• September 19, 2023
dry ice

Understanding Dry Ice: A Comprehensive Health and Safety Guide

fitdontquit.com – Dry ice, known as “es kering” in Indonesian, is not like conventional ice or ice cubes made of water. Although a valuable tool in various industries and applications, its unique properties also present certain health risks that need to be carefully considered.

What is Dry Ice?

Dry ice is solidified carbon dioxide (CO2). Unlike traditional ice that melts into water, dry ice sublimates directly into carbon dioxide gas. It’s often used to keep food and beverages cold within specific containers. Several sectors utilize dry ice, including:

  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Food distribution
  • Specific cleaning industries
  • Art installations for special effects

Unlike regular ice cubes that melt at room temperature and are harmless, dry ice is solid CO2 and transforms into gas instead of liquid, posing unique health and safety challenges.

The Differences between Dry Ice and Regular Ice

1. Composition

  • Regular Ice: Regular ice is frozen water. It’s the solid state of H2O and is created by cooling water below its freezing point, 0°C (32°F).
  • Dry Ice: Dry ice is made from carbon dioxide (CO2). It’s formed by compressing and cooling CO2 gas below its freezing point, -78.5°C (-109.3°F).

2. Phase Transition

  • Regular Ice: When regular ice melts, it goes through a typical phase transition from solid to liquid at 0°C (32°F), and eventually to a gaseous state when boiled.
  • Dry Ice: Dry ice undergoes sublimation, meaning it transitions directly from a solid to a gaseous state without becoming liquid. This occurs at room temperature.

3. Temperature

  • Regular Ice: Regular ice is cold to touch but can be handled safely with bare hands for short periods.
  • Dry Ice: Dry ice’s temperature is extremely low, making it cold enough to cause frostbite if touched directly with bare skin. Protective gloves are required to handle it.

4. Applications

  • Regular Ice: Often used for cooling beverages, preserving perishable goods for short periods, or in medical applications for numbing areas.
  • Dry Ice: More industrially oriented, used in applications like shipping perishable goods, flash freezing, special effects in entertainment, and cleaning applications.

5. Environmental and Health Impact

  • Regular Ice: Melting regular ice has no adverse environmental or health effects, as it simply returns to its liquid state.
  • Dry Ice: The sublimation of dry ice releases CO2 gas, which must be managed with proper ventilation to avoid health risks like suffocation. Environmental considerations must also be taken into account, particularly in large-scale applications.

6. Storage and Handling

  • Regular Ice: Regular ice requires refrigeration or freezing for storage and melts into water at room temperature.
  • Dry Ice: Requires careful handling and storage, often in insulated containers. It doesn’t “melt” in the traditional sense but sublimates into CO2 gas, which requires special considerations for storage and handling.

7. Disposal

  • Regular Ice: Easily disposed of as it melts into water.
  • Dry Ice: Requires special consideration for disposal, ensuring it is allowed to sublimate in well-ventilated areas to prevent the buildup of harmful CO2 gas.

The Uses and Facts of Dry Ice

1. Equipment Cleaning

Dry ice is employed for cleaning equipment, particularly in the industrial sector. As it leaves no wet residue, it’s excellent for cleaning delicate or breakable items. Its applications range from food preservation and beverage carbonation to preserving specimens in hospitals and pest control.

2. Zero Waste Disposal

Cleaning with dry ice doesn’t leave waste products, only the remnants of the original materials and contaminants.

3. Eradicating Harmful Microorganisms

Dry ice cleaning can eliminate bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli from surfaces like stainless steel, ceramic tiles, and plastic. This can be vital for the food and beverage industry.

4. Non-Consumable

Dry ice must never be ingested, as it can cause internal burns and release gas. Even storing it improperly can crack containers. If swallowed, symptoms of poisoning may include headaches, breathing difficulties, nausea, and vomiting.

5. Proper Ventilation is Essential

Store dry ice in well-ventilated areas to minimize CO2 buildup. Inhaling the sublimated CO2 can lead to suffocation. Sealed containers can even explode, making ventilation critical to prevent fatal accidents.

6. Responsible Disposal

Improper disposal of dry ice can cause serious damage to sinks and trash cans. Allow any unused portions to sublimate in a well-ventilated or outdoor area, keeping it away from children and pets. Pouring warm water can expedite the process.

7. Longer Lasting than Regular Ice

Dry ice lasts longer than regular ice, surviving up to 24 hours in a cooler, or even 3-4 days when stored with other dry ice. Several factors influence its longevity, such as the cooler’s thickness, the amount of dry ice, and external temperature.


While dry ice offers many benefits across various industries, it can also be dangerous if not handled properly. Awareness of its properties and following safety guidelines can help to harness its potential while minimizing risks to health and safety.