Should I drain the water out of my cooler daily, or should I leave the ice melt in the cooler? This is a question we receive continually, so we decided to put it to the test. We’ve heard from a majority of our YouTube commenters that you should leave the water in the cooler as the ice melts. However, we weren't convinced, and as our results show, for good reason.
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Ice Melt Drainage Test Setup
For this test we kept everything identical between two coolers. We used two 55 Qt Lifetime Product Coolers; which were the same color, size, shape, etc. We also made sure to use the exact same amount of ice in each cooler, 20 lbs exactly. The only difference in this test is whether we drained the ice melt out daily or left it in the cooler for the duration of the test.
Every morning (every 24 hour cycle) we would come out to rotate the two beverages inside and drain the ice melt in one cooler, while leaving the water in the other. We utilize two beverages on the inside of the cooler in addition to the ice as it provides a better visual for those at home to monitor the ice melt. Additionally, by rotating the beverage within the cooler several times a day we are simulating actual use. Sure, most people will open their cooler more than this, but the point we wanted to make was these coolers were not sitting in a dark cool room. Rather, they were sitting outside on concrete where the lids of the coolers were reaching 95°+ in the afternoon, and being opened three times a day throughout the duration of this test.
Watch The Ice Challenge:
So Which Is It, Leave The Ice Melt Or Drain It?
Much like our last challenge where we tested dry ice, vs block ice, vs cubed ice, the results to this test are greyer than they are black and white. After 6 days, we concluded that draining the water from your cooler will result in ice lasting longer. However, the internal temperatures in the cooler with the ice melt retained, will result in lower internal temperatures. As you can see this is a more convoluted answer than we had hoped for.
Physical ice will remain in a cooler in which you drain the water daily for a longer period of time. Overall internal temperature will be colder in the cooler in which ice melt is retained. This jives with what many of your comments were claiming. Because the ice is already chilled to almost freezing (32°) the water works as a quasi insulator and prevents internal temps from rising as quickly
At the end of the day the difference in the presence of ice between the two coolers was +/- 2-3 hours. The results were extremely close. Therefore, you should do what is best for your situation. If you have meats, hot dogs, dry goods etc, you should go ahead and drain the water frequently. This will prevent your meats and dry goods from becoming soggy. For those merely cooling beer, soda, or water; go ahead and leave the water in the cooler. One last consideration to make is whether or not the cooler will be moved frequently. Draining the water regularly will reduce the weight of the cooler making it much easier to lift and move.