Can You Make Your Own Freeze Dryer Door Pad or Pillow?

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 have been wondering if making their own 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 fabric that is insulated, water-resistant, and thick enough to be able 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 own freeze dryer pillows. Creating your own pad will also give you the opportunity to explore your creative side with all the fabric choices.

An image of a black freeze dryer door pad.
Image: our freeze dryer pillow is kinda plain but totally functional. It matches the Darth Vader vibe our freeze dryer has going on.

What Fabrics Should I Use to Make a Freeze Dryer Pad?

The best fabrics to make a freeze dryer pad are insulating, water-resistant fabrics like polyester. 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.

In fact, 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 when it comes to stretching and shrinking, meaning if you were to make a pad out of this material, you’d be able to use your pad 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 with your measurements, make sure to 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 make sure it can effectively trap the cold inside of the freezer.

How Thick Do the Door Pads Need to Be?

The door pad needs to be at least an inch thick so the area would be properly insulated. 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 just sew it normally, but bias tape gives it a nice designer touch and does the job of binding the clothes together neatly.

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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 over at Etsy (my referral link). 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 a YouTube video she released showcasing her work.

Again, if you want to get a custom door pad without the work, Betty’s the go-to seller. You can see all of her options by visiting my Etsy favorite’s list at this link here.

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 make sure to keep the freeze dryer pads as clean as long 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 just 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 pad or pillow, but it is recommended that you use one. Using the freeze dryer without the pad or pillow 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 that 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 the moisture from forming, you can use an insulated pad.

Using the freeze dryer without the pad also increases the chances of ice forming at the door gasket.

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 its fit. If you bought some of the earlier freeze dryers, they come with the brand’s own 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 snug and 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. For those who have recently bought a freeze dryer bag, I recommend that you should consider making or buying one. Trust me, it’s an investment worth making.

Is a Freeze Dryer Pad or Pillow Necessary?

A freeze dryer door pad (or pillow) is not required, but it does increase the insulation of the unit leading to shorter freeze-drying times. The difference is small, though, so most users may not need a door pillow.

That being said, we have one and love it. I feel like all the shortcuts and bonuses we can get from the added insulation do add up over time. So while we’re talking pennies at a time, those pennies do add up to dollars pretty quickly if you use your unit frequently.

So is it totally 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.

An image of a hand holding a black freeze dryer door pad.
Image: our freeze dryer pillow (it’s a bit dusty haha!) and freeze dryer. I don’t clean the outside of it as often as I ought to, but I do keep the interior side clean. Bonus points if you catch my reflection in the door!

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

If your Harvest Right freeze dryer doesn’t have a door pad, or yours needs replacing, I highly recommend you check out Betty Stills Shop over at Etsy. Her custom door pads are amazing.

And if you’d like to uplevel your Harvest Right freezer so you don’t ever have to manually change the oil again, make sure you read my article where I show you our exact, automated oil filtration system here: Complete Guide To Freeze Dryer Vacuum Pumps (Oil And Oil-free).

Cite this article as: “Can You Make Your Own Freeze Dryer Door Pad or Pillow?.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 30 March 2022, backyardhomesteadhq.com/can-you-make-your-own-freeze-dryer-door-pad-or-pillow/.

Resources

It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal 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.

By Kimberly Starr

I'm a ginger who loves being outside, homesteading, and spending time with my family. I believe humor is the best medicine, followed very closely by chocolate and tacos.