All ice is not made from the conversion of liquid to solid through refrigeration. Some are made from carbon dioxide. A number of us have often confused dry ice for regular ice. If you are among those who have always thought that all ice is made from water, this is your chance to find out some fantastic things about dry ice.
What is Dry Ice
Dry ice is the cooled and solid form of carbon dioxide. It has a temperature of about – 78°C / -109°F, which means it is cooler than ordinary or regular ice made from water. Dry ice was given to it because it sublimes; it gets directly converted from its solid state to a gaseous state. It doesn’t have a liquid phase.
Dry ice is quite fascinating, and it has some enjoyable benefits that we derive from it. But then, it can be dangerous.
When dry ice comes in contact with our skin, it causes severe frostbite that can lead to the death of our cells. Because it sublimes from solid to gaseous, when left in an airtight container, it exerts pressure on the walls of the container, and this can cause an explosion.
Fun Things to do with Dry Ice
As earlier mentioned, dry ice is fascinating and can do lots of fun things. However, its fascinating abilities go beyond freezing and keeping perishables fresh like the regular ice.
Dry Ice’s unique ability can be attributed to the extra cooling effect because it does not have to pass through any liquid phase before turning to gas.
Some of the fun things that can be done with dry ice include;
- Creating Ice fog: Parties, especially High School Prom night and Halloween parties, wouldn’t have been so fun without ice fog. Dry ice creates that effect that makes such parties super fun. Creating Ice fog is very easy; throw in a chunk of dry ice into a bath of water. With this, dry ice sublimes quickly and releases a lot of vapor. Having a more significant piece of dry ice dropped into a large amount of water will make it more spectacular.
- Inflation of Balloons: Kids find this exceptional. Drop a little piece of dry-ice inside a deflated balloon and watch it fill up the balloon as the dry ice sublimes into vapor. This is an excellent way to excite your kids.
- Inflation of gloves: Similar to balloons, hand gloves can also be inflated by dropping a piece of small dry ice inside them. This is a fun way to make your small children happy.
- Dry Ice Bomb: Storing dry ice in an airtight container will cause an explosion as the ice sublimes. This can be dangerous if not done safely in a plastic airtight container. It is usually used during Halloween to scare kids.
- The Singing Spoon: A vibration that can be regarded as a singing sound is produced when a spoon or any metal object is pressed against dry ice. The vibrations come from the frequencies that are produced by the rapid vibrations of molecules in dry ice. You can also produce this effect without using any metal object. Just press the spoon against a piece of dry ice for about 30 seconds or so
- Making Dry Ice Iced Tea: This is actually fun. It is easy to make dry iced tea by simply dropping in a small piece of dry ice into your glass of tea. The result is a fun puffy cloud of real iced tea.
Common Consumer Uses of Dry Ice
Dry ice has a myriad of domestic and industrial uses, but the most common of them include;
- The spooky Halloween effect: The smoky-fog product used during Halloween parties is made from dry ice.
- Shipping food: Restaurants and delivery services prefer to ship perishable foods with dry ice. This is because of its extreme cooling effect and ability to keep the foods frozen without flooding their delivery coolers with water.
- Scientific experiments: The smoking ice and disappearing ice experiments are examples of many fascinating experiments carried out by kids in the laboratory.
- You can create a fog effect during your food and drink presentation to entertain and get the attention of your guests. But be careful not to let it into your food when doing this. Dry ice is not edible!
- Using Dry Ice in coolers when packing for traveling or camping is one of its most common uses. Dry ice is commonly used and preferred to regular ice because it does not melt into the water like regular ice.
Freezing Food with Dry Ice Vs. Regular Ice
From successful experiments carried out, results show that dry ice freezes foods faster than regular ice.
For example, 6 pounds of dry ice would hold a 5 gallon of ice cream for about 9 to 10 hours before it gets sloppy. The exact amount of regular ice could only have a gallon of ice cream for about 3 hours before getting to a derelict state.
The most pleasant aspect of dry ice in chilling and freezing foods is that it requires no clean-up since it does not have to go through a liquid phase like regular ice. Do not leave empty spaces within the cooler for a more desirable result to avoid sublimation from happening quickly.
Instead, you can either use food items or dry ice to ensure the cooler is fuller; this way, a more effective result is guaranteed.
Is it Okay to Use Dry Ice in Your Cooler?
