It is possible to keep ice from melting for hours, days and even weeks at a time if you use the right methods and store the ice correctly.
Without preparation ice will melt in a matter of minutes or hours when left out in the open air. But you have a lot of different options for storing ice so it doesn't melt and I have a lot of extra tips and tricks to make your ice last even longer than it otherwise would.
So how exactly do you keep ice from melting?
You keep ice from melting by reducing the amount of heat it is exposed to. If you don't have a freezer then the best way to do this is with a well insulated cooler. There are lots of tips and tricks to keep ice from melting for longer in your cooler which all work in their own different ways.
Utilise some or all of these techniques to get the absolute maximum ice retention possible so you can keep your ice from melting for days or even weeks at a time.
1. Use a Cooler
The best way to keep ice from melting is to use a cooler box.
Coolers are specifically designed to have heavily insulated walls that stop heat transfer. This stops heat from reaching your ice and stops the heat from warming up your ice and melting it.
Ice left outside might only last minutes. Ice stored in a non-insulated plastic container or bucket might only last a few hours but ice stored in a cooler can easily last multiple days at a time.
You can choose between hard sided coolers and soft sided coolers. There are lots of different brands that vary in price and performance so depending on how long you want your ice to last and what your budget is will determine the best cooler for you. Click here to see the best budget coolers
2. Use a Really Good Cooler
If you really want to keep your ice from melting for a long period of time then you're going to want to invest in a high-quality cooler.
Coolers like Yeti, RTIC, Orca and Otterbox are filled with much thicker and better insulation than cheaper coolers. The prices are much more expensive but they do work extraordinarily well.
Smaller expensive coolers around 20-Quart capacity can hold ice for 2-4 days and larger coolers around the 55-Quart capacity can hold ice for over a week. Giant coolers when filled with enough ice can actually hold ice for 14+ days at a time.
I've done the research and compiled a full list of the coolers that hold ice the longest, ranked by performance. So check out that article if you want the best coolers for holding ice.
3. Use a Vacuum Insulated Container
A vacuum is by far the most effective insulation that's available. It's better than styrofoam, polyurethane or any other material.
There are lots of different vacuum insulated cup, mugs, bottles and containers out there that can store ice in small quantities for 1-2 days at a time.
Putting a small amount of ice into a regular bottle and you'll likely only get a couple of hours of ice/cold water. On a hot day even less than that. But these vacuum insulated bottles are so effective that even on the hottest day they can keep ice for 24 hours or more.
This isn't the best way to keep ice in large quantities, but it's the best method for keeping ice in small amounts.
4. Make Your Own Makeshift Cooler
If you don't have access to a cooler or a vacuum sealed container then you can make you own makeshift cooler.
There are a few different ways to do this.
Here is a shortlist of the methods but you can also click here for full details on how to keep ice from melting without a cooler.
- Wrap a plastic container in aluminium foil
- Keep ice in a ziplock bag, cover with tissues and then put in another plastic bag
- Wrap the ice in a towel
- Freeze milk jugs
- Freeze a cast iron pot
5. Line Your Cooler/Container With Aluminium
One thing most coolers lack is a way to keep out thermoelectric heat, also known as infrared heat.
Coolers are great at stopping conduction and convection of heat (the two main ways heat is transferred) but not as good at stopping heat radiation.
Aluminium is incredible at stopping this third type of heat transfer as it reflects the majority of heat radiation away from your cooler.
To keep your ice even longer go ahead and line your cooler with aluminium making sure to also stick some aluminium to the lid.
You can line the inside or the outside, it doesn't matter which, but the inside is more practical and will last longer.
For even greater insulation line your cooler with the aluminium roofing insulation you can find at the hardware store. This has little air bubbles in it and is often double layered with aluminium so will work better. But otherwise plain alfoil will do the trick.
6. Use Dry Ice With Your Ice
Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and it is extremely extremely cold at -109.3°F (-78.5°C). This is far below the freezing temperature of regular ice.
Get some dry ice and place it in the bottom of your cooler and then place your regular ice on top. Click here to learn how much dry ice to use in a cooler.
The dry ice will completely cool down the regular ice and make it last longer.
The dry ice will sublimate (turn from a solid into a gas) and it won't make any mess. Once the dry ice is completely gone you'll still have frozen water ice that will last for days.
To make your regular ice last forever and never melt simply keep topping up your cooler with dry ice.
7. Use Ice Packs With Your Ice
Ice packs like the Yeti Ice Brick are designed in such a way that they melt earlier than your regular ice does.
When the ice bricks melt they actually get colder. This is because they need energy to turn from a solid into a liquid and they take this energy from the ice in your cooler making it colder.
This means your melting ice brick with actually make your ice colder and make it last longer than it otherwise would have.
Once your ice brick has melted take it out of cooler.
8. Use Larger Ice Blocks or Frozen Milk Jugs
Larger blocks of ice melt slower that the same amount of ice in smaller blocks.
Larger blocks means less surface area and less of the ice exposed to the warmer outside air.
The ice in the center of the block is also insulated from the outside air by the rest of the ice block so this slows down melting.
You can make large blocks in your freezer at home using things like ice cream containers or other plastic containers or you can fill up milk just and freeze those. The plastic of the milk jugs will also help to insulate the ice a little bit making it last longer than a similar size ice block with no plastic barrier.
9. Use Larger Quantities of Ice
If you fill a cooler up with just a small amount of ice then it will melt pretty quickly. However, the more ice you use the longer the ice will last in total.
Similar to using large blocks the surrounding ice insulates each other from the outside air and because of a large volume more overall heat is needed to melt all the ice and this takes more time.
