Introduction: Dew Bucket : Evaporative Drink Cooler

Picture of Dew Bucket : Evaporative Drink Cooler

Some of you may have seen my first Solar Cooler in a Can instructable, and it worked well, but it was designed for chunks of meat and cheese. This version is designed to accept three 20oz bottles of soda or three 12oz cans. If you haven't heard about evaporative coolers, they use warm water and evaporation to cool a medium in a way similar to the human perspiration system. Apparently they were used in ancient times to cool water and other things.

I have no affiliation with Mountain Dew or its affiliates or Pepsi Co. or its affiliates.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

I found all of my materials in my garage. If you can't find something, feel free to substitute similar object. My materials are as follows:

1 empty paint bucket
2 rags/washcloths(anything that holds water: sand, sponge, wool, ShamWOW)
1 mesh gutter cover
1 can of Krylon Fusion Plastic spray paint (white)
27 small plastic zip ties
steel wool
painter's tape

The tools that I used are also very common:
drill press
1" hole saw drill bit
diagonal pliers/wire cutters
tin snips

Step 2: Prepare Your Bucket

Picture of Prepare Your Bucket

I wanted my cooler to be portable, so I used a paint bucket with a convenient handle. A larger five gallon bucket would also work. I chose a plastic one because it won't rust. The first thing to do is remove all of the paint from the bucket. Just get the sludge out and rinse it off. Mine was latex so after it dried it just peeled off. If the bucket has rust on the rim, use some steel wool to scrub it off. Lastly, mark drilling points for 18 holes in a honeycomb pattern on the side of the can.

Step 3: Drill Your Bucket

Picture of Drill Your Bucket

Use the hole saw to drill the eighteen 1" holes in the wall of your bucket. Try to make them even and consistent. These will be the "pores" of the system, letting water evaporate from them.

Step 4: Paint!

Picture of Paint!

Painting the bucket white will help it reflect light and keep it from heating up the bucket. Since my bucket is plastic, I used Krylon Fusionfor Plastic. I picked up flat white but now I think gloss white would look the best. Make sure you mask the handle so it stays shiny.

Step 5: Make the Cages

Picture of Make the Cages

There are three cages for the bucket that will each hold a 20oz bottle of soda. They will be arranged in the bucket as shown in the second picture. Start by wrapping a layer of mesh(gutter guard) around a soda bottle, and then securing it with zip ties. The bottle should be able to slide in and out. Cut off excess mesh and zip ties with tin snips and diagonal pliers.

Step 6: Make It Plush

Picture of Make It Plush

Now the cages need an absorbent lining, I used some clean rags. Cut three to fit on the inside of the cages, with about an inch extra. Then secure the lining to the cages with more zip ties.

Step 7: Shove It All In

Picture of Shove It All In

All of the pieces are now complete, they just need to be assembled. First put a layer of lining on the bottom of the bucket to cool the bottoms of the bottles. Then squeeze the three cages into the bucket, all at once. I had to squish them all together and then round them out with a bottle after they were inside. It'll be a tight fit.

Step 8: Finish

Picture of Finish

That's it! This Dew Bucket is ready for testing. Just jam three bottles into their slots and add water, warm water works fine. Evaporative coolers perform best in hot, windy environments with low humidity.

At moderate humidity and a light breeze, this bucket cooled 90*F water(room temperature) to 69*F in one hour. The lining was soaked in 90*F tap water.

Please rate and vote!


MostWantedWolfee- (author)2016-01-21

So how do you add water? Do you just pour water on the can?

applemilkshake (author)2015-07-26

I would guess it creates a moldy smell, no?

This one did not. It might however grow mold if it is not allowed to dry completely before being stored.

Ronny Ponny (author)2013-07-02

That' good, ...........We can get Rolls of Plastic Gutter Guard ( 20Mtr x 0.25Mtr )
here for approx. $3.00AUD.


Ronny Ponny (author)2013-07-01

Great cheap Cooler...

Does it have to be a Metal Mesh.... or could a Plastic mesh ( very cheap gutter guard ) work as well, ... It's the Toweling ( rags) that are doing most of the Cooling ??....or the Metal is too I suppose.


Plastic mesh should work almost as well.

beehard44 (author)2011-08-02

i'm skeptical about this working here in the Philippines, because the humidity here is very high (it registered 99% the other day). Nevertheless, i made a proof-of-concept rig, a tin can wrapped in paper towels tightly bound to it with string. I placed a small shot glass full of water inside and i'll see if it gets colder.
Has anyone tried this in high humidity areas?

JamesRPatrick (author)beehard442011-08-02

The design works best in dry climates. I think your design would work better if you wrapped the towels directly to the shot glass. With your current setup, the air between the glass and the can might act as an insulator.

beehard44 (author)JamesRPatrick2011-09-28

i placed a digital thermometer inside and it only dropped the temperature by ~5*C

JamesRPatrick (author)beehard442011-09-28

In my rig, the absorbent medium(towels) is in direct contact with the liquid container. This acts as a heat sink. In your setup, there is an insulator (air) between the liquid container and the "heat sink."

