How to Clean Styrofoam Coolers

Do you have a dirty styrofoam cooler that needs a thorough cleaning? If you do, you’ve come to the right place.

Styrofoam coolers are great for keeping drinks, beverages, and other foods cold. But if you’ve ever used one you’ll know the white styrofoam can get dirty pretty quickly.

Given styrofoam coolers are more fragile than regular coolers you need to be more careful in the way you clean them. So how exactly do you clean a styrofoam cooler?

Depending on the dirt type, you can clean styrofoam coolers with soft sponge and rinse with water. Alternatively, you can wash with an air compressor, white vinegar, or soda bicarbonate.

As the name suggests, styrofoam coolers are made with styrofoam, which functions as the insulator that helps keep the content cold. The foam also serves, to some extent, as a packing material.

However, the thing with this type of cooler is that, if you fail to clean it as often as possible, it will breed mold. Besides, dirt and dust tend to build up on this cooler’s foam.

This makes keeping the cooler clean essential for its safe and healthy use. Not to worry, cleaning a styrofoam cooler isn’t too tricky as long as you follow the tips and tricks here.

Cleaning Mild Dirt

If you styrofoam cooler is just a little bit dirty then giving it a good wash with warm soapy water and a sponge should do the trick.

Use detergent and a soft sponge

Styrofoam coolers are somewhat fragile, especially in the face of very harsh chemicals or harsh brushes. But using some dishwashing detergent and a soft sponge is usually enough to get rid of most dirty and grime.

Partially fill up your cooler with warm soapy water and use your sponge to rub both the inside and outside of your cooler, focusing on the areas with the most dirt. The corners are often the places where the most dirt and grime gets stuck.

Be careful not to apply too much pressure when scrubbing as you don’t want to break or snap the styrofoam.

After you’ve made sure they are all dirt is out, pour out the soapy water and rinse well with clean water.

Then, leave it in direct sunlight or an area with good airflow in order to dry.

Rinse Cooler Thoroughly Using a Hose

This is another trick you can use on occasions when the styrofoam cooler was only used for cold drinks and water.

You can simply rinse your cooler out with by using a garden hose.

This is generally the way I clean my coolers after a trip away in my campervan. It’ll remove most of the dirt from the trip and it’s easy to do.

Just connect your garden hose to a tap and turn it on. I like to turn the tap on high and apply some good pressure to blow away all the dirt.

Just don’t apply so much pressure that it starts to break the styrofoam.

After cleaning your cooler, leave it directly under the sun to dry properly.

Note that this does not apply to situations when you keep food like fish, meat, etc., in the cooler.

In this case, the cooler will require a more thorough cleaning otherwise it’ll end up stinking.

Cleaning Stubborn Dirt From Your Styrofoam Cooler

Sometimes your styrofoam cooler has built up too much dirt that a simple wash won’t be good enough. Other times you might have difficult stains that are hard to get rid of.

Below are a few different techniques you can apply if the standard soapy water and sponge doesn’t work for you.

Use an Air Compressor

If you’ve stored your styrofoam cooler and left it unused for an extended period, dust and dirt will have accumulated on it.

If this has happened then blowing it clean with an air compressor is a great quick and easy way to clean your styrofoam cooler.

To use an air compressor, place its nozzle on the Styrofoam and gently blow off the dust.

For this process, you might need to wear a facemask so that you won’t inhale dust and dirt from the Styrofoam.

This shouldn’t take you very long and you should be done in about 5 minutes. Of course, after blowing away the dirt, you’ll still want to use a soft sponge and soap to wipe the cooler clean.

When you’re done, rinse and leave outside to dry.

Clean With White Vinegar

Leaving your cooler unwashed for a long time or long term use can leave stubborn stains on the material.

Cleaning it with white vinegar is a good way to remove most of the stubborn stains that dishwashing soap and water cannot remove.

First, give your styrofoam cooler a good rinse. After this, mix a cup of white vinegar with water, dip a towel or rag inside the mixture and begin to clean the insides of your Styrofoam cooler.

After you have finished this cleaning, rinse your cooler out very well with your garden hose as described above and leave the cooler in the sun to dry.

White vinegar is handy for removing stubborn stains and preventing the growth of germs in any cooler.

Use Soda Bicarbonate

It is not unusual for styrofoam coolers to smell weird, especially if you always store things like fish, meat, etc. in them.

Soda Bicarbonate is known for its ability to remove odor from materials. It also works as an abrasive cleaner to help scrub away those more stubborn stains without breaking the styrofoam.

As usual, you’ll want to rinse out your Styrofoam cooler first.

Afterward, mix soda bicarbonate a small amount of water (or white vinegar) to make a gritty paste.

Use a sponge or towel and get a good amount of the bicarb soda on it. Then give your cooler a good scrub all over.

Once you’re done, rinse it out, and leave it in the sun to dry. Make sure the lid is open as you place your cooler outside to dry.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

There are different ways to clean a Styrofoam cooler but you always want to be careful to avoid harsh chemicals and solvents.

While solvents can be great for cleaning off oily grime that has built up on the cooler it can also break down the polystyrene, destroying your cooler.

Use harsh chemicals to clean your styrofoam cooler at your own risk.

Clean Regularly

The best way to keep a styrofoam cooler clean is to wash it on a regular basis.

If you leave your styrofoam cooler too long and it builds up mold or deep stains then these will be extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to remove, leaving your cooler looked stained and dirty even after a good clean.

When not using your cooler make sure to dry it extremely well and then store it in a shady, cool and dry space to avoid the buildup of mold and grime over time.