Dry Ice is the hit of a Halloween celebration from drinks to decor. This guide gives all the details of where to buy it, how to use it, how to handle it and store it.
It’s that time of year. Halloween parties are in the planning and class parties too. There is no more ghostly affect than dry ice but are you ‘in the know’ about where to buy it, how to use it and how to handle it?
This easy primer will give all the dry ice facts needed to ensure a safe, ghoulishly great experience. Dry ice does take special handling!
What Is Dry Ice?
Dry Ice is solid carbon dioxide frozen to -109 degrees (which will cause frostbite hence special handling needed). When added with liquids it creates a ghostly fog effect and bubbling like a Witches’ Brew!
Where to Buy Dry Ice
Dry Ice is available at most grocery stores: Safeway, Kroger/King Soopers, Walmart, Costco.
Call ahead to ensure your store carries it (and if they don’t ask if they know who does; you won’t be the first person asking).
Go to the Customer Service department where they will ring up your purchase and retrieve the dry ice from a special freezer not available to the public.
How Much to Buy?
Dry ice comes in blocks usually of between 1 to 5 pounds. You’ll be asked how much you want when purchasing.
When using it for punch I generally buy a 1-pound block which costs between $1-$3. It’s often well more than is needed.
Buy Dry Ice the Same Day You’ll Use It
It immediately begins to evaporate so plan to use in within a few hours. By the next day it will have completely evaporated.
Fun Fact: technically dry ice ‘sublimates’ not evaporates. But since most people have forgotten high school chemistry I’ll use ‘evaporated’ to convey the point.
Halloween is a very popular time to buy dry ice. Should you be looking for some in October definitely call ahead to ensure your store has it in stock.
Supplies to Take When Buying Dry Ice
Take a hard-sided cooler and towel to wrap it in. Do not store it in glass or metal containers.
If you will handle it there, you’ll also need work gloves.
Transporting Dry Ice
Do not plan to keep the cooler in a car for a lengthy trip.
The evaporation begins immediately and the cooler will not contain all the carbon dioxide.
If traveling more than 15 minutes, keep windows open for good ventilation.
Do not leave a person or pet in a closed car with dry ice.
The CO2 gas evaporating from the dry ice could displace the oxygen and asphyxiate them.
How Does Dry Ice Work?
Adding dry ice to liquids, water or drinks, causes the chemical reaction making the smoke. It must be added to liquid for the smoke to occur.
How Long Does Dry Ice Last?
Dry Ice begins to smoke immediately when put in liquid. It’s great in a Halloween punch for that reason though the smoking only last 10-15 minutes’ish.
Left unused it will evaporate within 24 hours.
How to Break Up a Block of Dry Ice for Use?
Break up the block by hammering it through the towel it’s wrapped in while wearing work gloves.
CAUTION: IT WILL BURN YOU so you can NEVER HANDLE IT WITH BARE HANDS. Please also if working around children be very careful of this as well.
Are Food and Drinks Exposed to Dry Ice Safe to Consume?
I have several friends who are doctors and have consulted about any ill effect of food or drink that has been around dry ice.
There is no issue with any sort of contamination though if drinking punch that has had dry ice in it be sure no little piece remain in the cup which could cause a burn.
Shipping with Dry Ice
I’m often asked about shipping with dry ice. I recommend contacting the shipping carrier you plan to use for specific instructions.
A special container is needed to prolong the dry ice, as well as an outer shipping box and special labeling.
This tutorial from UPS is an example of the requirements.
Storing Dry Ice
Store the dry ice in the cooler and towel used to buy it in a well-ventilated area.
Coolers are not airtight so as the dry ice evaporates some of the gas will escape.
Do not store the dry ice in your refrigerator or freezer.
Do not store it in a tightly enclosed area. Do not leave dry ice out where people or pets can come into contact with it.
Disposing of Dry Ice
Simply allow the dry ice to evaporate in the cooler if you don’t use it all.
Do not flush it down a toilet or drain (it can freeze pipes). Do not leave it open to evaporate where the gas could be inhaled in large quantities.
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