How to Clean an Ice Chest

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Whether it is a collapsible six-beverage can size, a 45-quart stainless steel or a 40-quart thermoelectric chest style that plugs into a cigarette lighter, an ice chest is an important gear for picnics, camping and long road trips. Basic cleaning will prolong the life of the ice chest, but what about smells from spoiled foods, or spilled mustard stains, or mildew that grew when the lid was closed before the ice chest was completely dry? Although it might take several attempts, something can be done to clean smells and stains from ice chests.

Clean the inside of the ice chest before you use it the first time. Use a mild soapy water solution and wipe down the ice chest's walls. Rinse it thoroughly. Open the lid and allow it to dry completely.

Drain any water from the ice chest after each use and wipe it down. Periodically use a mild soapy water to wash it. Rinse it and allow it to dry with the lid open.

Remove smells from the inside of the ice chest by wiping it down with white vinegar. There is no need to rinse as the vinegar will dissipate as it air dries.

If the smell still lingers, cut lemons and rub them on inside of the cooler. Rinse and air dry the chest.

Try pouring vanilla extract on a cloth and rub the inside of the ice chest. Allow it to sit overnight, then rinse thoroughly and air dry the chest.

Treat stains and mildew inside the ice chest by rubbing them down with a mild bleach and water mixture. Rinse the cooler. If the stains remain, fill the ice chest with water and add approximately ½ cup of bleach; allow it to sit for an hour. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.

Wipe the exterior of the ice chest with a mild soap and water. Rinse the soapy water off and wipe it down. Open the lid and allow it to air dry.


  • Don't submerge the ice chest or put it in the dishwasher. Getting water in the liner can damage the insulation.

About the Author

After attending Hardin Simmons University, Kay Dean finished her formal education with the Institute of Children's Literature. Since 1995, Dean has written for such publications as "PB&J," Disney’s "Family Fun," "ParentLife," "Living With Teenagers" and Thomas Nelson’s NY Times bestselling "Resolve." An avid gardener for 25 years, her experience includes organic food gardening, ornamental plants, shrubs and trees, with a special love for roses.

Photo Credits

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