How Long Can You Leave The Freezer Door Open?

Proper storage requires making sure your appliances are in order. It's common for the freezer door to be left open, especially when it's full or blocked by ice. But have you been wondering about what could happen when the freezer door is left open?

Food is safe in the freezer for as long as it continues to be chilled. Problems come up once the freezer has trouble maintaining the proper temperature.

Could leaving the freezer door open cause damage, and how long can it stay open? We looked into these questions and summed up the information for you.


A hand of a young man opening a freezer door, How Long Can You Leave The Freezer Door Open?

Keep reading to learn what takes place in the freezer when you leave its door open and what you should do when this happens.

What are the risks in keeping the freezer door open?

Leaving the freezer door open can happen to anyone. Let's take a closer look the risks involved.

Food Spoilage

Most perishable food products won't be good when they are held above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for over 4 hours. An open freezer door can result in the food products thawing unintentionally.

When the surface of the food becomes warm enough, microorganisms can grow and contaminate the food. As a result, they are likely going to spoil.

Ice and Moisture Formation

Leaving the freezer door open allows warm air to mix with cold air, causing moisture to form.

From there, it starts to have trouble keeping the temperature cool. Ice formation around the freezer coils also inhibits cooling since the ice will prevent air circulation.

System Overheating

Because of the previous factors, the freezer exerts more effort to bring down the temperature.

There's a chance the thermostat fails to signal the compressor to slow down the process. All of this extra work can lead to overheating, which is harmful to the appliance.

Not only that, but it also leads to a significant waste of electric power. Yes, leaving the door of your freezer open will increase your bills too. The increase won't be dramatic - but it can happen.

What Happens If You Leave The Freezer Door Open For An Hour?

There won't be many changes in the freezer when you leave the fridge door open for an hour. The most noticeable difference you would notice is that frozen food and ice may start to defrost. The freezer can also have trouble with cooling, causing the temperature to drop. But generally, food will be safe, given that the temperature is constant.

The amount of food in the fridge helps determine whether or not it will be okay if the freezer fails to cool it.

A full freezer will have less food waste than a freezer that is empty. Solids and liquids have a higher heat capacity than gas. And so, frozen food retains coldness better than air.

There is less room for air to flow in a packed freezer, allowing the frozen products to sustain cold conditions for lengthier periods of time.

Can You Leave A Freezer Door Open Overnight?

Hand of a man opening freezer door in kitchen

A freezer door shouldn't be left open for more than 2 hours, let alone 24 hours.

Leaving the freezer door open for a day will ruin both the food and the freezer itself. The common effects of leaving a freezer open for longer than it can handle are as follows:

So, how long is it safe to keep the freezer door open?

We've just covered three risks that no one would want to run into. But at what point do they actually kick in?

According to most experts, it's safe to keep a freezer door open for approximately 2 hours at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Any longer than that could spoil the food stored inside.

Usually, freezers will work just fine even after being left open for 2 or fewer hours. It won't get severely damaged either unless it spends over a day left open.

What Do I Do If My Freezer Door Is Left Open?

If you find your freezer door open, you might want to check if everything is still in order. The top two things you should first look into are the condition of the food and the functionality of the freezer and fridge.

The casualties will depend on how long the freezer has been left open. Another concern is to identify whether the freezer is completely opened or ajar due to the door popping back.

Here's what you should do:

For Frozen Food

  1. Check if each perishable product in the freezer is still cooled.
  2. If yes, they are likely to be saved through transferring or refreezing. If fully defrosted, you should determine if the products got contaminated.
  3. Any signs of mold or bacteria growth from the defrosting cycle should mean you need to discard the product.

For Testing The Freezer

  1. Take out all the items in the fridge.
  2. Check the fridge and freezer separately.
  3. If you find ice forming around the freezer coils, your refrigerator needs repairs.
  4. If there's no excess ice, determine whether the fridge and freezer are still cool. If it doesn't fall under the right temperature, it would be best to have it repaired.

How Long Does It Take For A Freezer To Get Cold After Being Left Open?

Various frozen food in freezer

It takes anywhere between 3 hours to a whole day for a freezer to get cold after being left open.

The ideal temperature the freezer needs to reach is under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The length of time it's been left open determines how long it will take to cool, along with other factors such as brand, size, age, and capacity.

If you left the freezer slightly open for a few hours, properly closing it resets the freezing process. In this case, a packed freezer will take less time to cool than an empty or half-filled one.

But if you defrosted the freezer, it would take 3 hours or longer to achieve the needed temperature, regardless of the number of food products inside.

Does Leaving The Freezer Door Open Damage It?

Damages don't commonly occur from leaving the freezer door open unless you leave it for over 24 hours. However, it mainly reduces your refrigerator's lifespan. The whole refrigerator is at risk of damages even when only the freezer door is left open.

How To Troubleshoot The Fridge When The Freezer Door has been left Open

If a problem does come up with the way your freezer cools temperature, you can repair it on your own by following these instructions:

  1. Unplug the refrigerator.
  2. Take out all the food products.
  3. Remove the shelving and back panel.
  4. Check if there is frost build-up in the evaporator coils.
  5. If yes, defrost the ice with the use of a hairdryer or let it thaw.
  6. When you finish defrosting, return the back panel and shelving.
  7. Plug the refrigerator back in and let it run for about 3 to 6 hours to cool.

If there are no signs of ice forming in the evaporator coils or around the freezer, it would usually run like normal after you shut the door. For better results, keep the refrigerator closed for 3 to 6 hours to give it time to reset. Contact a professional if the problem persists.

Does Leaving The Freezer Door Open Waste Electricity?

Yes, leaving the freezer door open wastes power. When warm air enters, the freezer works twice to thrice harder to maintain the temperature for freezing. Therefore, it requires more energy, causing the appliance to require more electricity than expected.

Frozen food can manage to keep the cold circulating when there is less space for warm air to pass through. If less air enters the freezer, it will take less time and power to cool the remaining air.

A popular recommendation would be packing a freezer up to its given capacity to maximize the ability of food to retain coldness. Doing this keeps food chilled longer and lowers the energy consumption of the freezer.

Is Food OK If The Freezer Is Left Open?

The food is likely going to get ruined in a freezer that's been left open. Next to an opened freezer door, you should worry about the food inside. Frozen food is at risk when the freezer fails to keep it cool. In most cases, they would spoil completely.

Freezing slows down enzyme action in food, allowing it to preserve quality and freshness. It's a popular storage method because it works on most food products.

An open freezer door will hinder the freezing process, making it harder for the freezer to continue cooling the food. Thus, spoilage from mold and bacteria growth may occur due to the sudden shift in temperature.

You have to assess each of the food items if the freezer was left wide open overnight. Check to see if each of them is still cool. When the freezer was only slightly opened, the food is likely safe as long as it stays chilled.

In Summary

Leaving the freezer door open for a few hours can happen to anyone. The freezer and the food stored in the appliance are generally safe under the conditions that the temperature remains at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and that the door is left open for 2 hours maximum.

When that is the case, there are no worries about food spoiling, frost build-up, and other potential damages.

Examining the food products and the freezer is crucial in identifying whether you will need to do repairs or reset the refrigerator's cooling process.

An open freezer door will affect power consumption, so it would be best to make sure it gets the proper necessary repairs.

Before you go, get a deeper insight into common freezer door problems in these posts:

One comment

  1. I bought a house 2 years ago with new appliances,but now the freezer part.of the fridge is frosting up. The coil on one.of the refrigerator door is a bit frayed. Could that be the reason of the ice buildup? I switch off the appliance for 3hours everyday to get rid of the ice.

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