How to Get Fish Smell Out of Cooler

If you’ve ever used a cooler to transport fish or seafood, you know how difficult it can be to get rid of the lingering odor. Even after a thorough cleaning, the smell can still remain, making it unappetizing for future use.

This article will discuss some methods to help you remove the smell of rotten food, fish remnants, or stale beer from your cooler. These tips can also be used for any other unwanted smells that may have made their way into your favorite ice chest.

Before we dive into the tips, we want to be clear that there is no guaranteed method to completely remove the smell from your cooler in all situations. This is especially true if you’ve left dairy products, meat, or certain types of products in your cooler for a long time. These smells can seep into the walls of your cooler, making it challenging to remove them quickly.

However, with patience and several cleaning cycles, you should be able to significantly reduce the smell. You may never reach a point where your cooler doesn’t have any scent after several uses, but the intensity will be so subtle that it won’t affect your enjoyment of using it.

So, let’s get started!

Why Does My Cooler Smell Like Fish?

There are a few reasons why your cooler may smell like fish:

  1. Leftover fish or seafood: If you recently used your cooler to transport fish or seafood and did not properly clean it out, the smell may linger and become stronger over time.
  2. Poor ventilation: If your cooler was stored in a damp or humid environment, or if it was closed up without proper ventilation, it can trap odors and cause them to linger.
  3. Bacteria growth: If your cooler was not properly cleaned after use, bacteria can grow and cause foul odors. This can also happen if you store your cooler in a warm environment, which can promote bacterial growth.

Can Fish Smell Be Removed from Cooler

Yes, fish smell can be removed from a cooler using a few simple and effective methods. There are several factors that contribute to the fishy odor, including the type of fish, how long it was stored in the cooler, and the temperature at which it was stored.

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The longer the fish stays in the cooler, the stronger the smell becomes, making it more challenging to remove.

Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true methods that you can use to eliminate the fish smell from your cooler. These methods include using household items such as baking soda, vinegar, and coffee grounds, as well as commercial products designed specifically for removing odors.

With a little bit of patience and some elbow grease, you can get your cooler smelling fresh and clean again, ready for your next adventure.

How to Get Fish Smell Out of Cooler

Try baking soda

Use a baking soda solution Baking soda is an excellent natural deodorizer and can help remove the fish smell from your cooler. After scrubbing your cooler with the bleach solution, rinse it out thoroughly with water, and then mix a baking soda solution.

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To make the solution, add about a cup of baking soda to a gallon of warm water. Mix it well until the baking soda dissolves completely. Then, pour the solution into your cooler and let it sit for a few hours with the lid closed. After a few hours, rinse the cooler with water and let it air dry.

You can repeat this process if needed until the fish smell is completely gone. Baking soda is a safe and effective way to remove odors, and you can use it on both hard-sided and soft-sided coolers.


Bleach is a useful tool for removing odors and bacteria from your cooler, but it should be used with caution. Bleach can be harmful if not used properly, and it can also cause discoloration or damage to some cooler materials.

Always make sure to dilute the bleach with water before applying it to your cooler, and never mix bleach with other cleaning chemicals.

Wear gloves and protective eyewear when handling bleach and make sure to keep it away from children and pets.

Additionally, if you have a cooler with a colored interior or a soft-sided cooler, you may want to try other methods for removing the fish smell to avoid potential discoloration or damage.

Vanilla extract

Using pure vanilla extract to remove fish odors or mildew from coolers is a natural and effective way to eliminate unpleasant smells. Vanilla extract contains alcohol, which is a natural deodorizer, and the scent of vanilla helps to mask the unpleasant odors.

After washing your cooler with mild soap and water, simply apply some pure vanilla extract to a small rag and wipe down the cooler with it.

Leave the rag inside the cooler overnight with the lid closed, and the next day, open the lid to let it air out a bit. The odor should be completely gone.

This is a great alternative method for those who may not want to use bleach or other chemical-based cleaners. Plus, the scent of vanilla is much more pleasant than the strong smell of bleach.

Diluted vinegar

Using diluted vinegar is another natural and effective way to remove fish odor from coolers. Vinegar is a great odor neutralizer and can help eliminate unpleasant smells.

To use vinegar to remove fish odor from a cooler, dilute white vinegar with water and apply it to the cooler with a cloth or sponge. Make sure to thoroughly clean all areas of the cooler, including hard-to-reach spots, and then rinse with clean water. The vinegar will help cut through the odor and leave the cooler smelling fresh.

In addition to removing fish odor from coolers, vinegar can be used to clean pet stains and as an ant deterrent. At full strength, vinegar can be poured over ant mounds to create a barrier preventing ants from entering your home.

How Do I Stop My Cooler from Smelling?

To eliminate any unpleasant odor emanating from your cooler’s water tank, you can utilize the same mixture of water and vinegar in a 50-50 ratio that was employed to sanitize the cooling pads. Simply allow the solution to circulate through the cooler for 30 seconds before flushing it out with clean water.


Getting rid of fish smells from a cooler can seem like a daunting task, but it is manageable with a little patience and the right approach. As we have discussed, there are many methods that can be just as effective. Vanilla extract, vinegar, and citrus juices have all been known to work well in removing fish odors. Ultimately, the choice of method depends on personal preference and the materials available.

Regardless of which method is chosen, remember to clean and dry the cooler thoroughly after the odor has been removed. This will help prevent future smells and ensure that the cooler is ready to use for its next adventure.

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