

And when it does you will have to get rid of it eventually when it starts affecting the performance of the refrigerator.

Residential refrigerators have advanced to the point where almost all of them are frost-free. So why do so many RV refrigerators have to be defrosted manually?

Watch my video on how to defrost an RV refrigerator and freezer

Well, the problem is much worse in the summer months, when the air is hot and humid. And opening the fridge doors a lot will allow the hot and humid air inside.

Then the moisture can stick to the sidewalls of the freezer and the fins in the refrigerator.

Another common cause of frost building up inside RV refrigerators is the size of the units themselves. Most RV refrigerators are much smaller than we may be used to using at home.

And because they are smaller we all like to pack as much food inside as we can to have our normal foods available whenever we want them.

But packing food into an RV fridge decreases the air flow inside of it. And this in turn makes the chances of frost buildup much greater.

So the frost keeps building up inside. When it reaches the point where the freezer and refrigerator is not cooling as well as it should, it’s time for action.

So here is how to defrost an RV refrigerator. And how to defrost an RV freezer at the same time!


The Safest Way To Defrost An RV Refrigerator

The absolute safest way to defrost an RV refrigerator is to turn it off and remove all of the food inside. This means both the freezer and the refrigerator.

How to defrost an RV refrigerator
The safest way to defrost a fridge is to open all doors completely

Then you simply open all of the doors to the fridge and leave them open until the frost is gone. Of course, this can take a long time.

So it calls for a lot of insulated bags to store your food items in while the refrigerator defrosts.

But there is one big advantage to this long way of defrosting refrigerators. And that is that you cannot possibly harm anything by doing it this way.

That’s right, just letting air inside your RV refrigerator to warm the ice to the point that it defrosts is totally safe.

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But it is also time-consuming and takes up a lot of space for the food being kept cool while the fridge defrosts.

So is there a better and faster way to defrost an RV refrigerator? The answer is yes!

Before You Defrost – A Warning

When you open up the freezer door and see ice that has caked to the walls, it will be tempting to chip it off.

But that is the worst thing you can do. You can do a lot of damage easily by using anything metal inside the refrigerator.

Some RV owners have punched a hole through the walls of their refrigerator. This can easily happen by using things like an ice pick, a fork, or a screwdriver on the ice.

Don't use sharp metal objects when you defrost an RV refrigerator
Don’t use sharp metal objects inside the refrigerator

These RV refrigerators are very versatile but they are not built to withstand the use of metal objects on their walls to clear ice. So don’t even think about it.

And truthfully, there are other methods that are faster, more complete and much safer for your fridge.

In fact, I will show you the process that we use to defrost an RV refrigerator now, and it’s much safer. It is also very easy to do and doesn’t take much time.

Most of the time we can defrost our RV freezer and refrigerator in about 30 minutes from start to finish.

It’s how we defrost our Dometic RV refrigerator. But you can use the same process for defrosting a Norcold RV refrigerator too.

And we have a full size refrigerator, so if you have a smaller one it may go even faster.

So here is how we do it –

How We Defrost An RV Refrigerator

The first step is to turn off the refrigerator. Then we begin heating two pots of water on the stove.

How to defrost an RV freezer - use pots of hot water
We start heating pots of water on the stove

Then we remove all of the food items from the freezer. We don’t leave anything in there while we are defrosting it.

We also remove food items from the refrigerator in front of the cooling fins. And any food that could be temperature sensitive like yogurt, mayonnaise, etc. too.

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We leave the rest of the food where it is in the refrigerator though. There is no need to completely unload the refrigerator compartment.

We then put all of the frozen food and the refrigerated food in insulated bags to keep them cold.

And we usually add some blue ice to the bags to help keep the food cold while defrosting the fridge.

Defrost an RV freezer using insulated bags to store the cold food
We put all the food in insulated bags with blue ice

Then we place some towels on the floor and shelf of the freezer compartment. These towels accomplish a couple of important things.

First, they keep the hot pots from damaging the freezer floor or shelf. And second, they also absorb water from the freezer walls as they thaw out.

Using Hot Water Inside The Fridge And Freezer

When the water is hot, we put the pots in the freezer on the towels and close the door. The water does not have to be boiling, just hot enough to melt the ice.

Defrost an RV freezer - put towels under the hot water pots
We put the pots of hot water on the towels in the freezer

It usually takes about 15 – 20 minutes for the hot water to defrost the RV freezer compartment completely.

It also usually thaws the fins in the fridge compartment by then as well.

When everything is thawed, we remove the pots and towels. And then is when we wipe down the walls of the freezer with towels until it is dry.

Then we turn on the refrigerator. As soon as it’s starting to cool again, we reload the freezer and refrigerator. And we are done!

Click here to watch our video about defrosting an RV refrigerator

What If Additional Defrosting Is Needed?

Occasionally, the refrigerator fins do not thaw as quickly as the freezer though. So we have another procedure to solve that issue.

In this case, we use a hair dryer on the low setting and aim the warm air toward the refrigerator fins.

But we always keep the hair dryer nozzle a safe distance away from any of the fridge walls or fins.

And it’s also very important to keep the nozzle of the hair dryer moving at all times. We never let it stop in one place very long.

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That makes sure that nothing in the refrigerator gets overheated.

It usually only takes a few minutes to finish thawing out the fins with this method. Then we go ahead with our reloading procedure.

How to defrost an RV refrigerator - clean ice of the refrigerator fins
Sometimes the fins require more work to help them defrost


The whole process is not hard to do. It just takes a little time, as I said about a half hour for us.

It’s the easiest way I know to be able to defrost an RV refrigerator. And also defrost an RV freezer too.

Once again, the absolute safe way is to just open the refrigerator and freezer, and take everything out. Then leave the doors open until thawing is completed.

But we have followed the procedure I mentioned above several times and have never had any problems.

We always use common sense and are careful with hot water. If you choose to try this method, go slow the first time and keep safety first.

Have safe and happy travels!

6 thoughts on “How To Defrost An RV Refrigerator The Simple And Easy Way”

  1. I figured that’s the way to do it. This article verifies my thoughts on the subject.
    It HAS to be done!

    1. Yep. That’s pretty much true Ron. 🙂

  2. Matt Sullivan says:

    One added point, when defrosting the fins in the fridge the water drains down a tube rear of the fridge, either you the outside onto the ground or into a plastic drain cup, which can over flow into the rear of your fridge cabinet. Check it!

    1. That a great reminder Matt. Thanks for sharing that!

  3. Karen Bishop Barrett says:

    is it ok to do without turning off the refrig. (blow dryer)? My husband always did it and I was backup dumping ice and water. He died and I’m trying to figure things out. Don’t even know how to turn refer off!
    Widow of ReT/DAV/USA

    1. My wife usually is the one that defrosts our fridge/freezer. So I asked her and she says that she does not usually turn the fridge off while she defrosts it. I hope that helps.

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