How long can dry ice be stored for?

What is dry ice?

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2). It is produced by compressing carbon dioxide gas to a liquid form and then expanding it rapidly to produce small pellets or blocks of dry ice. Dry ice sublimates (transforms from a solid to a gas) at a temperature of -78.5°C (-109.3°F), which is much colder than regular ice. This extreme cold makes it useful for freezing and cooling applications.

Why does dry ice sublimate?

Dry ice sublimates because carbon dioxide naturally wants to exist as a gas at normal atmospheric pressure and temperature. The only reason it can exist as a solid is because it has been pressurized and cooled to below its triple point temperature of -56.6°C. Once dry ice warms up and the pressure is reduced, the solid carbon dioxide molecules gain enough energy to break free from the crystalline structure of the solid into a gas. This process requires no intermediate liquid phase, which is why it is called sublimation rather than melting.

How is dry ice stored?

To store dry ice for any significant length of time, it needs to be kept in an insulated container to slow down the rate of sublimation. Dry ice is commonly kept in foam or cardboard boxes, thick polystyrene coolers, or even thermos flasks. The container needs to allow for ventilation to prevent pressure build up from the carbon dioxide gas but also limit air exchange to maintain the low temperatures. Most storage containers will keep dry ice for 24-48 hours if kept sealed. Larger insulated containers with more dry ice can extend storage times up to a week.

What factors affect dry ice storage time?

There are several key factors that determine how long dry ice will last in storage:

Amount of dry ice

The more dry ice you start with, the longer it will take to fully sublimate away. A few small pellets may disappear after just a day, while a 10 lb block can potentially last over a week with proper insulation.

Insulation and seal of the container

A well-insulated container like a commercial grade foam shipper will retain cold temperatures longer than a basic cardboard box. Air tight seals help prevent heat transfer.

Surrounding temperature

Higher ambient temperatures will warm the container faster, accelerating sublimation. Storing dry ice in a cooler location like a basement or walk-in freezer can extend its lifespan.

Frequency of opening the container

Each time the container is opened allows exchanged heat and humidity to interact with the dry ice, promoting faster sublimation. Keeping the container closed extends storage time.

Relative humidity

Higher humidity inside the container provides more moisture for frost accumulation on the dry ice, which slightly enhances cooling capacity until it eventually sublimates away. Low humidity causes faster sublimation.


Some air exchange helps relieve pressure buildup but too much ventilation will introduce excess heat and humidity to rapidly sublimate the dry ice. Optimal ventilation maintains just enough air exchange to prevent dangerous pressure inside the sealed container.

How to maximize dry ice storage time

To get the longest possible storage time with dry ice, follow these guidelines:

– Use a high-quality insulated container rated for dry ice, such as an Igloo Polar Cooler.

– Make sure the container seals tightly. Fill any gaps with insulation.

– Start with at least 4-5 lbs of dry ice, preferably a single dense block rather than small pellets.

– Store in the coolest location available, ideally at 0°F or below.

– Avoid opening the container. If needed, limit openings and re-seal immediately.

– Provide some small ventilation holes if sealing tightly, so gases can escape.

– Consider using a dessicant like silica gel to absorb moisture and keep conditions dry inside.

– Use blocks to elevate stored items above accumulated frost buildup.

– Keep inventory of perishable items to use oldest first when accessing the container.

How long does dry ice usually last in optimal storage?

With ideal storage conditions of a well-insulated, properly packed container kept closed in a cold environment, 4-5 lbs of dry ice can be expected to last:

– 7-10 days for dense blocks of dry ice at least 2 inches thick

– 5-7 days for thicker dry ice slices or large pellets

– 3-5 days for small dry ice pellets or “nuggets”

Larger amounts of 10 lbs or more of dense blocks can potentially last 2 weeks if optimally stored. Any less dry ice or poorer insulation will decrease these estimated timespans. Monitoring the condition of the dry ice periodically lets you confirm it is cold enough and has not fully sublimated yet.

Is it safe to use dry ice that has been stored a long time?

Dry ice is safe to use and handle as long as some amount of solid dry ice remains in the container. As it sublimates, the cool carbon dioxide gas accumulates and may cause dangerously high pressure if the container is completely airtight. Small ventilation holes allow the gases to slowly escape and prevent pressure buildup.

