Ice in base of freezer

Sheet of ice in base If water is freezing in the  base of a freezer this is a common problem. I’ve recently had to repair my own freezer with this problem and this article documents what I did to fix the fault. This issue can affect stand alone freezers, or the freezer section of a fridge-freezer.

Sometimes a build up of ice may also (or exclusively) be hidden behind the back wall of the freezer. This can cause the freezer to not cool down to the correct temperature due to restricted airflow, and/or cause a high pitched searing noise if the circulating fan catches on the encroaching ice. Eventually the ice can jam the fan completely causing a major loss of cooling.

A build up of ice in the base can be caused by a blockage in a channel designed to direct water into an evaporation tray. This causes water to spill over the channel and into the base of the freezer where it of course freezes. The fact that this water freezes tends to indicate that the freezer is otherwise functioning OK. The build up of ice can prevent the bottom drawer from opening properly causing it to get broken when frustratingly rammed shut or forced open.

Clear ice from the base

Defrosting the freezer is the easiest way to deal with this. However, this often only proves to be a temporary fix because most people don’t defrost it thoroughly enough. Defrosting until all the visible ice in the base has gone isn’t enough. The blockage is usually caused by solid ice in the drain hole behind the back wall, or there is ice packed behind the back wall. Because this wall is insulated a normal defrost will usually leave ice still in place. New water will continue to run into the base and freeze up again.

To properly defrost a freezer with this suspected fault you need to unplug it and leave the door open for 24 hours, or remove the back wall and let it defrost (optionally carefully assisting with a hair dryer).

Ice must be removed from behind the back panel

To make sure the ice was completely gone, and that the hole in the drain channel was clear, I unplugged the freezer and then took off the plastic cover at the back of the freezer inside.

In my case there were only 4 screws to remove. The cover came off easily revealing the fan and channel with all the excess ice (see photo below).

If the plastic wall is frozen up and won’t come cleanly off after the screws are removed – don’t force and break it. Allow it to defrost a while, or use a hair dryer to gently warm it up around the edges.

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Ice in back of freezer

The first photo at the top of this page shows the ice in the base of our freezer. The previous photo shows the ice that was behind the back cover. It’s in the bottom right corner under the metal section. You can also see the sloping channel where defrosted water should run down to the right and out through the drain hole in the corner. The hole was blocked solid with ice. You can even see the trickle line where water has run from the channel into the base.

Taking care not to get too close to any plastic or sensors I assisted the defrosting by carefully blowing warm air with a hair dryer* (see warning below). I also poured a little warm water into the hole to melt through the ice blocking it up. I then pushed a small bit of plastic through the hole to make sure it was clear. It was then just a matter of re-fitting the plastic back wall, plugging the freezer back in and using the fast freeze option to assist getting it back down to temperature as quickly as possible.

The photos below show the ice blockage before and then the clear drain channel and hole after proper defrosting.


close up of ice blockage

After Defrosting

cleared drain hole

What causes the blockage?

Clearly ice should not build up at the back and block the drain hole. There could be a fault in the PCB or a sensor causing it to over-freeze. Or even (if fitted) a failure in the auto defrosting system. Excessive frosting which looks more like hard snow than clear ice can be caused by moist warm air getting drawn into the appliance as described in this article Icing up in fridge or freezer. If the fault quickly re-occurs you need to call an engineer.

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Evaporation tray This photo show the main compressor at the back of the freezer. Above it is a black plastic tray. This is where water from the channel inside runs. The heat generated from the compressor slowly evaporates the water. If the channel inside the appliance is blocked as described in this article water will instead run into the base of the appliance.

* Warning

Regarding my freezer featured in this article, I eventually realised that the channel that the defrosted water ran down and into the hole had a bulge in the plastic just before the hole. When I first noticed a large sheet of ice in the base of the freezer I used a heat source to defrost it quickly. So it is possible that I “may” have warped the plastic inside the channel. This was unrepairable.

However, it’s possible that it was warped when I bought it due to a manufacturing fault. If you use a hairdryer (never anything more powerful) you should be very careful not to warp any plastic.

Affected by temperature of room?

How are fridges and freezers affected by room temperature? | Can you run a fridge or freezer in a garage?

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26 thoughts on “Ice in base of freezer”

  1. Checked your recommendations on what I had already done as my american fridge freezer had iced up on the bottom. Have left it defrosting already 30 hrs so will leave it another night and try again. Thanks for comments

  2. Many thanks for the articles on the icing up of fridge freezers. I searched high and low for a solution to why my 5 year Neff integrated fridge freezer had stopped working and your common sense explanations and pictures saved me £1000 for a new one. Brilliant. 24 hour defrost and fully functional once more.

  3. My fridge doesn’t have any screws showing on the back of the freezer, I don’t know how to get them out. And crm consul model 38. Someone help me!!

  4. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

    Hello Jéssica. If there are no screws in the back wall then I can only advise that it is not possible to remove it. If you think that your freezer has iced up internally then the best thing to do is to defrost it with the door open for at least 12 hours. That should clear it.

  5. Thanks for the tips. Had the same issue so did the defrost. In my case some fluff had somehow blocked the exit point. But needed the defrost to shift.

  6. I have an A.E.G. Frost free freezer and during the heatwave I started to find that when I opened the bottom draw there were thin slivers of ice which I had to remove. Eventually, freezer started to beep and flash red so I’ve left it unplugged ever since, cleaned it thoroughly and found at the back there’s a plastic container full of water. Should I empty this and will the freezer work O.k. now ? It’s only just out of its 2 year warranty and I feel loath to pay for engineer after such a short time of ownership as well as being a 75 year old pensioner times are hard. Hope you can help.

