Carrying a fridge or freezer when camping to keep your items frozen or fresh can be daunting. You may not have the source of power needed to keep your freezer or fridge functional.
Dry ice in a cooler can solve your problem and provide the cooling effect to keep your items fresh and frozen. Nevertheless, you must follow some safety precautions and deal with some drawbacks.
So, how long will dry ice last in a cooler? On average, dry ice stored in a cooler lasts about 18 to 24 hours. However, several factors determine how long yours will last, including how the dry ice is stored and the size of the brick. An average five-pound brick of dry ice that remains whole and not broken into pieces will last 18 to 24 hours in a cooler, 3 to 5 hours outdoors, and 15 to 45 minutes in liquid form.
It is important to know how to make dry ice last longer, especially if you plan to stay outdoors for longer. Read on to find out the best ways to keep dry ice from melting.
What Is Dry Ice?
Normally, you would expect ice to come from solidified liquid at very low temperatures. However, dry ice solidified carbon dioxide gas. It is called dry ice because the gas becomes solid without first turning into liquid.
The dry ice sublimes into gas, thus creating a cooling effect. Dry ice is often kept in a cooler to delay or regulate its sublimation.
It is used in several industries like:
- Industrial and technical cleaning
- Hospitals and clinics
- Food processing and distribution
- Theatrical and special effects
Factors Determining How Long Dry Ice Last In a Cooler
How long your dry ice last in a cooler depends on how you have stored it and the size of the brick.
1- The Type Of Cooler
Types of coolers will determine how long your dry ice lasts. Some coolers with insulated walls ensure the ice lasts longer by preventing the transfer of interior cold temperatures from the cooler to the outside.
But since CO2 from the melted ice can build up and crack the cooler, it is essential to stick to special usage instructions.
In general, dry ice in a cooler often lasts between 18 and 24 hours.
2- The Size Of The Brick
10-pound dry ice in a 25-quart cooler can last 24 hours; however, you can double the cooling time by adding extra 5 pounds. This is possible if your large cooler can comfortably carry additional ice.
Remember that the more ice you have, the cooler, the less space to keep drinks and food.
Dry ice coolers in hotter locations like sunny beaches are likely to melt faster than those in cold locations.
Adding regular ice to dry ice can also increase the cooler’s cooling time. The dry will provide a cooling effect, thus derailing regular ices from melting faster. This technique may not make dry ice last longer, but it will keep your food and drinks cold longer.
Dry ice will sublime faster if improperly stored, subliming into a gas at a rate of 5-10 pounds after 24 hours. Therefore, if you need to cool your things for longer hours, you may need to buy between 20 and 30 pounds of dry ice.
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How Is Dry Ice Made?
Factories make dry ice by compressing and cooling carbon dioxide under high pressure to form liquid CO2. The pressure is then reduced, and the liquified carbon dioxide is allowed to expand, thus producing CO2 snow.
The snow is then compressed using a hydraulic press to form convenient dry ice slices, blocks, or pellets.
The dry ice’s density depends on the pressure time and the intensity of the applied pressure. Some dry ice blocks have a density of 1.56g/cm3 at a lower temperature of -78.64°C.
Dry ice is colder than traditional wet ice; therefore, you should avoid touching them with your bare hands; instead, use special gloves or tools. It can burn your lips if you put it in your mouth.
Advantages Of Dry Ice
Dry ice has several advantages over regular ice, including:
1- It Is Much Colder Than Regular Ice
Dry ice is made from intensely frozen carbon dioxide at temperatures of -109ºF (-78ºC), while regular ice is produced at temperatures of about 0ºF (-18ºC) or just below freezing.
Dry ice is superior to regular ice by actively freezing things. You can attain the desired temperatures within a short time.
If you are shipping stuff such as ice cream for a long distance, dry ice is ideal since it keeps them frozen and cold. On the other hand, regular ice will make the ice cream melt faster.
2- It Does Not Wet Things
Regular ice often melts and turns into cold water, which can submerge your things. However, dry ice does not pose the risk of water because it sublimes into thin air when left exposed to the breeze.
With dry ice, you will not worry about your goods getting wet in transit. They will arrive at their destination as dry as you put them in the cooler.
3- It Can Be Used With Regular Ice
Dry ice can be used with regular ice in the cooler to keep them longer. The dry ice will probably sublime faster, but the cold environment it creates will keep the regular ice frozen for a long time. This means that your food or drink will maintain freshness for a long period.
Disadvantages Of Dry Ice
Despite its many benefits, dry ice also has several drawbacks you should be aware of.
4- It Freezes Everything
It can be a problem for those who do not want to freeze their food. Dry ice freezes things fast and for a long period, which can be a strength and a weakness.
For instance, since they can break, you cannot place some things like a can of beer or soda into a cooler with dry ice.
Dry ice will freeze solid the drink, and the pressure from the frozen liquid will cause the can or bottle to break, causing a mess in the cooler.
5- Dry Ice Is More Dangerous Than Regular Ice
Dry ice is extremely cold, and holding it with bare hands for more than a second can result in serious skin burns or frostbites.
Ensure you have specialized gloves or handle them with a towel to prevent injuries. If you have children, never allow them to play with or near dry ice; otherwise, your hospital bills could skyrocket.
Furthermore, since dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide, it can be dangerous if confined in one space for too long.
The place where you have kept your cooler should be properly ventilated to ensure the escaping gases are not trapped. An accumulation of carbon dioxide in the room can be unhealthy and sometimes fatal.
6- It Is Expensive
It will cost you more to buy dry ice than regular ice. Regular ice can be made by freezing water in the fridge or freezer.
However, you cannot make dry ice at home. You can only buy from companies or factories with compressed carbon dioxide to make dry ice. In some states, dry ice can be very expensive.
Best Ways to Keep Dry Ice from Melting
We all want our dry ice to last longer and keep our things fresh and frozen. This means avoiding certain storage mistakes that would facilitate evaporation. Let’s consider practical ways to keep dry ice longer in the cooler.
1- Buy Dry Ice When You Are About To Use It
Generally, dry ice takes 24 hours to turn from solid to gas, and you can get the most out of it by buying them a few hours before using them.
If you buy early, the ice will melt, and by the time you want to use it, you will have wasted a huge amount.
2- Store It In a Thick Styrofoam or Insulated Cooler
Some people mistake storing their dry ice in a freezer; however, a freezer is hotter than dry ice, which means your dry ice will melt faster there.
It is also not wise to store dry ice in an airtight container because it releases CO2 that could cause an explosion when it melts.
Therefore, keep your dry ice in a thick Styrofoam or insulated cooler to maintain the temperature while providing adequate ventilation for the gas to escape.
3- Freeze The Items Before Putting Them In The Cooler
If you stuff things at room temperature in a cooler full of dry ice, the ice will melt faster as it sucks the heat off your items.
However, if you freeze your items in the freezer before transferring them to dry ice, their temperature will be lower, thus preventing dry ice from melting faster.
4- Cover It With Newspaper Or Cardboard
This practice will insulate the dry ice from warmer items in the cooler. It lowers the rate at which gas is taken from the ice.
Wrapping dry ice in newspapers on the top helps it to last longer. Some people also keep dry ice in plastic bags for better insulation.
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A block of 10-pound dry ice will take 24 hours to completely change from solid to gases if kept in an insulated cooler. The duration could be shorter if improperly kept, but you can also increase the melting time by using more dry ice.
Remember, dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide, and when it melts, it turns into gas. Therefore, properly store it and keep the room ventilated to avoid needless accidents.