As long as the dry ice has maintained cold temperatures, it can be broken into smaller pieces and used for cooling purposes. Touching dry ice can cause frostbite burns on exposed skin, so always wear insulated gloves when handling.

Use common sense checking on the dry ice – if it has fully sublimated away or the container temperature feels warm, the remaining dry ice chunks may have deteriorated in cooling capacity. Dispose of any questionable pieces and only use dry ice that still appears freshly frozen.

Can you refreeze regular ice into dry ice?

It is impossible to convert regular ice or water directly into dry ice at home. The extremely cold temperatures and high pressures required to transform regular ice into solid carbon dioxide can only be achieved in industrial manufacturing settings. Small hobbyist dry ice makers also exist but essentially work by compressing and expanding liquid CO2 rather than actually freezing water.

So unfortunately there is no way to convert the leftover melted ice water in your cooler into new dry ice once your supply runs out. You need to procure additional dry ice from a supplier for any continued cooling needs.

Is it okay to refreeze unused dry ice?

Unused dry ice that has already partially sublimated can technically be refrozen but it is not recommended. Dry ice exposed to warmer temperatures will contain moisture from frost buildup and surrounding humidity. Attempting to re-freeze partially melted dry ice will produce blocks with less density and cooling capacity compared to fresh dry ice.

The best practice is to only store and use dry ice in one continuous usage cycle until it fully sublimates away. Allowing dry ice to melt and attempting to refreeze results in decreased effectiveness and dry ice quality. Get fresh dry ice supplies for any subsequent cooling needs.

Can you freeze items first before adding dry ice?

Pre-freezing items before adding them to dry ice storage provides some additional preservation time. Starting at ultra-low temperatures from your home freezer means the dry ice doesn’t have to lower the item temperature as drastically. This allows the dry ice to focus on maintaining the already cold temperatures.

Ideally, pre-freeze the items at least overnight or up to 24 hours before transferring to dry ice storage. Make sure any liquids are already completely frozen solid so their structure stays intact. The goal is to remove latent heat that would otherwise absorb cooling capacity from the dry ice. Pre-freezing gives you a head start on reaching stable sub-zero storage temperatures.

Does dry ice temperature remain constant during storage?

The temperature inside a dry ice storage container will gradually rise over time rather than remaining constant. This happens as the solid dry ice slowly sublimates into gas, absorbing heat energy in the process.

Initially, a thick block of dry ice will be at around -109°F. Over the first 24 hours, the temperature may creep up to around -90°F to -80°F as the outer layers begin sublimating. By day 3-5, temperatures near the -50°F range are common as more dry ice surface area is exposed. Near the end around day 7-10, the temperature could be closer to 0°F as the remaining dry ice shrinks away.

The cooling diminishes in a gradual exponential decay rather than linear fashion as the dry ice depletes. Monitoring the container temperature periodically lets you confirm sufficient cooling capacity remains. Add more dry ice if needed to restore colder temperatures.

Is dry ice technology improving storage time?

While dry ice itself is a simple raw material that hasn’t changed much, technology improvements are making dry ice storage more efficient. Advanced insulation materials help containers maintain colder temperatures longer.

Some new containers even incorporate vacuum insulation, maximizing cold retention. Improved sealing and ventilation systems balance gases without heat exchange. More convenient handling options like carts and auto-lifters make accessing dry ice storage safer and faster as well.

RFID tags and digital temperature monitoring streamline inventory tracking. With better storage technology, users can store dry ice for the maximum possible timespan before needing to replenish their supply. This makes dry ice even more useful and cost-effective for a range of applications.


Dry ice can only be properly stored for a limited time before sublimating away into carbon dioxide gas. With optimal insulation, sealing, environment, and proper handling, dense blocks of dry ice can potentially last 1-2 weeks before dissipating. Smaller amounts or lower quality storage conditions will result in faster sublimation, often limiting usable time to just a few days.

By maximizing storage factors under your control and closely monitoring dry ice temperatures, you can safely extend preservation as long as possible. Just be sure to use insulated protection when handling, and avoid any thawed or partially sublimated pieces for highest quality results. With some preparation and diligent monitoring, dry ice can effectively extend chilling and freezing capabilities for a wide variety of applications.

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