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Clay Pot Cooler - pot in pot design

Cool your food without electricity

Done in 20 minutes
Skill level easy

With this clay pot cooler your fruits and vegetables will last much longer. Reduce food spoilage and prevent your post-harvest losses. Save time and money.

Clay pot coolers cool air through the evaporation of water. The temperature in the cooler will be at least 8°C lower than the maximum daily temperature.

Photo Credits: Melissa Mangino (drawings), Ba Germain Diarra (title), Ousmane Sanogo

⚠ The clay pot cooler works best in arid areas where it is hot and dry, for example in Algeria, Libya, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea, Somalia, Botswana, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen.

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Published under CC:BY-NC-SA by


Author · Eric Verploegen

What you need

How you make it

Prepare the sand: remove large pieces

Remove large particles and stones so they do not take up too much space. You can do this by hand or sieve the sand through a 3-5 mm wire mesh.

Prepare the sand: remove dust

It is recommended to remove the dust from the sand. Otherwise the dust can clog the pores of the pot.

Dust can be removed by a method called winnowing.

Remove dust by winnowing
Remove dust by winnowing

To remove dust by winnowing, slowly pour the sand from shoulder height (you may need a stool depending on your height) onto a cloth on the ground. Any gentle breeze or air movement will blow the dust away while the sand particles fall onto the cloth below.

Put sand in the bigger clay pot

Pour sand in the bottom of the outer pot to create an even surface for the inner pot to sit. The sand can be wet or dry when adding it to the pot.

Put smaller pot into bigger clay pot. Add sand.

Center the inner pot on the layer of sand inside the outer pot and fill the space between the two pots with additional sand. Make sure the top of the inner pot is at least 2 cm higher than that of the outer pot.

Wet the sand

Add enough water to wet the sand well. It is enough when it takes a few seconds for the water to absorb from the top. It is too much water if the inner pot begins to float. Then you have to drain the water before you use the cooler.

Now your clay pot cooler is ready to use

How you use it

Fill the clay pot with food

Place the fruits and vegetables in the inner pot. DO NOT store meat, vaccines or milk in the cooler. Be sure that the items added are dry and able to be stored together.

Wet the cloth

Wet a cloth, a piece of burlap or jute sack. Squeeze out the water.

Place the cloth on the clay pot

Put the wet cloth, burlap, or jute on the clay pot. The pot has to be completely covered.

Depending on the thickness of the material it may be best to fold it several times to give enough thickness.

Never leave the clay pot cooler uncovered.
Never leave the clay pot cooler uncovered.

Store your clay pot cooler in a shady, good ventilated area

Put your cooler in a room with good air circulation or expose it to outside winds/breezes.

Put the cooler in the shade, NOT into direct sunlight.

Keep the sand and cloth wet

Keep the sand and cloth damp at all times. Typically, water should be added once a day.

It is important that the sand and cloth do not dry out. Otherwise, the contents will not remain cool.

Keep your clay pot cooler clean

Keep your cooler clean. Sponge it off regularly. Make sure that dust and dirt DO NOT accumulate.

Make sure that dust and dirt DO NOT accumulate.
Make sure that dust and dirt DO NOT accumulate.
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This instruction was developed by MIT D-Lab in collaboration with

Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER)
Laboratoire de Technologie Alimentaire
Avenue Mohamed V, BP 258 Bamako, Mali
Tel/Fax: (+223) 20 22 26 06/ 20 22 37 75
Contact: Dr Fatimata Cisse
Tel: (+223) 76 37 57 27

World Vegetable Center–West and Central Africa
Station de Recherche de Samanko, BP 320 Bamako, Mali
Tel/Fax : (+223) 20 70 92 00/ 20 22 86 83
Contact: Kukom Edoh Ognakossan

Download the original instruction as PDF from MIT D-Lab (also available in other languages).

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