Properly Defrosting and Cleaning Your RV Refrigerator | Steps Guide

Allowing thick layers of frost and ice to accumulate inside the freezer compartment of an RV refrigerator severely hampers ideal chilling efficiency. Not only does excessive icy buildup act as insulation blocking proper heat transfer through cooling coils, but the added weight also strains electric components and may even damage interior liners through expansion stress. That’s why regularly defrosting and deep cleaning RV refrigerators prove essential for optimizing performance, lowering energy use, protecting appliance longevity, and most critically – safely preserving the freshness of perishable food items. Stick to the post till the end to find out the proper procedures for defrosting and cleaning an RV Refrigerator.

Properly Defrosting and Cleaning Your RV Refrigerator

Effective Defrosting Methods

Two main methods exist for efficiently defrosting an ice-caked RV refrigerator/freezer –

Effective Defrosting Methods

Natural Defrosting: The slow passive approach involves simply unplugging the RV fridge and then leaving doors propped open overnight without any food items inside. This allows ambient air to gradually melt accumulated ice off cooling coils and interior walls after roughly 8-12 hours in most climates. Natural defrosting works reliably if no hurry and little to no mess is preferred.

Forced Defrosting: As the name implies, this accelerated methodology uses an external heat source like a hair dryer or fan-forced space heater on the lowest settings directed across frozen components to actively speed-melting thicker ice layers after just 1-2 hours. Forced defrosting quickens the process but introduces a higher risk of damage if applying too much heat too quickly before ice liquefies.

Safety Precautions to Abide by During Defrosting

Adhere to these best practices during both natural and forced defrosting for maximum safety –

First and foremost, disconnect the RV refrigerator from all power sources before starting any defrosting activity. Manually unplug shoreline connections, switch off breakers, and shut off onboard propane tanks feeding absorption fridge units. Attempting to hasten to defrost with electrical systems still actively powering risks electrocution.

Avoid the temptation to chip away at ice formations using sharp tools which can easily puncture delicate freezer compartment liners or damage intricate cooling coils. Limit physical ice removal to soft plastic pan scrapers only after sufficient melting occurs.

Place folded towels or water catch pans beneath refrigerator access panels to safely collect, contain, and divert meltwater drained throughout the multi-hour defrosting process. This prevents flooding damage to surrounding cabinets or RV floors.

Step-By-Step Defrosting and Cleaning Process

Follow this detailed sequence when undertaking the complete defrosting of an RV refrigerator –

Step 1) Prepare for Defrosting: Remove all food/beverage items to external coolers, disconnect power sources, assemble needed supplies like buckets/towels, and open doors plus lower exterior vent panels providing access to ice-covered evaporator coils and drain tubes.

Step 2) Defrost Refrigerator Interior: Set up fans or heaters to direct warmth across frozen components to help naturally occurring meltwater liquefy thick ice. Use a soft plastic scraper to gently pry off chunks once nearly melted to speed up the draining process. Frequently sop up moisture from containment pans underneath while verifying complete ice dissolution before proceeding.

Step 3) Clean Interior Surfaces: Mix non-toxic cleaning solutions like baking soda and water or diluted white vinegar to scrub away grime buildup once fully defrosted. Target corners, and crevices with lingering mold/mildew stains. Flush all chemicals away before rinsing cleaned areas a final time. Ensure no residue remains before resealing the appliance.

Step 4) Finish Defrosting Sequence: Thoroughly dry all interior surfaces using microfiber cloths preventing water spot staining. Replace removable floor vents, door lining panels, etc. correctly realigning hardware and gaskets. Pour drained meltwater down RV sinks – never exterior on the ground which can breed mold-attracting rodents underneath.

Step 5) Restore Refrigerator Power: Inspect visible coils and ventilation openings for debris obstruction before reconnecting to the chosen electrical or propane supply. Power up the refrigerator to ensure lights illuminate and fans activate. Monitor the temperature gauge closely over the next hours allowing the unit to cool back down to operating range before returning any food.

Follow-up After Defrosting

In the days following defrosting and cleaning an RV refrigerator unit, continue this extra due diligence –

a) Safely dispose of any expiration-dated foods previously stored bordering on freshness margins.

b) Closely monitor refrigerator efficiency expecting chill times to resume normal durations soon.

c) Mark your RV maintenance calendar scheduling the next defrosting in 6-8 months before heavy ice accumulation returns.

