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How to Make Homemade Dry Ice

Junior high prom wouldn't have been the same without it.

dry ice in a cauldron
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Dry ice is a magical addition to any party. Without it, junior high proms wouldn't have been the same, halloween parties wouldn't be as spooky, and 1980s music videos wouldn't have left the indelible mark they did.

Here's how you make it.

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What Exactly Is Dry Ice?

Often confused with its chilly cousin, liquid nitrogen, dry ice is actually just cooled and condensed carbon dioxide. It skips the melting process and sublimates directly into carbon dioxide gas when it reaches room temperature and pressure and expands. It's extremely cold, and hovers around -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

When it is not being used to fog up rock concerts, it's often used to keep perishables cool during shipping. (Thomas Slate was the first to sell it to railcars in 1924.) It has a number of other fascinating uses, too. For example, it's being used to purge the NYC subway system of rats. Try attaching it to the underside of an RC car for some seriously rad Fast and Furious effects.

➡ Cool Stuff We Love: Cold Weather Work Gloves

Naturally occurring dry ice is found in abundance on a number of celestial bodies in our solar system including Mars and the several of the moons of Uranus and Neptune. Five years ago, NASA's Mars Obiter Express spotted an avalanche of dry ice tumbling down Martian slopes.

Store-bought dry ice can be expensive and difficult to find. Besides, its way more fun to make something from scratch (at your own risk, of course). Luckily, Popular Mechanics has you covered with a super easy recipe for creating the spooky steam yourself.

How Do You Make Dry Ice?

Close Up Of Cold Beer Bottles
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Well, it's actually pretty simple, and you can make it with things you probably already have in your home.


  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher (must be labeled C02)
  • Cloth bag


    ⚠️ Because dry ice is so cold, you can actually get frostbite. Make sure those heavy-duty gloves are up to snuff.

    1. Place the nozzle of your Co2 fire extinguisher into the cloth bag, sealing it tightly.
    2. Fire away! (Or, depending on the type of extinguisher, open the valve.)
    3. Close the fire extinguisher's nozzle or valve.
    4. Shake that bag like it's a polaroid picture.
    5. Remove newly formed dry ice from bag and enjoy.

      If you'd like to keep it cool longer, plop it into a styrofoam cooler, and make sure leave the lid slightly ajar.

      But ... Isn't Dry Ice Dangerous?

      Rock Star with Guitar
      peepoGetty Images

      It can be! Remember, the stuff is really, really cold. Prolonged exposure to dry ice can actually freeze your skin cells and leave you with an injury similar to a burn. If you're plopping it into a fancy drink, be careful not to swallow it. And make sure you dispose of it properly, so don't drop it down the sink or throw it in the trash. To speed up sublimation, you can pour hot water in whatever container you're storing it in.

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      Additionally, make sure you use it in a ventilated room. Breathing too much carbon dioxide can be fatal—especially to children, Fido, and Fluffy. And finally, tucking dry ice away in a sealed container (including your freezer) builds pressure and can cause the container to explode. Please don't accidentally make a dry ice bomb.

      With that said, dry ice can be a lot of fun to play with and can level up any party. Enjoy.

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