These days, you would find more people packing dry ice in coolers for camping than regular ice because it is more effective in cooling. It is okay to use dry ice in your cooler but bear in mind its downsides.
Dry ice is generally preferred when keeping items cool or frozen in coolers because it is more fantastic and effective than regular ice.
Also, unlike regular ice, it does not leave water in your cooler since it does not pass through a liquid phase. Unfortunately, dry ice is more expensive to purchase and not as simple to make as regular ice. Also, it cannot be stored for a long time since it requires a temperature of about -78°C/-109°F.
A large amount of dry ice can evaporate into the air in less than 24hours. It is best to purchase dry ice closer to when it is needed.
To use dry ice safely in camps, some safety precautions must be strictly adhered to, to avoid some common dangers:
- The extreme coldness of dry ice can lead to frostbite, so always remember to pack some thick hand gloves alongside the cooler.
- Dry ice can quickly evaporate to release carbon dioxide gas and thus has the potential of causing difficulty in breathing and even suffocation. Therefore, avoid keeping your cooler in the passenger’s area. Instead, it is safer to leave it in the booth.
- Store cooler containing dry ice far from the camp area to avoid suffocation. Dry ice is not edible.
- Avoid using dry ice in your cooler if you or anyone else who will be consuming the stored items has asthma.
How To Pack a Cooler with Dry Ice
Packing dry ice in a cooler is not done precisely as regular ice. Furthermore, a slightly different method and approach are used when packing items you want to chill and those you want to be frozen. The techniques used will significantly impact how effective the dry ice will hold your food items.
1) How to pack items you want to chill: For this, dry ice and regular ice go well together.
- First, get your preferred cooler ready.
- Use thick paper, e.g., cardboard, to Insulate dry ice.
- Dry ice should be placed at the bottom of the cooler to prevent it from easy sublimation.
- Place wet ice over dry ice.
- Now, distribute the items to be chilled evenly.
- Lastly, cover up the top of the items with regular ice, and you are good to go!
2) How to pack items you want frozen: To pack things that need to be frozen, work with just dry.
- Get a storage cooler ready.
- Distribute dry ice at the button of the cooler.
- Insulate dry ice with cardboard or newspaper.
- Place frozen items into the cooler.
- Insulate for the second time.
- Then, add more dry ice at the top of the item and, voila!
The following safety tips will be of great help if you are packing dry ice for a short trip.
- Do not handle dry ice with your bare hands because it is extremely cold, cold enough to cause frostbite. Always take your gloves or towels with you.
- Remember to leave a little space in your container to avoid pressure on the walls and, consequently, explosion. Avoid airtight containers.
- Keep your kids away from dry ice unless they have been educated with these safety measures.
- Dry ice is not edible. The human system has not been found to digest it, so avoid consuming it.
- As much as possible, avoid using dry ice in non-ventilated spaces. Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide; when it sublimes in an enclosed space, it could cause difficulty in breathing. Instead, create a space with good ventilation where dry ice can be used safely.
Hard Facts about Using Dry Ice in a Cooler
You may want to constantly keep these facts about using dry ice in a cooler at the back of your mind.
- Taking dry ice on long trips is not ideal because it evaporates quickly.
- They are relatively more expensive than conventional ice. Ensure you need to preserve something significant before deciding to get it.
- It is funny, but some stores won’t sell dry ice to young people below 18 years of age because of its risks.
- Dry ice is not edible. Do not consume it!
- Leaving empty spaces at the top of the cooler will shorten its lifespan.
- Use dry ice in well-ventilated places to prevent difficulty in breathing
- It is lightweight and therefore easier to transport than regular ice.
- You cannot handle dry ice with your bare hands because it will cause skin burns or frostbite.
- It does not produce water like regular ice, so it is perfectly suitable for frozen foods.
- It is vital to wrap dry ice in cardboard or newspaper before placing it in the cooler.
Freeze- Drying with Dry Ice
Freeze-drying foods with high water content by reducing their water content at a low temperature may be a good option, but it is time-consuming. The use of dry is considerably faster since it is colder and it sublimes. While dry ice sublimes, it takes most of the water content and keeps your food items very dry.
Please pack the items you want to dry freeze in a storage bag and place them in a cooler with dry ice evenly distributed to get a good result using this method. You can tell the process of freeze-drying is completed when dry ice fizzles out totally.
