Cold Therapy Hacks: How to Use, Clean, and Store Your Cooler

Posted by Source Ortho on 17th Sep 2020

Cold Therapy Hacks: How to Use, Clean, and Store Your Cooler

Helpful Cold Therapy Machine Hacks

We are big fans of Cold Therapy, as you might have guessed. Over the years, we have learned a few tricks of the trade when it comes to using the various cold therapy units and their best practices. Here are our insider tips for getting the best out of your cold therapy machine:

Creating Your Dressing Barrier

Cold Therapy Barrier

If you have ever used a Cold Therapy unit you know that these machines work well and can get very cold. Because of this, it is always recommended to use a barrier between the cold therapy pads or wraps and your skin. Using a dressing padprovides a sterile moisture barrier between the skin and the cold therapy pad to protect your skin. While each cold therapy machine brand typically will have available disposable sterile dressing barrier pads, we have found alternative methods that work just as well!

Here are our favorite alternatives to Sterile Dressing Pads for cold therapy machines:

  • T-shirt
  • Pillow case
  • Towel

The benefit of creating your own barrier goes beyond just saving money. It gives you more control over the degree of cold therapy that works best for you. Because there generally are only one type of dressing pads that are available for each cold therapy unit, they may be too thick or too thin depending on each individual's needs and sensitivity to the cold. Creating your own makes your cold therapy machine more customized to you.

Frozen Water Bottles Instead of Ice Cubes

Frozen Water Bottles

In order for your cold therapy machine to be effective, it generally requires ice and water to be deposited into the cooler in order to deliver the cold therapy to the pad. If you are recovering from surgery or have a chronic injury which has you using your unit frequently, that will require a lot of ice! Luckily, we have found an alternative to using loose ice for cold therapy: Frozen water bottles. Most units can fit 4 frozen 16 oz water bottles in them at a time.

A few tips to remember:

  • Make sure the water bottles are clean
  • Remove the labels from the bottles prior to freezing
  • Freeze 8 bottles at a time so you will have 4 more frozen bottles ready to go once the ones in the unit begin to melt.

Create Your Own Timer


A question we often get is whether or not the ice machines have their own built in timer. While most do not, there are ways to create your own! One simple way to do this to get a programmable outlet timer that you can plug your unit into. This way you can designate just how long you want the unit to run for before turning off without having to keep track of the time yourself. This is a great option for someone who may need to use the unit while resting.

Now that you’re getting good use out of your unit, it’s time to clean it. Keeping your cold therapy machine clean and storing it properly are both very important for extending the life of the product.

How to Clean A Home Cold Therapy Machine:

Place 2 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar in the unit and fill with water to the fill line. Allow the water and vinegar mixture to run through the machine for 5-10 minutes. Next, turn off the machine and unplug from a power source. Finally, gently drain the liquid from the machine and pad before storing in a cool, dry place. Do not store your cold therapy machine or pad with water inside.

We recommend also flushing the unit with clean water again before reusing after extended periods of storage to ensure the unit is clean and ready to use. Once flushed with clean water and drained, you can then fill the unit with ice and water for use.

How To Drain Your Cold Therapy Pad After Use:

You may want to fully drain the water from your cold therapy pads after use and before storing for long periods of time. For most cold therapy units with detachable pads, you can drain the pad by pressing the plunger on the connection component on the pad tubing and allow the water to drain out of the pad. 

How to Store a Cold Therapy Machine:

It is best to store your cold therapy unit in a cool, dark place. Do not store the unit with water inside the cooler or pad and do not store outside or in direct sunlight as that can damage the hose and pads.

Source Ortho proudly offers many cold therapy units from the top brands in the industry including Breg Inc, Ossur, DonJoy, Aircast, and Game Ready. Not sure which Cold Therapy unit is right for you? Check out our detailed post on that here