All in all the more ice you use, the longer you will have ice for.
10. Use Boiling Water To Make Your Ice
It is advised that you use boiling water to make your ice cubes. The idea here is that somehow the boiling water freezes with less air bubbles making your ice cubes denser overall.
I'm not 100% sure how this work but boiling water seems to allow the air bubbles to escape much more easily and stops them getting trapped.
This makes your ice crystal clear but it also means your ice cubes will last longer.
11. Pre-Chill Your Cooler
This is a HUGE tip and one you should do, especially if you have a cooler with thick insulation like a Yeti or some other brand.
While cooler insulation helps to keep heat out over time it can actually absorb heat becoming quite warm. This is especially true if you've left your cooler in a hot garage or hot car before loading it up.
If your cooler is warm or at room temperature and you add ice to it the ice will start to melt as it brings down the temperature of the insulation. This makes your ice melt extremely quickly and in some cases it won't even last a day even in a cooler that can usually keep ice for 5+ days. Learn why ice is melting quickly in your Yeti.
So pre-chilling your cooler is an absolute must if you want to keep ice longer.
The best way to pre-chill a cooler is with dry ice as this is extremely cold. The second best way is to put your entire cooler in a walk in freezer. The third best way (and most practical) is to put a sacrificial bag of ice or some frozen water bottles in your cooler the night before you use it to bring it down to temperature.
12. Pre-Chill Your Drinks/Food Before Putting In The Ice
If you're putting in room temperature drinks or food and relying on the ice in your cooler to cool these items down then your ice will melt faster.
Room temperature food and drinks adds heat to your ice melting parts of it. It takes a lot of energy to cool down a drink and this uses up ice and makes it melt.
By pre-freezing or pre-chilling everything you are adding less heat into your cooler and it will last much longer.
13. Don't Leave Air Space In Your Cooler
When I did my research for which coolers hold ice the longest I discovered a video where a guy put in the same amount of ice into each cooler, whether it was big or small.
Guess what happened?!
The small coolers performed WAY better and kept the ice way longer than the large coolers.
This is because empty space in your cooler makes your ice melt faster.
So if you don't have much ice either use a smaller cooler so it's mostly full or fill up the empty space in your cooler as much as possible with ice or other cold things.
If you're stuck for how to fill up your cooler to stop the air melting your ice then get a piece of cardboard and put it over your ice, then fill up the empty space in your cooler with scrunched up newspaper.
14. Open Your Cooler As Little As Possible
When you open your cooler you're letting all the cold air out and letting the outside warm air into your cooler.
This adds more heat to your cooler which will make your ice melt faster.
The more you open your cooler and the more this happens the faster all the ice will melt.
So only open your cooler when absolutely necessary and if you want your cooler to keep ice for over a week then don't open your cooler at all to stop the ice from melting.
15. Empty The Water From Your Cooler As The Ice Melts
This one is a big a counter intuitive. I always thought it was better to keep your water in the cooler to make the ice last longer. But actually that isn't the case.
Water has more heat capacity than air (4-5 times more) and it is also better at conducting and transferring heat through convection. This is why dry ice disappears so much faster in water.
So air makes your ice melt slower compared to water.
16. Keep Your Cooler Out of Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight heats up the outside of your cooler and it also contains radiant heat (heat radiation) which can get through your cooler and warm up your ice.
By keeping your cooler out of the sunlight you are avoid adding that extra heat energy into your cooler and you will be able to keep your ice from melting for longer.
17. Wrap Your Cooler In a Wet Towel
Wrapping your cooler in a wet towel will make your ice last longer (assuming your cooler is in the shade) because as the wind passes over your wet towel water will evaporate off it.
As this water turns from a liquid into a gas it makes the towel colder in the process.
This cool towel is cooler that the outside air and so protects your cooler from heat, thus making your ice last longer than it otherwise would.
18. Keep Your Cooler In a Cold Space
Where you can keep your cooler in the coldest space possible.
That may be in the shade of your car when your camping vs being in the sun or in the car where it will get extremely hot.
Or maybe you can keep it inside where you have the airconditioning running anyway which is making the outside temperature colder.
The cooler outside temperature keeps the ice from melting because there is less heat getting into the cooler and warming up the ice.
19. Keep Your Cooler Away From Hot Surfaces
Putting your cooler on a hot surface that is radiating heat (like the metal tray of a pickup truck) will make the ice melt faster than if you can keep it away from hot surfaces.
This is especially true in cheaper coolers that have no feet to raise the bottom of the cooler off the ground.
The entire cooler bottom is touching the hot surface which is adding a lot of heat into your cooler melting your ice.
So keep it away from hot surfaces where possible.
20. Bury Your Cooler 3/4 Into The Ground
Have you ever seen those underground houses in the hot desert that people live in?
The live underground because the heat from the sun struggles to penetrate the ground and so the deeper you go the cooler it is.
If you're staying put somewhere for a while and you don't need to move your cooler then digging a hole (in the shade somewhere) and putting you cooler 3/4 into the ground will protect it from a lot of the heat of the outside air.
Any more than 3/4 and you'll likely get dirt in your cooler.
21. Keep Your Ice In The Freezer
The last and most obvious way to keep ice from melting is to put your ice in the freezer.
A freezer that is constantly running will remain cold enough that your ice will never melt and will stay frozen indefinitely.
That Is How You Keep Ice From Melting
There you have all the ways I can think of to keep ice from melting. They all follow the same simple concept…keep heat away from the ice in whatever way possible.
The more heat you can keep away from the ice the longer it will last and the slower it will melt.
I hope this helped. For more information on keeping ice for longer or how long ice lasts check out the articles below: