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How Long Does A Styrofoam Cooler Keep Ice?

How Long Does a Styrofoam Cooler Keep Ice?

One of the biggest problems people have is keeping ice in their coolers. A lot of people try to buy coolers that are often extremely cheap (and it shows), but they’re just looking for an affordable solution that is made for the short term anyway. Today we’re going to talk about these popular Styrofoam coolers. When you need to cool things for a short amount of time, many people use dry ice or ice blocks, but Styrofoam coolers may not be a good idea for this. This is why a lot of people use water-made ice to store in them. But how long does this last? We’re going to find out!

Ice Retention Based on Size

You can use regular water ice in a Styrofoam cooler and keep things cool for 12-24 hours. Keep in mind, this is quite similar to other coolers, just without the extra insulation and lining – so you’re not going to get days’ worth of cooling since there isn’t a lot of insulation in Styrofoam alone. One of the things to note, is that the less ice you use, the faster it’s going to melt (since it won’t keep the other cubes quite as cold). And don’t think that the popular brands like Coleman, Igloo, and others are as good as a Yeti or a Pelican cooler (which are meant to hold ice longer). 

The main thing is that the more ice you have, the longer it’s going to retain. For example, if you poured 5lbs of ice into a smaller cooler, you’re only going to get about 12-24 hours of cooling and ice retention before you need to drain the water completely. If you use a larger cooler, and put more ice in it (about 15 lbs.), then you’re going to get about 3 days’ worth of ice retention. So, I guess size really matters then doesn’t it?

Water Ice Has More Flexibility

You can’t just stick dry ice into a completely airtight container. This can be extremely dangerous on numerous levels, and lead to spontaneous combustion (which many people have ended up suffering from). And dry ice packs don’t always perform that well, or they’re extremely bulky in terms of keeping your food and beverages cold. Therefore, you need to know numerous different things about how well water works.

You can put water in literally any container and freeze it. Of course, you don’t ever want to put it in a water bottle and into the freezer. Water actually expands when it converts into a solid. The more solid it gets, the more it’s going to expand. This is why soda cans burst when the carbon dioxide finally freezes (essentially becoming dry ice in a liquid), and why water bottles may get warped, or even bust when they’re frozen too. Just remember that when you’re freezing your water in a container, to leave the container open (and not fill it to the brim), this way you can seal it once it’s frozen. Afterwards, you can put your water/ice container into the cooler to create your own ice packs. This can save you a lot of money, but it’s not going to keep ice in a Styrofoam cooler as long.

If Not Having Maximum Cooling and Ice Retention Are Okay with You

There are many benefits that are great regarding Styrofoam coolers. Of course, they may not be made by the actual “company” known as Styrofoam, but they are a special material that is commonly used in shipping and has numerous uses for insulation. Some of these benefits are:

Styrofoam coolers are extremely cheap, and therefore, they are easy to purchase in bulk. You can buy them for less than $10. If you’re just needing to keep your stuff cool for a couple hours, this can very well suffice, saving you a ton of money on a top of the line Yeti or other higher-end cooler.

Styrofoam is moldable, so there are many different shapes and sizes of Styrofoam coolers. This makes them a great companion for many anglers. As a matter of fact, even Styrofoam bait buckets are just a cylindrical cooler, but they are great at holding liquids and solids just the same (as well as keeping things cold).

This material is one of the lightest materials on the market. That makes it perfect for being able to carry it anywhere. If you pack a large Pelican ice chest to the brink, you may not be able to carry it without help – whereas you often can with a light Styrofoam cooler (they often don’t even weigh a pound.

The Downsides

There are some notable downsides to Styrofoam coolers though. For starters, they’re not durable at all, and they’re susceptible to breaking and smashing easily. You also get very little ice retention. So, if you are wanting to keep things dry, you may want to use ice packs instead of loose ice. Also, Styrofoam is one of the most common pollutants on the planet, and it’s not a greener alternative since they’re often simply disposed of in landfills (a lot of places won’t even recycle Styrofoam, but rather incinerate and dispose of it).

Where Can I Find Good Styrofoam Coolers?

Believe it or not, you can find these coolers almost anywhere. From major retail outlets, to smaller convenience stores, and even online, these coolers are some of the easiest to obtain. You can even find them pretty cheap on websites like Amazon, eBay, and many more!


Styrofoam coolers only hold ice for up to a day. Many times, unless you use enough ice, and have enough room for items that are less than 32 degrees, you’re not even going to get that much retention either. Many people have noted that Styrofoam cups hold ice better than plastic cups, but either way, it only last as long as the warm air your keeping out of it can keep cold. This is why they’re not a viable option for maximum storage like a Yeti cooler is designed for. While you pay a cheap price, you get a cheap product!

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