Self-defrosting freezers and refrigerators appeared in the 1960s. Prior to that the excess buildup of ice had to be removed. Most people simply switched off the appliance and left a pan of hot water in the freezer compartment. Once melting was under way, the ice could be scraped off by hand.

The electrical appliance manufacturers spotted the opening for an appliance to assist this process. During the 1950s U.S. companies produced a line of electric defrosters that could be plugged in and then placed in the freezer. Most were small electric heaters encased in aluminum bodies with wooden handles, such as those manufactured by Howell & Company and the Shane Manufacturing Company. Some models had metal and plastic casings. The Osrow Products Company of New York produced an infrared version in the early 1960s.