How To Clean Your Cooler

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Whether you’re using your cooler to chill drinks on the patio, tote an entire picnic to the park, or feed the hoards after baseball practice, it can get pretty icky after a season of heavy use. And because you’re usually using it on the go (or while you’re just busy doing fun things!), it’s easy to put off cleaning up spills or to forget to empty it until the day after — but doing that can leave dirt, bacteria, mildew, and more on the inside (and outside!) of the cooler.

Here’s how to get your dirty cooler clean — and keep it that way.

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How To Clean Your Cooler

What You Need

  • Soft dishwashing cloth
  • Warm water
  • Mild detergent or dish soap
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Paper towels or microfiber cloth


  1. Ready your cloth: Saturate your dishwashing cloth with warm water, then add a small amount of detergent.
  2. Start wiping: Use the cloth to wipe down the interior of the cooler, being sure to get into the corners of the cooler and around the drain hole, areas where mildew and grime are more likely to accumulate.
  3. Add extra scrubbing power: If you have really tough stains, make a paste of baking soda and water, then dip your cloth into the paste and scrub it onto the spot. (Avoid using abrasive detergents or cleaning tools because they could scratch or damage the inside of the liner.)
  4. Clean the outside: Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the outside of the cooler.
  5. Clean the inside again: Rinse your dishwashing cloth with clean water, then wipe the interior again to remove any soap. Do this a few times to get out any remaining soap residue, then wipe the exterior.
  6. Let it air dry: Leave your cooler open to air-dry. If you want to store it right away, wipe out any moisture with a microfiber cloth or paper towels. It should be totally dry before storage.
  7. Care for it each time: To avoid building up stains and mildew, be sure to empty the cooler after each use, clean the interior, and let it dry before storage.

Special thanks to Michelle Stone, group manager for hard-side products at Igloo Product Corp., for this information.