Freeze Dryers used to come with a handy little insulation pillow called Freeze Dryer Pads or Pillows. However, in recent releases of freeze dryers, the insulated pads are no longer a free add-on, nor are they available in Harvest Right’s online store. Without the freebee, people wonder if making their Freeze dryer Pillows at home is possible.
Making a custom insulated pad for a freeze dryer is possible with the proper cloth and measurements. Use insulated, water-resistant fabric, thick enough to trap the cold within your freeze dryer, and is measured to fit snugly in the opening.
In the article below, I’ll get into deeper detail about the materials you can use for your freeze-dryer pillows. Creating your pad will also give you the opportunity to explore your creative side with all the fabric choices.
How to Make a Freeze Dryer Door Pad at Home
The best way to make a custom or DIY freeze dryer circular door pad is by layering water-resistant fabrics around insulating (thermal) fabrics and using bias tape to seal the fabrics together.
What Fabrics Should I Use to Make a Freeze Dryer Pad?
Insulating, water-resistant fabrics like polyester are the best to make a freeze-dryer pad. Using an “outdoor” material is also a good idea, as the door pad will be exposed to extreme temperatures.
I highly recommend using Insulated or thermal fabrics since we want the insulation. It’s also important to find water-resistant material so ice won’t build up on the pad and the door gasket. You can experiment with different types of insulated fabrics, but I would recommend using a variety of polyester.
Polyester, aside from clothes, is also used to handle food. Polystyrene is the typical material used in food packaging. These packages keep the food fresh a lot longer and are affordable if you want the insulation.
In addition, the fabric has some resistance to stretching and shrinking, meaning if you were to make a pad out of this material, you’d be able to use it for years to come.
After choosing the fabric, it’s essential to know the measurements of the door of your freeze-dryer. Once you are sure of your measurements, give yourself an allowance in the fabric to sew it close with some thick bias tape. You’ll be folding the cloth into layers to ensure it can effectively trap the cold inside the freezer.
How Thick Do the Door Pads Need to Be?
The door pad must be as thick as possible (ideally at least an inch thick) to insulate the area properly. The thickness of the fabric will affect the materials’ ability to prevent the transfer of heat, which will impact overall freeze-drying times.
As much as possible, we want a faster cooling and processing time for whatever our products are in the freeze dryer. So aim for at least that inch thick.
How Do You Seal the Fabrics Together?
Use bias tape on the outside to seal the door pad layers together. You can sew it normally, but bias tape gives it a nice designer touch and binds the clothes together neatly.
Where Can I Buy Custom Door Pads?
If you want chic-looking door pads without the effort of making one, people have been making custom door pads online. I recommend you check out Betty Stills’ Shop on Etsy. She sells several kinds of Freeze Dryer pads of varying sizes to match the various sizes of freeze dryers.
In regard to Betty’s work, each Freeze Dryer pad is handmade. You get to choose what style of fabric you want in the shop and the size to ensure it will perfectly fit your freeze dryer. According to the seller, she can guarantee her pads will provide maximum insulation.
Her pads are said to lower the interior temperature quicker and promise to reduce condensation in the door gasket. You can look at how her pads look and fit on her Etsy shop or in a YouTube video she released showcasing her work.
Again, Betty’s the go-to seller if you want to get a custom door pad without the work. You can see her options, with others I like, by visiting my Etsy favorites list at this link.
We’ve got a Betty Stills floral original door pad that she so kindly sent to us after seeing this article. Thank you, Betty! My kids and I like it much better than the old black one.
Are the custom freeze-dryer pillows better than those sent with the freeze-dryer?
From what I understand, I would say the custom ones are better due to their fit. If you bought some of the earlier freeze dryers, they come with the brand’s insulated pillows. We’ve got a Harvest Right branded pillow, so we use that. It works well enough, but it’s not always a perfect fit. Compared to what I’ve seen of Betty’s work, then, the generic pillows do not fit as nicely onto the window as the custom one does.
Again, the generic ones tend to be too big, causing the gasket to pop out at times, and generally wouldn’t fit as snugly as well as a custom one. The custom ones are made by hand and made to fit. Custom-made ones are snug enough to ensure no leaks, and the area is 100% insulated.
However, if you already have the freeze dryer pad freebie, it works just as well if you have the patience to put it on right. I recommend making or buying one for those who recently bought a freeze-dryer bag. Trust me. It’s an investment worth making.
How Should You Wash Custom Freeze Dryer Door Pads?
Even if the material is stretchy and water-resistant, these pads should still be handled with care and hand-washed only. The door pads don’t need to be washed often, but since it is used to handle products, it’s best to keep the freeze-dryer pads as clean as possible.
Just like clothes, they will deteriorate if handled too roughly in the washer, so I’d only wash my door pads by hand. Doing this can prolong the life of my door pad.
Usually, we spot-wash our door pad with a damp rag as needed. We’ve never immersed it in water to spring clean it. And it works great!
Can I Use My Freeze Dryer Without the Pad or Pillow?
Freeze dryers can be used with or without a door pad. Skipping a door pad means food being freeze-dried is visible, which can make spotting issues easier, but the load will take longer. Using a door pad means not being able to see the food but shorter load times due to increased insulation.
You can use the freeze dryer without an insulated pillow, but it is recommended that you use one. Using the freeze dryer without the pillow or pad allows you to see your food as it freeze-dries. This lets you figure out which chunks or pieces of food need special attention. Meanwhile, the Freeze dryer pillow will prevent you from seeing beyond the door.
However, not using a pad or pillow would mean the area isn’t fully insulated. This could result in a longer waiting time for your food to be appropriately freeze-dried. Also, the transfer of heat still happens without the pad, albeit at a slower rate.
It is also recommended to use a freeze-dryer pillow if you live in an area with high humidity. This is because moisture will cause condensation to happen in your freeze-dryer. To prevent moisture from forming, you can use an insulated pad.
Using the freeze dryer without the pad increases the chances of ice forming at the door gasket.
Is a Freeze Dryer Pillow or Pad Necessary?
A freeze-dryer door pad (or pillow) is not required, but it does increase the unit’s insulation, leading to shorter freeze-drying times. The difference is small, so most users may not need a door pillow.
That being said, we have one and love it. All the shortcuts and bonuses from the added insulation add up over time. So while we’re talking pennies at a time, those pennies add up to dollars pretty quickly if you use your unit frequently.
So is it required? No. Is it something you should get? I think it’s a great piece of equipment to have and use. We use ours with every load.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Do You Need Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Accessories like a Door Pad?
The pillow isn’t strictly required, but it does help your freeze dryer be more efficient. Other Harvest Right accessories, like trays, are helpful or needed to freeze dry food.
Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also intelligent. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “Do I Need a Door Pillow in My Harvestright Freeze Dryer?” YouTube, 6 June 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WTSf_UOB3w&t=106s.