    1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

      Yes empty the water, and plug it back in. Just totally defrosting it could have fixed it if the problem was just a build up of ice. A flashing red light often means the temperature has got too high and warning you that food could be defrosted. Check the instruction manual to see what warning you get when temperature get too high.

  7. I have a Zanussi integrated fridge freezer which ices up in the base – a lot and often and the bottom drawer is broken because it got iced in so much and wouldn’t shift . . . have to say I don’t use the freezer regularly so probably went unnoticed with the lack of use.
    Because it’s built in I can’t get to the back and there’s no access inside, so would you think if I just emptied it and let it defrost it would work or do I need to actually see the drain hole to clear it.

    1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

      Hi Deborah. The back referred to is the back of the inside, and not the back of the freezer. There is normally a plastic cover that comes off. If you can’t take off the back covering try a 24 hour defrosting as the ice behind the back wall will not defrost easily.

      1. Many thanks for getting back to me, I’ve finally been able to empty freezer and remove the back panel but encountered a couple of problems:

        I can’t completely remove the panel as wires are attached to the reverse – they feed the fan which is an integral part of the panel and I’m loathe to mess around and disconnect them incase I can’t reattach.
        Secondly there isn’t a waste hole anywhere in sight just the freezing element and several frozen pipes.

        I guess I’ll somehow prop the panel up so the wires don’t come adrift and leave it to defrost – unfortunately because there’s not a visible waste hole I’ll have no idea if there’s any debris causing it to ice up so will just have to keep my fingers crossed that all will be resolved.

  8. Hi
    Great article. Thanks.
    We have a Hotpoint frost free under counter freezer which has repeatedly had this problem for some years now. I have managed to fix it several times using the method you describe, though for speed, to avoid losing any frozen food, I’ve found the most efficient method to thaw out the drainage hole is to repeatedly heat up a 5mm Allen key in boiling water, and using pliers, carefully push it into the hole to gradually melt the ice. The excess ice in the drainage trough is best cleared with a cloth dipped in hot water. I didn’t use a hair dryer because as you say, it could warp the plastic shape. Once the internal rear panel is removed, the thawing out takes about 15 minutes.

    In the longer term, I have no idea why this keeps happening; it didn’t start till the freezer was about 4 years old. To aid heat dissipation from the condensing coils behind, I cut a ventilation slot in the rear of the worktop, with a grill over it, and moved the freezer forward slightly. Seems to help, as it didn’t happen again for 9 months.
    But it is a pain to keep doing this. I notice that Hotpoint stopped making frost free under counter freezers. Perhaps they know something I don’t!
    PS. I found some blogs from the USA which suggested hanging a short length of copper wire, hooked over the defrost heater element, and inserted into the drain hole. The theory is to conduct heat down into the hole to prevent ice forming there. I tried it: didn’t work!
    Regards, Steve W.

    1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

      Hi Steve. Yes my own freezer ended up doing the same. That is it kept freezing up with solid ice in the drain hole. I ended up having to carry out the full defrost several times until I eventually tired of it and bought a new one. One thing that I considered in my case was that it could have been related to the freezer being installed in our garage. However, I can’t remember whether it only ever did this in the cold weather.

      I could not work out how it was possible for ice to form inside a drain hole, which has no bottom. The drain hole leads to a drop into the evaporator tray on top of the compressor. So it should be impossible for any water getting into that drain hole to freeze up because it should just drop down into the evaporator tray and it is impossible for any water to back up.

      Then I noticed that this water that runs into the drain hole does run firstly into a bit of rubber attached to the bottom. This rubber had a flat end. Presumably to reduce the water flow. In other words, when it went into an auto defrost, the water had to run down the drain hole and through this sort of flow restrictor to prevent too much water running into the tray and over spilling.

      So I suspect that this was what may be allowed about a bit of a backup of water. The problem could be related to a fault in the auto defrost system that maybe just doesn’t defrost the water enough and for long enough. So maybe only very cold icy water, possibly quite thick ran into the draining hole and clogged up.

      1. Steve Waldman

        Well Andy, what can I say? I also noted that bit of flattened rubber. You’ve convinced me that the time has come to admit defeat and replace the freezer. Do you mind if I ask you if you bought another frost free model, and if so, has the problem ever re-occurred, and which make did you buy?
        Steve Waldman

        1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

          Hi Steve. I bought a Blomberg large freezer. We are extremely happy with it. It doesn’t create any ice or ice crystals at all inside the compartment and drawers. Our old freezer was probably about 15 years old. Maybe they’ve completely changed how they work.

  9. Hi,
    Thanks a really helpful article. I have a 4 year old Beko frost free fridge freezer that the bottom of the freezer is now icing up. Have followed the advice and 2 weeks ago took everything out to put in the garage fridge freezer then defrosted it and left the doors open for 24 hours.

    It has now got another sheet of ice in the bottom! Just to clarify I can’t see a drain hole inside the freezer or a removable panel either inside to check for ice?

    1. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

      Hi Sue. If your freezer has auto defrost function, it must have a drain hole. Otherwise it can’t auto defrost. If you have to manually defrost it, then it probably has a spout thing at the bottom front, so when you defrost it the water runs through into a tray or container that you place on the floor?

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