Try filling the tin can directly with water and measure the effects again. Also remember to keep it in the shade and cover the tin can if possible.

beehard44 (author)JamesRPatrick2011-10-30

well i covered the tin can so the air should be the same temperature as the can given enough time to settle.
Anyways i expected it to not be efficient; it was raining that day

dataphool (author)2011-06-03

I suspect that the Relative Humidity inversely affects the cooling ability of this device, can you confirm? I live in an area with humidity over 90 % for weeks at a time. At that time the temperature climbs above 35 degrees (95 degrees fahrenheit). Good idea, but possibly of little use here.

JamesRPatrick (author)dataphool2011-06-03

That's right. Evaporative coolers work best in hot, dry environments.

johnny3h (author)JamesRPatrick2011-08-21

@ dataphool and JamesRPatrick.  At almost 70 yoa, except for some moving around during my work years,I have spent most of my life in SE Texas on the border with Louisiana, and about 8 miles inland from the Gulf Coast.  We DO HAVE HIGH HUMIDITY!!!!!

To answer dataphool's question, yes, the Relative Humidity DOES inversely affect the cooling ability, and yes, evaporative systems do work better in dryer environments, BUT... it DOES COOL at all humidity levels.

Our humidity here ranges from about 70% to 95% most of the spring, summer and fall.  As a child and before mechanical [Freon] A/C poor folks like us had NO cooling other than table fans and wet sheets.  And it did cool us somewhat.  The biggest problem was having to get up several times during the night to re-wet and wring out the sheet!!!!

Only rich folks, or at least the affluent, could afford whole-house air conditioning, and in those days even theirs WAS EVAPORATIVE! 

A house would have a REDWOOD COOLING TOWER [about 4 feet by four feet square and about 5 or 6 feet tall].  At the bottom was a water reservoir about a foot deep, and at the top was a set of "spray" nozzles.  A pump circulated the cool reservoir water into the house and through a "radiator" in the central heating air handler and returned the warmed water to the sprinkler heads at the top of the tower.

The falling water droplets evaporated some of the water thus cooling it.  Depending on the relative humidity, the water in the reservoir would be 25 to 45 degrees cooler than the ambient air.  They had a toilet float/fill valve to automatically maintain water level because a LOT of water was lost to evaporation.

EVEN on a 100 degree 90% humidity day, the house interior would be down around 68 to 70 degrees, and the reservoir water temp [before circulation in the house] would be like 54 to 57 degrees.

So, even in high humidity, some evaporative cooling DOES occur.

As proof of that I suggest that any doubters do a test:  on a day of high humidity in your area; pour ambient temperature [NOT hot or cold] water on your forearm, and then hold the wetted area in front of a table fan.   You WILL FEEL the evaporative cooling effect. And I assure you that this will occur even at high Relative Humidities.

Since we now know that evaprative cooling occurs, and even in high Relative Humidity, the only issue in effectively using it is to make the "chilling" tower system LARGE ENOUGH to transfer enough heat.

About 10 years back I made a small test cooling tower out of a 55 gallon plastic drum into which I cut dozens of vent openings, and on days of 90 degrees and 80 to 90% relative humidity, my reservoir water would run about 55-58 degrees. 

Of course in that test set-up I was not adding any heat to the water by trying to cool the interior of a building.  The amount of water in my system was about 10 gallons captured in the unlouvred bottom of the louvered barrel. 

I never got around to up-sizing the test system and trying to cool my house interior, but I'm convinced that sized properly it would have worked.

chinook75 (author)2011-07-27

In Iraq and Kuwait, we'd stick our water bottles into a (clean) sock, soak the sock and hang it up. Not as fancy as this, but it did the job nicely. Like the instructables, thanks.

lukeyj15 (author)2010-11-11

Addition of a fan and solar panel would be awesome... But if you have a solar panel, you might as well put a peltier in as well

JamesRPatrick (author)lukeyj152010-11-12

I don't think a peltier element would be efficient enough. A fan would be nice, though.

A peltier would be great, they can pump a fair amount of heat, but they typically run on a few amps at 12-16 volts so it would require a pretty big solar panel to do much damage.

On the other hand this small fan: runs on 5V @ 160mA, which could be provided by a pretty dang small solar array. Not much airflow, but it should be able to help augment the evaporative cooling in still air conditions.

I notice on both of your coolers you use wire mesh to make cages to keep the rags in place. Is this necessary? Couldn't you just wrap a bottle in a rag, dunk it in water, and throw it in the bucket?

I've also read that the ancient greeks served their drinking water in porous earthenware so it would stay cool as long as it held water. I'm wondering if a clay planting pot would work.

A solar-powered fan could work, but this project is mainly for experimental/proof of concept purposes.

