Table of Contents
It doesn’t take long for an ice chest or cooler to develop strong odors that are hard to remove. Some of the worst offenders are fish, onions and spoiled food. When your ice chest is in need of a good cleaning and deodorizing, you can do the job quickly and efficiently by following a few simple steps. Here is your guide to cleaning and deodorizing your ice chests or coolers.
Clean all debris from your cooler
This is the step that you take when rotten food or stale water has been sitting in your chest for a few days or longer. Take the chest outside and use the spray nozzle on a garden hose to remove all remaining particles. Have an old cleaning rag and tooth brush handy to get in the corners and crevices to make sure that everything is scrubbed or wiped away. You may discover that there’s a film on the bottom and sides and it needs to be removed.
Apply warm soapy water
Make a solution of warm soapy water and thoroughly clean the inside of the cooler, the lid and the area where the drain plug is located. Note that stubborn odors can collect in the drain plug so when you’re done cleaning the rest of the chest, open the drain plug and scrub the area with a tooth brush. Dump the soapy water and rinse with the spray nozzle on your garden hose. In some cases, this is all that you need to do, but if there is still an odor, move on to the next step.
Deodorize with baking soda
At this point your cooler has been thoroughly cleaned, but some stubborn odors will need additional attention. Dampen the bottom and sides of the cooler and sprinkle baking soda on the inside of the cooler. Use a cleaning cloth or soft brush and work the baking soda into the material. Close the lid and let it set for an hour or two. After the baking soda has had time to work, rinse out the cooler and check to see if any odors remain or if there are any stubborn stains that you want to remove. This third step usually does the trick, but if not, it’s time to resort to the next stop.
Use a bleach solution
Mix a solution of 1/3 chlorine bleach and 2/3 water in a spray bottle. Start with the drain plug open and spray the inside of the plug and the interior of the cooler and its lid. You should wear rubber gloves to avoid chemical burns if the bleach spray gets on your skin. Also avoid inhaling the spray. It’s best to do this step outside. Leave the cooler open after you’ve thoroughly saturated every interior surface, including the plug area and allow it to sit for 30 to 60 minutes. The bleach will help to remove any lingering stains and it will also kill odor causing bacteria and sanitize your cooler. Rinse the beach solution from the cooler, drain plug and lid and check to see if any odors remain. You can repeat this step until all odors are gone.
Tips to Prevent Ice Chest/Cooler Odors:
Because cleaning a smelly cooler can be a chore, it’s best to avoid the need to give it a radical cleaning and deodorizing if you can. The regular maintenance cleaning is not nearly as intense as a full-scale sanitization. Of course, it’s a good practice to wash your cooler with warm soapy water, rinse and dry after every use, but We have some tips that will help to keep your ice chest cleaner and to prevent the buildup of old food, stale water and other offensive odors.
Pack the chest properly
When you pack perishables in your ice chest, make sure that any item having the potential for leaking is sealed in plastic. You can use plastic airtight containers, plastic bags that seal or smell proof airtight bags. This is especially important to meats that will thaw and leak blood into the water, or strong smelling items like fish, bacon or onions. Sealing the leaks before they happen will not only keep your ice chest smelling better, but it can help to prevent the spread of dangerous bacteria into the water and other food items that are stored inside. Many campers have become ill because of cross-contamination in ice chests so be on guard and take steps to prevent this from happening.
Empty the ice chest immediately
You may be tired from a long trip, but it’s a good idea to remove all food and beverage items from your cooler right away. If any of the meats or other food items leaked into the water, as the inside of the chest begins to warm, the liquids will condense and begin to spoil, making cleaning a bigger task than it would otherwise be, so get it all out right away. After doing this, dump any remaining ice and water. Give the chest a quick rinse with the spray nozzle of a garden hose. Give it a quick wash with a warm soapy solution, rinse and let dry. Cleaning out an ice chest or cooler is much easier when it’s still wet inside from use. It’s when you let it sit for a day or two that any leakage can dry and stick to the sides or it can rot and start smelling bad.
Store your ice chests and coolers the right way
Never put a cooler in storage if it is still wet because closing the lid can cause odor-causing bacteria to develop and your chest interior could also start to mold or mildew. It’s best to simply leave the lid open, tilt the cooler on its side and let it air dry naturally. You may also sprinkle a little baking soda inside before you store it. It will be easy to remove before you pack it with food or your next excursion.
Cleaning and deodorizing an ice chest or cooler can be a task, but the tips we’ve given here, offer a quicker and easier solution. There are simple household cleaners and deodorizers that can help get rid of tough stains and odors and leave you with a sparkling clean cooler that will be ready to go the next time you need it. A little preventative maintenance can make cleaning these vital camping essentials much easier.