Eliminating cooler stink
December 14, 2011 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Looking for an antimicrobial agent to add to a beer cooler.

In the summer, I like to keep beer in a cooler outside. Even when draining the water and adding ice as needed, the cooler begins to develop a funky smell after a week or so. I had the idea to put an antimicrobial additive to the cooler. I'm looking for something that is effective and won't kill me (and preferably won't impart terrible taste to the water that may get on the rim of the can like iodine would). I was thinking propylene glycol. Will this work? In what concentration? Better suggestions?
posted by horsemuth to Food & Drink (9 answers total)
Dude. Salt.
posted by mhoye at 7:08 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Use salt. Salt with sufficiently cold ice will result in colder beers more quickly. You will need quite a bit of salt, like a quarter to a half pound per bag of ice. It will also help with the stink.

Also, clean it every so often with well diluted bleach. Use 1-2 tablespoons to one gallon of water.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:48 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, salt in the water, bleach rinses. A drop or two of bleach (no more) will keep water from molding for a long, long time.
posted by fake at 9:48 PM on December 14, 2011

My first instinct was to say a bottle of "Rubbing alcohol". (like $1.50 at walgreens)

Would that be bad?
posted by hal_c_on at 11:12 PM on December 14, 2011

Iodine will stain, even in small quantities. The staining is not itself a problem, except cosmetically -- and that might be important to you.

Bleach is not a bad idea in dilution; you probably already have some lying around. But bleach -- from what I understand -- can pit plastic, creating more surface area and more potential places for bacteria to grow.

Home-brewers use something called Star-San, which sanitizes on contact, foams up to get everywhere, and is pretty inexpensive when used in appropriate dilution.
posted by gauche at 6:38 AM on December 15, 2011

Homebrewer here - clean the cooler with PBW. Do as others have stated above and put some salt in with the ice.
posted by brand-gnu at 7:23 AM on December 15, 2011

Thanks folks. I've tried some of these suggestions, but in retrospect, I used too little salt or too much bleach. I will try those again in the proper ratios. Great suggestions on the homebrew detergents. I will try those as well, though not while I have beer sitting in the cooler.
posted by horsemuth at 2:00 PM on December 15, 2011

I think propylene glycol would serve as food for various things - as will alcohol in low enough concentrations. You don't have to raise the pH too much with sodium hydroxide or trisodium phosphate to create a very inhospitable environment for things, but you'd want to rinse your cans off since it tastes like soap, even at relatively low levels. Most kills microorganisms by blunt force trauma solutions are going to fall in the realms of "not good for you" or at least "tastes horrible."

Also, something to consider - is what's happening actually growing in the water, or above the water? Treating the area above the water is going to be a lot more difficult.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:44 AM on December 16, 2011

Kid Charlemagne, I postulate that the problem is in the water. I bought a new cooler this year to rule out any cooler-related issues. It predominantly seems to happen with bottles, so it's my theory that the paper labels (or the glue/gum that secures them) is where the problem originates. I does happen with cans as well, but it seems to take longer before it starts to smell. You have, however, hit the nail on the head about the crux of the issue - bad taste or poisoning seem to be the end result of many sanitation options.
I wonder how oxygenated bleach - Oxyclean or something like it- would work...
posted by horsemuth at 2:21 PM on December 16, 2011

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