Hot water happens when you’re under a water boil advisory, you’ve got to make baby formula, or you’re baking. Only, now you have to cool it off. Can you refrigerate boiled water?
Refrigerating boiled water is possible but NOT recommended. Doing so raises the temperature of the fridge and its contents to an unsafe temperature where bacteria and food spoilage will occur. Instead, cool off boiled water with another means before storing it in the fridge or wherever else.
Ready to learn a better way to cool off boiled water – and to store it? Keep reading – and let’s talk about your safest and best options.
Cool Boiled Water (or anything hot) Before Refrigerating it
There have been times, during an after-dinner cleanup, where I’ve been guilty of wanting to stick a hot bowl (or even a hot pan) of food into the fridge. By then, I’m just done. I want to move on to the next thing. But sticking anything too hot into the fridge isn’t safe – or recommended. And freshly boiled water is definitely too hot.
Sticking boiled water (or anything too hot) into the fridge isn’t safe for a few reasons.
Boiling hot water is hot enough to raise the temperature of the fridge and foods around it.
Refrigerators are designed to hold foods at a certain temperature that are safely outside the “Danger Zone” where rapid bacterial growth and food spoilage occur. This danger zone is between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that a fridge keep food under 40 degrees – or even better, below 35-38 degrees.
That way, you’ve got a better buffer for keeping your food safe. This buffer can help offset when you’re opening the fridge or if you put something that’s room temperature into the fridge.
But putting something boiling (boiling happens at 212 degrees Fahrenheit) into the fridge? That’s too hot. Sure – it’s hot enough that it’s above the danger zone for a while. But then you’re exposing your fridge contents to the entirety of the danger zone – and not just the lower end of it.
Steaming water will cause a dramatic increase in moisture via condensation that can impact the fridge’s contents.
Hot water lets off steam, right? (Yes, yes it does.) So what happens when you put that boiling hot water into your fridge? All that hot water is going to let off steam until it’s more equalized to the surrounding pressure.
So not only are you going to lose a good chunk of your boiled water to steam, but it’s also going to get on everything that’s in your fridge. And that’s going to make everything in your fridge moist – or worse, soggy.
That steamy condensation is going to further your boiling water’s temperature impact in the fridge, too. So feel free to reread the previous reason’s rationale for not doing this in the first place.
Drastic temperature changes can impact fridge components and performance.
I’m no fridge expert – but I read on several forums about how putting boiling water into a fridge can cause ice to form on the evaporator tubes and the various coils. That extra ice, if not removed, increases compressor power needs and therefore your overall electricity consumption.
Again, I’m not a fridge expert. I couldn’t point out the various parts above on my fridge – or yours. But I do know that putting too-hot things in your fridge can significantly affect its performance. And that will impact your overall food storage safety. So don’t do it.
How to Cool Down Hot Water Quickly
There are far better ways to cool down hot water quickly. Which method you want to pick will largely be determined by how you’re going to use the freshly-cooled water.
|How to Cool it Down||Rationale or Notes||Don’t Use this Method if…|
|Use something cold like ice.||You’ll have to add a lot of ice to cool down boiling water. But it will cool it down.||the ice is contaminated or visibly dirty.|
|Put it in a cool water or ice bath.||Put the hot water in a tall container and stick it in your sink. Surround it with ice water (or cold water) to help it cool off faster.||you’re using a glass container – the heat change can shatter it.|
|Increase the surface area of the hot water.||This will increase the water’s contact with cooler air, forcing it to cool off faster. Stir the water to help move it for even faster cooling.||you don’t have a clean, large bowl or Ziploc bag to put the water in.|
|Cooling agents like dry ice, liquid nitrogen, or liquid hydrogen.||This method requires a lot more planning and preparation but it can be far more efficient than using ice.||you don’t know how or you don’t have the proper protective gear.|
If you want to get fancy and technical, each of these methods uses either conduction, convection, or radiation techniques to cool the boiled water down. But this isn’t a chemistry or physics lesson (or website), so we won’t go into those. Even so, if you want to learn more about the involved thermodynamics of cooling boiled water down, those are good terms to know and research. Plus, I’m a geek – so I had to at least mention them in passing.
In any case, I’m personally a fan of using a water bath or dropping ice directly into hot water to cool it off. Just make sure you aren’t using a glass container in either instance – I’ve broken far too many IKEA drinking glasses that way on hot summer days!
How to Store Boiled Water
Now that your boiled water is properly cooled down to a better temperature, we can finally talk about how to best store it. Again, this is going to be largely determined by your intended use of the water.
For example, if you’re boiling water for baby formula, you’re going to cool and store the water differently than if you’re trying to cool off too-hot water for a bath while the electricity is off.
In any case, here are a few ways you can store your boiled-but-cooled water.
- In the refrigerator. Be sure to cover the water so it doesn’t absorb any fridge smells. More on this particular storage method later in the article..
- At room temperature in a water container. The type of water container will vary, depending on if you’re storing it for a bath or for drinking. Drinking water can be stored at room temperature for a few days if untreated or 6-12 months or longer, depending on how it’s treated. Just know that water stored for that long can develop a “stale” taste.
- In the freezer. Why not expose that water to the full range of temperatures? Just don’t stick it in the freezer when it’s boiling – or you’ll have the same temperature-related issues in your freezer as you would have in the fridge. Even so, you can freeze water and keep it a long time. Be sure to cover it – and to use a freezer-safe container. Water expands as it turns into ice – and you don’t need an ice explosion in your freezer.
There are, of course, other places you can keep your clean water. You could store it in a bathtub, in a pool, or wherever else you want. That’s why I made the list based on temperature rather than location. Otherwise this article would be way too long!
How Long You Can Keep Cooled Boiled Water in the Fridge
This question came up a lot in my research, so I thought it deserved a few notes.
While the most common reason my family would boil water are either due to city-wide water contamination issues (and being put on a boil notice) or an electricity outage, neither of those reasons are the most common reason people boil water.
More common reasons to boil water include making a hot drink (okay, so I do enjoy herbal tea from time to time) or to sterilize water for baby formula. If you’re making a hot drink, then you probably aren’t researching how to cool off the drink – you probably already know to add some ice if it’s too hot.
For baby formula water, though, the temperature and ability to store it for several days is vitally important knowledge. So I went ahead and looked up safety information about storing boiled water in the fridge for you.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends using water right after it’s boiled, though cooled and refrigerated water can be used if it’s refrigerated until used for feeding your child. The water is considered good and safe until you add the formula, and then it should be used within 24 hours.
In any case, that’s a general rule of thumb. To read specifically what the FDA says, make sure you read their articles about boiling water during emergencies or their article on boiling and cooling water for formula preparations.
How Long Can Boiled Water Be Stored at Room Temperature? Depending on the water’s intended use, it can be safely stored in a container for days, weeks, or months. Longer storage may require additional treatments with various approved chemicals.
How Long Can You Store Tap Water? Tap water can generally be stored for months or even years as it’s already been treated. Water stored for longer-term may develop a “stale” taste.
Does Water Go Bad? Water only goes “bad” if it becomes contaminated with dirt, germs, or other contaminants. It may also be considered to have a bad taste if it goes stale from sitting and all of the extra oxygen has dissipated out of it.
- Commissioner, Office of the. FDA Takes Final Step on Infant Formula Protections. www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/fda-takes-final-step-infant-formula-protections.
- “Food and Water Safety During Power Outages and Floods.” US Food and Drug Administration, Feb. 2020, www.fda.gov/media/72124/download.
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