Dry ice in a cooler is an excellent way to keep your content cold for a reasonable period. However, there are also some bad sides to opting for this method to keep your cooler content cold. Therefore, we've put together everything you should know about using dry ice in a cooler.
Part 1: Should I Use Dry Ice for a Cooler?
Using dry ice for a cooler is a good option in certain instances, but in some other cases, you may want to opt for the conventional liquid ice. To know if dry ice is better for you or not, you should consider its pros and cons explained below.
It is colder
Regular ice made from water has a freezing point of 0°C or 32°F. Dry Ice, on the other hand, has a freezing temperature of -78.5° C or colder or -109.3°F. Therefore, it'll last longer and hasten the cooling of your cooler content. It is able to attain such a low temperature because it isn't made of liquid; instead, it is frozen carbon dioxide.
It won't flood your cooler
Since dry ice is made of gas when it melts, it doesn't leave a pool of water in your cooler; instead, it converts back to its gaseous Carbon dioxide, keeping your cooler and its content cool and dry. Therefore, it is a better alternative if you don't want your cooler items, such as paper-wrapped meat, to end up in a flood of water caused by melted ice.
It is lighter
Gases are naturally lighter than liquid. Therefore, dry ice is lighter than its liquid counterpart. With such a lightweight, you can easily transport the ice without burden.
Short shelf life
Dry Ice doesn't last long like liquid ice. Gasses are lighter and dissipate faster than conventional ice. Hence, if you keep dry ice for a short period, it may begin to melt.
You can't also store it in your freezer
Most freezers are designed to maintain a temperature of 0°C or slightly below that to keep your water and other liquid content is frozen. This temperature isn't cold enough to keep dry ice frozen. If you keep dry ice in the freezer, it might lose up to ten pounds within 24 hours. It is, therefore, not ideal ice to store for later use.
It can burn skin
You can't handle dry ice the same way you do conventional ice. It is colder and can burn your skin if you have direct contact with it. Therefore, it requires you to use a towel, gloves, or tongs while handling.
Part 2: How to Use Dry Ice in a Cooler
Below are the tips you need to follow to use dry ice in a cooler.
Wrap it in a newspaper
Wrapping your dry ice with a newspaper will serve two primary purposes. Firstly, it'll prevent you from accidentally touching the ice, thereby protecting you from ice burn. It also serves as insulation, preventing the ice from evaporating quickly.
Keep it at the bottom of the cooler
Keep your dry ice at the bottom of the cooler and place your drinks and other items on it. This makes it easier for you to access your items without any hindrance. Also, should you put your content under and the ice on top, you might have to wear a glove every time you need to grab the content. However, by keeping the wrapped ice at the bottom, you can quickly get your items without wearing a safety glove.
Cover the dry ice with a cardboard
You shouldn't place your items directly on the ice; they might freeze and stick with the ice. To avoid this, you should cut a piece of cardboard and let it sit perfectly on the dry ice at the bottom of your cooler. You should also cut a hole with a width of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in the cardboard. This will give room for the gas to escape and ensure better temperature distribution in the cooler. The cardboard also helps to prevent people from touching the dry ice.
Place the dry ice on top of the item to freeze quickly
If you won't be getting in and out of the cooler and you want your items swiftly frozen, you can keep the items at the bottom of the cooler and place the ice over them. For example, if you're going to freeze the meat you got on a hunting trip quickly, you can put it in a storage bag, place it at the bottom of your cooler, and place the dry ice over it.
Pack the gaps using a newspaper
Gaps in your cooler will give room for the dry ice to evaporate quickly. Therefore, to slow down the evaporation, you should get newspapers and pack the gaps with them.
Protect the walls of your cooler
Dry Ice can be extremely cold for your cooler. It could damage the plastic. Therefore, if your plastic doesn't have Styrofoam, you need to insulate it with one. You should cut pieces of this item and place them at the bottom of your cooler. If the dry ice will be touching the cooler walls, you should use Styrofoam to insulate the sides of the cooler.
If you're done using the dry ice, and you need to get rid of it safely, you should unwrap it if you already wrap it with newspaper or cardboard and take it outside. Keep it in an open space where it can evaporate without causing any health problems. Opening it and letting it evaporate in a room might increase the carbon dioxide concentration in a room, which could be dangerous. Also, if you keep it outside to evaporate, you shouldn't leave it unattended. You should also prevent kids and pets from reaching it.