Dry ice is extremely cold frozen carbon dioxide that is -109.3°F (-78.5°C). You might have the idea that you can make your dry ice last longer by putting it in the freezer, which is obviously cooler than room temperature, but is this a good idea? Can you keep dry ice in the freezer and if not why shouldn't you store it in the freezer?
No, dry ice should NOT be kept in the freezer. The extremely cold temperature will mess with the thermostat and cause the freezer to turn off and in some cases it may actually break the thermostat, evaporator, motors, wires or compressor.
So why exactly shouldn't you keep dry ice in the freezer and where should you store dry ice instead?
Why You Shouldn't Keep Dry Ice In The Freezer
There are actually quite a few reasons you shouldn't keep dry ice in your home freezer both because your dry ice is unlikely to stay frozen longer than it otherwise would as well as the fact that it could damage your freezer.
It Doesn't Make The Dry Ice Last Longer
Dry ice has a temperature much below that of a regular freezer you would have in your home. While a regular freezer is 0°F (-18°C) dry ice is a whopping -109.3°F (-78.5°C).
While as humans we see both of these temperatures as being cold in actually fact your freezer is hot compared to dry ice.
To keep dry ice longer you also want to avoid empty air space and keep it in a smaller container. A freezer is a large space full of air and thus this means the dry ice will sublimate (turn from solid to a gas) fairly quickly in your freezer.
Also the way a freezer works is that it blows cold air around the freezer, freezing everything in there. Because this air is actually warm compared to dry ice your freezer is blowing hot air onto your dry ice which will make it disappear faster.
Dry Ice Will Cause Your Freezer Thermostat To Turn Off
Freezers don't constant run. They switch on when the thermostat indicates that the temperature is too high and they switch off to save energy when the temperature is low enough.
Because dry ice is so cold it will dramatically lower the temperature your thermostat reads and will cause the freezer to turn off.
Dry Ice May Break or Damage Your Freezer.
There are a lot of different things that can go wrong if you put dry ice in your freezer.
These things may not happen to you and your freezer, but you're taking a risk putting the dry ice in there that you may completely break your freezer.
This quora user had their freezer broken by dry ice. Here are some of the things that could break:
- The dry ice can create severely cold air that when returned through the evaporator can freeze the evaporators and potentially cause it to leak
- The dry ice can make the thermostat get so cold that is can break it or completely freeze it so it stops working. This can take a long time to thaw while the rest of the freezer gets warm.
- The dry ice is far colder than freezers are built to handle. The extreme cold could causes damage to motors, wiring, plastics and other items that could get brittle and break.
- Worst case scenario the dry ice could cause a compressor failure if it was able to turn the coolant vapor into it's liquid form.
The Anti-Sweat Heaters Can't Handle The Extreme Cold
In newer freezers they have anti-sweat heaters on the walls of the freezer to stop the build up of ice that occurs in older freezers requiring them to be ‘defrosted'.
The anti-sweat heaters again are not designed to handle the extremely cold temperatures of dry ice and this could cause your freezer to become froster or could cause damage to these anti-sweat heaters.
What Will Happen If You Put Dry Ice In The Freezer?
The most likely thing that will happen if you put dry ice in the freezer is that the thermostat will read that the freezer is much colder than needed and the freezer will switch off.
Over time the dry ice will sublimate (or turn into gas) and escape out the door of your freezer.
Once the dry ice is all used up or removed for the freezer it may take some time for the thermostat to thaw out and return to normal temperatures. When it does it will switch the freezer back on.
Chances are you won't cause any damage to your freezer by putting dry ice in it, however there is a chance it could break your freezer especially if your freezer is running.
That's why it's generally recommended not to put dry ice in the freezer.
Can You Use Dry Ice In Your Freezer When Your Freezer Is Turned Off?
If you experience a black out or loss of power, or your freezer stops working for some reason then dry ice can be a good thing to use to keep the items in your fridge frozen until power returns.
If you are using dry ice in a freezer that is turned off it is advised that you put the dry ice on the shelves or in the draws of the freezer and also cover them in newspaper or cardboard to add some insulation.
Don't put the dry ice up against the walls of your freezer as this is where all the electronics, coolants, thermostats etc is and this increases the chances of the dry ice causing damage to something.
Putting dry ice on the top shelf of your freezer will allow the cold air to sink down over your food keeping most of it frozen until you get power pack.
Once the power outage ends and your freezer can be turned on again make sure you remove the dry ice before switching the power back on.
Can You Put Dry Ice In Your Fridge?
The fridge is an even worse place to put dry ice than the freezer and it is not recommended. Fridges aren't designed for the extreme cold temperatures of dry ice and it could damage your fridge and cause it to stop working.
A Clever Way To Make Dry Ice Last Longer In Your Freezer Without Breaking Your Freezer
You can actually use your freezer to make your dry ice last longer, but it's not by simply putting the dry ice directly in the freezer.
Instead you should put your dry ice in a cooler. A small styrofoam cooler like these cheap ones on Amazon will do the trick.
Then close up your cooler, making sure you allow away for the gas to escape, and put your cooler in your freezer.
The cooler will insulate the dry ice and keep it from melting as fast, but it will also protect your freezer from the extreme cold temperatures of the dry ice.
Having the cooler inside the freezer means the cooler is being exposed to a lot less outside heat and this will help your dry ice to last much longer than if you kept it at room temperature.
Where Should You Store Dry Ice?
It is recommended that you store dry ice in a hard cooler or a styrofoam cooler. The plastic in coolers and the styrofoam are able to handle the extremely cold temperatures without breaking.
Do not store dry ice in a soft sided cooler as the interior linings of these coolers are generally made with plastics that will freeze and become brittle and break when exposed to the cold temperatures of dry ice.
Best Coolers For Dry Ice
If you're looking for the best coolers to store dry ice then you can pick from one of the below option:
Disposible Option: Styrofoam Cooler
If you are shipping a product and it needs to stay frozen with the help of dry ice then styrofoam coolers are lightweight, cheap and disposable.
This makes them the best solution for one off uses.
Budget Option: Coleman Xtreme
If you're looking for a budget cooler that can keep dry ice for a long period of time, but one you don't have to throw away after a single use then the Coleman Xtreme is a great option.
It is dry ice safe and it has enough insulation to be able to keep the dry ice frozen for 1-3 days depending on how much dry ice you use.
It also won't break the bank or your budget.
Premium Option: Yeti Coolers (or Similar)
If you're looking to get the absolute maximum ice retention from your cooler and you need to be able to store dry ice for as along as possible then coolers like Yeti are going to be the best for you.
These coolers use thicker and better insulation and can keep small quantities of dry ice for 2-3 days with ease and can hold larger quantities of dry ice for over a week! See which coolers keep ice longer than any other cooler.
Yeti is the most popular and well known brand when it comes to high-end coolers, but there are actually some other great cheap options out there too.
I personally own a Yeti cooler and I absolutely love it