Defrosting RV fridge makes for icy relationship

Defrosting RV fridge makes for icy relationship


By Chris Dougherty

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

Dear Chris,
refirThank 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 next time! 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:

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.
– with the storage of non-sealed fresh foods or warm foods.
– with the amount of time that the door(s) are open.
– with 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.

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.
– Remove 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.



5 thoughts on “Defrosting RV fridge makes for icy relationship

  1. Walt KAISER

    Marilyn has it right, cut the strips to fit the sides, back and bottom of the freezer. When ready to defrost, remove rinse, DRY THEM OFF and replace whole job done in less then 10 minutes. We did that for 13 years with our No-Cold before replacing the entire unit with a Samsung RF197, no need to defrost anymore.

  2. Robbie

    We hang the hair dryer in the freezer from a carabiner attached to the dryer and hanging on one of the wire shelves. We also monitor the temperature inside with a remote thermometer. Takes about 20 minutes for the complete job. We’ve used this routine for 10 years as full timers, and have had no adverse effects.

  3. Marilyn

    We saw on a website to put the thin cutting sheets you can get at Walmart on the back wall of freezer. You might have to cut them to fit but they are cheap. The cutting sheet can be easily removed and washed off quite a few times and helps keep frost down on back walls! We have been doing this for about a year and it really helps!!!

    1. Gle

      What are cutting sheets?

  4. Fred

    The manufacturer recommended way of defrosting a fridge/freezer is fine for a weekend user, but totally impractical for a full timer. It would involve hours of time, bags of ice, and more than one cooler, which most full timers don’t have room to carry, just for defrosting a fridge. If you allow the food to warm up while defrosting, it shortens the life of the food items. What the gentleman above did was just plain stupid and lacked any common sense.
    I have been full timing for 7 years and always use a hair dryer to defrost my fridge. But I never set the hair dryer down in the fridge or freezer. I always keep it moving so no spot gets too hot. Only point it at sheets of ice, never at the ceiling or side walls that have no ice. I use a plastic spatula to lift the melted ice off the fins or the back wall of the freezer.
    Tip: melt the ice on the fridge fins only to the point that you can lift the sheets of ice off with a plastic tool or spatula. That takes less heating time and less chance of overheating the surrounding plastic walls.. I only remove food from the two top shelves of the fridge so I can lay a towel on the top shelf to collect ice and to be able to remove the drain tray when done melting the ice off the fins.
    In the freezer, first scrape the hoary frost off the back wall and then remove that with a large spatula. Then heat the remaining solid ice and slowly lift it off the back wall I set the frozen items in the kitchen sink and cover them to keep them cold.
    I can completely defrost and wipe dry both the fridge and freezer in my 10 cu ft Dometic , replace the food and turn it back on in less than 15 minutes. I defrost it every 3-5 weeks, depending on the humidity of the area we’re in, and I’ve never had a problem in our 7 years of full timing.

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