"Couldn't you just wrap a bottle in a rag, dunk it in water, and throw it in the bucket?"- You could, and it would still work, but it wouldn't be as convenient to use and it would fall apart if moved too much.

"I'm wondering if a clay planting pot would work."- Yes, any unglazed pottery should work. Just be sure to plug the drainage holes that most flower pots have.

LePyro (author)2010-10-11

IMMA put Mountain DEW in mine...

doo da do (author)LePyro2011-03-24

I will take a pair of code red dews

JamesRPatrick (author)LePyro2010-10-11

What a great idea! (author)2011-01-06

Glorified kalgoorlie safe :) Sweet

j574sbi (author)2010-09-21

making one tomorrow, thx

JamesRPatrick (author)j574sbi2010-09-21

Great! Be sure to post some pictures of your build.

beehard44 (author)2010-08-19

now if i can just make a seriously portable and disguised one......

how portable? like carry around *** with that w/ out anyone noticing portable? That would be too small. Just use a metal canteen then wrap-around with a small towel (or similar). Then, put some inconspicuous hard plastic covering around it painted black. Yeah, that should be stealthy...

marcintosh (author)2010-08-21

Evaporative coolers perform best in hot, windy environments with low humidity.
That counts me out *dang*

Try putting it in a larger, sealed, transparent container and stick lots of desiccant in there. Might work, but I'm still working on it.

nutsandbolts_64 (author)2010-09-20

Oh, just an idea, "self-contained, desiccant-assisted, ". The cooler is contained in a larger,sealed, transparent, container. Inside this will be lots of desiccant to absorb the vapor in the container (only). This will allow the water in the rags (or whatever absorbent) to evaporate. I'm gonna make a small-scale version of it to see what would happen.

RetroTechno (author)2010-08-16


This is the second version of another instructable, and this setup seemed to be a big improvement. The tubes are almost fully exposed to air, excepf for he tiny strip where they touch. Wind is also very helpful.

sydkahn (author)2010-08-19

Doesn't this work on the same principle of a swamp cooler? If you are in a low humidity climate - the water goes from the rags to the air - and things get cooler - but if you are in the east - 90 degrees and 70-90% humidity - this won't work or will be *very* inefficient IMHO

JamesRPatrick (author)sydkahn2010-08-24

This is the second version of another instructable, and this setup seemed to be a big improvement. The tubes are almost fully exposed to air, excepf for he tiny strip where they touch. Wind is also very helpful.

beehard44 (author)sydkahn2010-08-19

yeah, that's what sucks here in the Philippines....

hammer9876 (author)2010-08-19

Great idea! I can see this working quite well in high temps and low humidity. I am wondering though, if jamming three drinks in the bucket is too much. Have you tried removing one of the cages and just using two drinks? More surface area exposed might be more efficient, i.e. the drinks get even cooler or they cool down quicker. I can also envision that if you have fans, but no air conditioning, plop this bucket in front of a fan. While it helps cool the air swamp cooler style, it cools the drinks. Reminds me of cooling our watermelon by tethering it and lowering it into the icy cold spring water. I know, not the same, but still a great memory.

JamesRPatrick (author)hammer98762010-08-24

This is the second version of another instructable, and this setup seemed to be a big improvement. The tubes are almost fully exposed to air, excepf for he tiny strip where they touch. Wind is also very helpful.

Weissensteinburg (author)2010-08-19

I've seen this concept before, but i'm astonished by the results. I didn't think it would be able to lower the temperature that much, especially in an hour.

Yeah I was surprised myself; the whole thing was an experiment.

nanchiang15 (author)2010-08-20

cool man..... i need to try this.... but can it be effective in Indonesia region.... since it is tropical country

It might work in an air conditioned house.

mrmckeifus (author)2010-08-19

hmm very interesting idea. two concerns: 1: rust 2: mildew how might these be addressed?

JamesRPatrick (author)mrmckeifus2010-08-24

1. It's a plastic bucket with aluminum mesh and a painted steel rim. 2. ad a drop of bleach to the water.


Broom (author)mrmckeifus2010-08-20

1. Plastic gutter covers, or aluminum. 2. Salt the soaking material heavily.

bessboo (author)2010-08-21

This is a great idea. I'm always amazed by the old forgotten technology that you are able to bring back to all of us. Thanks so much for your efforts.

Spokehedz (author)2010-08-21

We have been doing this for years using an unglazed terracotta pot and sand. Fill the pot half-way with sand. Place drinks inside pot. Put more sand on top. Pour water over the sand and cans. Let stand overnight. In the morning, freshly cold drinks for 'free'.

Localghost (author)2010-08-20

Epic win for use at Burning man... (Afrika burn.. since its definitely in the desert. )

nutsandbolts_64 (author)2010-08-16

I guess this'll be perfect for my uses. Waiting in the bus for one hour, then after all the heat, a naturally cooled drink *oh yeeeeeeeeah*

About This Instructable




Bio: Currently pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering. contact: jamesrpatrick(at)
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