The Coolgardie safe was a piece of domestic equipment widely used in Australia before refrigeration to preserve perishable food in summer.
It was an Australian invention used especially in country areas from the 1890s until the mid 20th century.
Coolgardie safes were manufactured both commercially and home-made.
They worked on the principle of capillary siphoning and cooling due to evaporation. They usually comprised a timber-framed Hessian-covered cabinet which had one or more internal shelves, a hinged door, and a rectangular tray or small round tank of water on the top.
Strips of flannel fabric were trailed from the water down the outsides of the cabinet or safe, which kept the Hessian wet.
As the water evaporated from the wet Hessian, it absorbed heat from its surroundings and kept the contents of the safe cool. The drier the air, the greater the rate of evaporation and the cooler the safe.
The legs of the safe could also be stood in another tray of water or in separate tins, one for each leg, to deter ants from crawling into the safe.
The most effective position for a Coolgardie safe was to locate it in a direct breeze. For this reason, it usually stood on a veranda or under a covered way.
The safe also kept food away from flies, dogs, dingos, and birds.
The Coolgardie safe began to be replaced by ice chests from the turn of the twentieth century in cities and country towns which had ice works.
Despite the availability of kerosene, and later electric, refrigerators they were a luxury and did not become commonplace in Australia until the 1950s with greater prosperity and the widespread availability of electricity.