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How to Keep Drinks Cold Without a Fridge (9 Easy Ways)

We have come to depend on our fridges, but they’re not always available. Maybe your fridge has broken down, or you’re traveling without access to your fridge. Whatever is going on, you still need to be able to keep your drinks cool without this essential appliance.

Here are 9 ways to keep drinks cold without a fridge:

  • Immerse the drinks in cool saltwater. 
  • Wrap a wet cloth around your drinks.
  • Pour them into a vacuum insulated bottle
  • Place the drinks outside at night. 
  • Store the drinks in the basement. 
  • Place the drinks in the washing machine. 
  • Bury your drinks underground.
  • Place some ice in a cooler. 
  • Insulate your cooler. 

This article will walk you through the ins and outs of all of these drink-cooling methods. Let’s dive right.

Immerse the drinks in cool water

Perhaps the easiest way to keep your drinks cool if you don’t have a fridge handy is to immerse them in cool water.

In the days of the great sailing vessels in the 19th and 20th centuries, before an officers’ dinner on board, the bottles of wine would be dropped over the side in a net to cool down. Usually, this worked well, although when the sea was very warm, it was less successful – and there was always the risk of losing them.

But unless you’re on a fridgeless yacht, you won’t need to worry about losing your drinks to the depths of the sea. A simple bowl with cool water in it should do the trick.

If you have any salt handy, you should throw that into the water, as it will slow the heating of the water and keep your drinks cooler for longer. You only need a small handful to make a difference. 

Why does salt help keep the water cool? Well, salt is a combination of sodium and chloride. As the salt molecule separates into its constituent atoms, the process requires energy. This energy is taken from the water, which reduces the temperature of the water.

A clear representation of this phenomenon can be seen in the differing temperatures at which saltwater and freshwater freeze. Saltwater freezes at 28.4°F (-2°C), while freshwater freezes at the standard 32°F (0°C)

Wrap a wet cloth around your drinks.

Not so long ago, the fridge was considered a luxury item. However, homes that didn’t have fridges still needed to keep things cool — and many of them made use of wet cloths to keep their beverages cold.

So, why does draping a wet cloth over your drink keep it cold?

Well, when a liquid turns into a gas (which is what is happening when the water in the rag evaporates), it requires additional energy to make the transformation. To aid in this process, it will seek out the nearest sources of energy. And if you have the rag draped over a bottle of liquid, it will extract the heat from that liquid to use as energy. This heat extraction is what keeps the liquid cool.

If you’re looking for a demonstration, this quick video should help:

Use a vacuum insulated bottle.

Vacuum insulated bottles are an excellent way to keep drinks cool. They completely protect the liquids inside from the temperature outside, making it easy to keep drinks cold.

To get the most out of a vacuum insulated bottle, you’ll want to make sure the drinks are cool before you pour the liquid in. Therefore, I advise using one of the other methods in this list to get your drinks to a cool temperature and then pouring the liquid in a vacuum insulated bottle to keep them cool.

There are quite a few options out there, but my recommendation is the Stanley Classic Vacuum Insulated Wide Mouth Bottle. It’s durable, can hold a ton of liquid, and will keep your drinks as cold (or warm!) as you want them.

Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle

The fridge is usually the coolest place you can store your drinks. However, if your cooling appliance has decided to quit on you, there are a few other locations that can still aid in the cooling process.

Here are a few of the best options:

Outside at night

This is another technique used for eons by our ancestors. It does tend to get cooler during the night time, and you can put your drinks outside so that in the morning when you bring them in before the sun gets up, all you have to do is to insulate them against the heat (i.e., keep the cool in).

There are many effective ways to do this. One of the simplest is to put them in the shade under a blanket. And if the blanket is wet, then you are adding the benefits of evaporation as well.

In your cellar or basement

Heat rises, so the coolest part of your house is the cellar or basement. Store your drinks there, and keep them there till you need them. And if you are going to be traveling with them, be sure to put them into a well-insulated cooler.

In your washing machine

Another part of your home where you can keep your drinks cool is the washing machine. If you close the door or lid, you will be able to keep the heat out and the cold in.

To aid in the cooling process, you can place some ice in the washing machine to ensure the drinks stay colder than room temperature. And once you’re done using the machine, you can run a rinse cycle to remove the water from the chamber.

In a cast-iron pot

You can also place your drinks into a cast-iron pot to keep them cool. This is because cast-iron is a good insulator and can trap cool air inside the pot.

Note that this only works if the pot has been cooled before you place the drinks in, so place the pot in the cellar or outside during the night to lower its internal temperature. And make sure to use newspaper to line it and fill in the gaps.

Bury your drinks

The temperature right below Earth’s surface stays at a constant 50 to 60 degrees all year round. This makes it an excellent place to store your drinks.

Just make sure to wrap them in a towel to keep the dirt from getting on them. Also, remember to mark the spot where you buried the drinks; cool drinks won’t do you any good if you can’t find them.

Use a cooler (and increase its insulation).

One of the most obvious solutions to the fridgeless problem is to buy a cooler and load it up with ice.

This is certainly effective, but you can keep the drinks in your cooler for longer by improving the insulation inside the box. Here are a few tips to do that:

Use newspaper

Before placing your drinks in the cooler, wrap them in some newspaper for better insulation. It’s important not to leave air spaces in the cooler, as this causes the cooler to heat up faster.

You can also use a cardboard box or duffle bag if you do not have a cooler – just be sure to use plenty of newspaper, both as lining and as a protective layer around your drinks, and seal it shut.

Use expander cream or bubble wrap

There are two additional ways you can improve the insulating properties of your cooler.

The first is injecting expander cream into the spaces in the lid. Here’s a video guide on how to do this:

The second is to make a liner for the inside out of bubble wrap. Here’s another video that explains this process:

Add some saltwater to your ice

A little ice at the base of your cooler, surrounded by bottles of saltwater, will stay cool for quite a long time. And you can often buy ice in various forms to suit your needs – large cubes which take longer to melt and flakes which vanish too fast. If you are buying ice and have no fridge, buy some larger blocks to ensure your drinks stay cool for as long as possible.

Final thoughts

While it’s super convenient to have a fridge to keep your food and drinks cool and safe from contamination by microbes, this wonderful appliance isn’t always available. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep your drinks cool that not rely on a fridge.

Some ways, like storing your drinks in water and using the rag evaporation method, are old and well-tested methods used by generations before us. Others, like vacuum insulated bottles or improving the insulation of your cooler, are newer – but they all help us to keep our drinks cool when there is no fridge available.


  • Steve Rajeckas

    Steve Rajeckas is an HVAC hobbyist with an avid interest in learning innovative ways to keep rooms, buildings, and everything else at the optimal temperature. When he's not working on new posts for Temperature Master, he can be found reading books or exploring the outdoors.

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