Troubleshooting Post-Defrosting Issues

If refrigerator performance issues persist after completing defrost/cleaning procedures, begin the deeper diagnosis by – Detecting stubborn lingering odors or visible microbiotic growth signals the need for further disinfection, quantifying continued cooling inadequacy pointing to damaged coils or failed thermostat components, and noticing rapid frost buildup returning warranting refrigerant leak testing and professional inspection.

Maintaining Units Between Defrost Cycles

Implement these weekly and monthly preventative maintenance steps to optimize refrigeration operation while forestalling rapid ice reformation –

a) Routinely wash down exterior surfaces and door seals with antimicrobial cleaners keeping gaskets clear of debris potentially impairing an airtight seal.

b) Inspect door alignment often ensuring full flush closure and interlock engagement with cabinets preventing chilled air leaks.

c) Clear dust contamination covering nearby ventilation grilles or propane burner exhaust areas enabling optimal airflow across critical refrigerator components.

d) Add absorbent moisture collectors like trays of salt or ventilated boxes of baking soda inside freezer floors pulling excess humidity out of circulating air.

e) Check evaporator coils whenever restocking RV fridge contents for any developing dust/debris buildup which reduces heat transfer efficiency if left to accumulate between full defrost cycles.

Dos and Don’ts While Defrosting and Cleaning RV Refrigerators


✅ Do fully disconnect power from onboard generators, shorelines, batteries, and propane appliances first before defrosting to prevent electric shock.

✅ Do lay down water-absorbent mats, open doors slowly onto step stools, and monitor melt drainage preventing flooding mishaps from frozen gallons liquefied.

✅ Do scrape ice once softened using only plastic pan scrapers made flexible to navigate tight corners and crevices around delicate cooling coils.

✅ Do Sprinkle baking soda over spill stains or mildew buildup creating a foaming cleaning reaction better dissolving grime clinging inside crevices.

✅ Do thoroughly wipe down, rinse, and completely dry all refrigerator surfaces after cleaning for smudge and bacteria-free food storage.


⛔️ Don’t leave perishables inside the refrigerator while defrosting forcing unrefrigerated food waste. Place contents into portable cooler boxes or chill bags first.

⛔️ Don’t use razor blades, knives, or stiff metal tools hazardously risking puncturing freezer walls, wire harnesses, or your own hands/fingers!

⛔️ Don’t direct high-pressure steamers, heat guns, or hair dryers point blank on ice risking hot spot refrigerator damage causing leaks later.

⛔️ Don’t mix bleach solutions with other acidic cleaners creating fumes forcing evacuation from toxic gas combinations emitted utilizing incompatible products.

⛔️ Don’t soak refrigerator base, nearby wood, or linoleum floors forgetting to contain drainage hose output, or monitor catch bins overflowing during hours-long defrosting.

Common Related Questions

How often should I defrost my RV refrigerator?

Expect to fully defrost well-maintained RV absorption refrigerators powered by propane roughly once every 4-6 months depending on use patterns. More frequent cycles become necessary for households refrigerating substantial frozen goods or operating primarily in hot humid southern climates encouraging condensation.

What is the best way to clean RV refrigerator coils?

Use a soft bristle vent brush or compressed air to whisk away loosened dust and debris from cooling coils and ventilation grilles clogged by dirt buildup. If grease-stained, gently wipe down coils using either foaming coil cleaner spray or mild soapy water applied to a microfiber cloth, rinsing residue away completely before air drying components fully.

Where should I drain the RV fridge to defrost water?

Safely contain then pour defrosted ice melt drained from RV refrigerators into an onboard grey water holding tank for proper disposal once full. Never drain directly onto campsite grounds or surrounding wooded areas. Stagnating meltwater can breed unhealthy molds and attract insects or wildlife digging into soaked soil underneath RVs searching for hydration.

Wrapping It Up

Remember, consistently maintaining clean open airflow plus refrigerant chemical integrity allows RV refrigerators to operate at peak chilling efficiency. Schedule biannual defrosts/decontamination deep cleaning routines to combat gradual ice buildup threatening appliance longevity and food spoilage risks. Applying preventative monitoring and maintenance practices in between full defrost cycles further optimizes performance helping perishable provisions endure extended remote excursions needing to stay fresh for the distance.

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