Keeping your cooler clean is a necessary chore, but it doesn’t have to be a frustrating one. A clean cooler will last longer and will prevent odors from appearing that may seep into your food. Keeping your cooler clean will also prevent mold and mildew from building up inside. Once mildew has established itself, it can be hard to get rid of, so stop it before it starts by following our advice.
The main thing to do when storing your cooler is to make sure that it is completely dry inside and out. Most often coolers are stored in garages or sheds which can get very hot and musty during the summer months. Moisture and warm temperatures are a great breeding ground for mold and mildew so you want to deny that to them. Wipe down the inside of the cooler with a cloth and then if possible set the cooler out in the sunlight for an hour or two to get rid of all the moisture hiding in tiny scratches on the cooler liner.
If you regularly store food in your cooler then you want to also keep out harmful bacteria. While direct exposure to sunlight will kill of most harmful critters, it only takes a moment to go the extra step to ensure that your food stays safe. Food borne illness is very painful (and possibly fatal) so do not skip out on cleaning the cooler!
There are two ways you can get rid of bad germs in your cooler:
1 – Alcohol wipes
Alcohol wipes are cheap and can be bought just about anywhere. Simply take one and wipe down the handles and the inside of the cooler. If you have a large cooler then you should use two or three wipes to make sure that every corner gets hit with some alcohol. Let the cooler sit for a while then dry out the interior with a cloth or towel. The alcohol will quickly evaporate on its own, but there may be some lingering moisture so be sure to wipe down the entire cooler.
2 – Bleach bath
Fill the cooler about halfway with cold water, then add in 1/2 to 1 cup of bleach. Use a sponge or a cloth to swish the water all over the inside of the cooler and it doesn’t hurt to wipe down the handles as well. Close the cooler lid, rock the cooler back and forth a few times to slosh things around, then dump out the bleach water and let the cooler dry in the sun. After the cooler has dried, rinse it out with cold clean water and let dry again.
Keeping the outside of a cooler clean may seem daunting since they spend so much time in the dirt and weather. However it doesn’t hurt to take a damp cloth and wipe down the outside of the cooler after getting home from your trip. Any part of the cooler that you touch should always be cleaned, so this means the lid and handles. For the rest of the cooler you can just hose it off and let dry in the sun, or use window cleaner and paper towels to wipe off mud and hand prints.
Even if you buy a cheap cooler, there is no reason it should not last many years with proper maintenance. Cleaning your cooler after every trip keeps it from developing stains, mildew, and odors. Most importantly it can help prevent your cooler from becoming a haven for harmful bacteria which can find its way onto your food and drinks.