If you think that your fridge freezer is not working as it should or notice that some stored food has "gone off" before its due date, you will be wondering what to do. You may open the freezer and peer into the back, only to see a huge block of ice affixed to the surface. It looks as if it's been some time since you defrosted the machine, so this could be the place to start. However, why do you need to be particularly careful when attempting this task and what can go wrong?
The Wrong Approach
When people see a buildup of frost and hear the term "defrosting" they believe that they need to physically remove the mass by any means possible. They know that it is relatively solid when it is in its frozen state, but that it is possible to chip away at any ice structure with a sharp object. After all, that's what those talented people do when they are creating an ice sculpture!
However, if you reach for a screwdriver and softheaded mallet (as many people do) you are setting yourself up for trouble. You may be able to successfully tackle the job in this way, but if you're not very precise or the sharp object slips in your hand, you risk puncturing the surface of the freezer. Unfortunately, gas and water lines are right underneath the outer covering and you will invariably puncture one of those as well, which could lead to disaster.
The Risk of Puncture
If you do puncture a gas line, you will probably hear a hissing noise. Make sure that you ventilate the area as quickly as possible and don't breathe in any of the gas. You will need to call in an expert to have a look at the situation, but don't be surprised if you have to replace the entire unit.
If you puncture the water line instead, the situation may not be as bad. You certainly need to repair it before you can reuse the freezer, but you may be able to salvage the appliance itself.
The Better Way
The best way to defrost the freezer is to remove any food, shelves, trays or drawers and be prepared to collect some melted water. Locate the drainage hose underneath the appliance and direct it to an appropriate receptacle. If you are patient, you can simply leave the door open with the machine turned off and the ice will naturally melt. Otherwise, you can use a hair dryer to gradually warm the ice to accelerate the process. Unless you like living dangerously, please don't use a sharp object for this job again.
If you suspect that you may have caused damage as you practised your ice carving skills, call in an appliance repair specialist as soon as possible.