Common Mistakes to Avoid when Using Dry Ice
The nature of dry ice requires it to be handled with special attention. Also, some common mistakes should be avoided for a more effective result when using dry ice.
- Storing dry ice in the freezer: Freezers were designed to freeze things at a temperature of 0°C or 32°F. Since dry is way below the temperature of an average freezer, storing it in a freezer will not only make it dissipate faster, but it may damage the freezer. Keeping dry ice in a tightly covered container could exert much pressure on the walls of the container, resulting in a dangerous explosion. It is best to store dry ice in a Styrofoam cooler, leaving a little space around the lid where CO2 can find its way.
- Disposing of it carelessly: Dumping leftovers of dry ice in places with little or no ventilation where people or animals are could lead to difficulty breathing or even suffocation because the oxygen around the area will be replaced with carbon dioxide. On the other hand, tossing a chunk of dry ice inside airtight garbage could lead to an explosion. In addition, storing it is, therefore, advisable to dispose of it in well-ventilated places.
- Using dry ice in areas with little or no ventilation: As earlier stated, disposing of dry ice in non-ventilated spaces could be dangerous. When dry ice is packed in coolers to camps, it should be kept a reasonable distance away from the tents. If it must be kept close by, tents must be well ventilated, and windows should be left open.
- Keeping it close to your skin or mouth: Dry ice causes severe frostbite when your skin or mouth comes in contact with it. It is essential to have this in mind when sipping a drink containing dry ice. Ingesting dry ice and your drink could result in internal frostbite, which can happen in split seconds. Ensure to handle it with heavy gloves continuously.
- Purchasing dry ice too early: You might not find any dry ice left in your storage cooler by the time you need it if you are buying it too early. Remember that dry ice sublimes, and if it is left for too long before usage, it will disappear into thin air. Therefore, it is wise to get your dry ice a few minutes before it is needed to be used.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dry Ice
- Where can I buy Dry Ice?
Dry ice can be purchased at any grocery store.
- How much dry ice do I need to keep my food cold on a picnic?
You will need about three pounds of dry ice to keep your food cool in the cooler. How much dry ice is needed to keep drinks cold at a party?
It will depend on how much leverage you have, but it takes about two pounds to keep an average cooler cool for a few hours.
- Can dry ice be reused?
No, it cannot be reused after it has been in touch with your food. Dry ice is made to be used once and thrown away because when it touches your food it can cause frostbite.
- Is Dry Ice expensive?
It is relatively more expensive than conventional ice, but it is priced by weight, and the price of the different weights varies depending on where you are buying from.
- Can dry ice freeze water?
Dry ice has a temperature of about -78°C/ -109°F, and water freezes at 0°C/32°F. Therefore, dry ice will freeze any water around it quickly, especially if the dry ice is large enough.
- Is Dry Ice better than Regular Ice?
Even though dry ice has some demerits, it is more effective in freezing foods and keeping them fresh. It gives more than thrice the cooling effect of regular ice, and it does not leave your food items in a pool of water since it sublimes directly to gas.
- Can Dry Ice Damage a Cooler?
Dry ice is freezing and can damage the walls and bottom of your cooler if it does not have Styrofoam. To prevent dry ice from damaging your cooler, you will have to insulate it with Styrofoam or place the dry ice at the top of your food items.
That way, there will be no direct contact between the ice and your cooler. However, you will always have to use hand gloves to get a drink or fruit out of the cooler.
- Is Yeti Cooler Compatible with Dry Ice?
Dry ice is not compatible with all Yeti coolers. Tundra and Roadie Hard Coolers are some of the Yeti coolers suitable for dry ice. You may want to keep dry ice away from the Yeti V-series and Hopper Soft Cooler family, or better still, use regular ice in them.
- How can I Stop Dry Ice from Subliming?
It is the nature of dry ice to sublime. You cannot stop sublimation in dry ice, but you can slow down the process. Wrap the ice in thick paper, newspaper, or cardboard paper. This will slow the sublimation process.
On a final note, it is imperative to note that dry ice is about three times more effective than regular ice, but unlike regular ice, it requires a level of expertise and extreme care in its usage and handling.
Dry ice can be a useful tool in case you need to keep your food items fresh and cold, but it is essential to handle it with gloves at all times. Even though dry ice is great for keeping your food items fresh, it can cause frostbite quickly if exposed to skin.
If you can’t manage dry ice properly, it’s best to avoid it.