Why Does Dry Ice Create Smoke? - Memphis Ice

Have you ever wondered what’s going on with dry ice when it starts to smoke? We're here today to answer that question.


Have you ever wondered what’s going on with dry ice when it starts to smoke? Yeah we know dry ice is cold but how in the world is dry ice emitting all of that smoke just by being in the open air? How exactly could you replicate this on your own? 

Well, that’s what we’re here to answer. Though we do not sell dry ice here at Memphis Ice, we are fascinated by it. After all, we are a family-owned, full-service ice distribution company. Ice is sort of in our DNA now. We love to write, learn, and share cool ice facts and information! 

Hot Cold Tip: The smoke from dry ice is hazardous. If you choose to produce dry ice smoke at home, please do it outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. For more information check out these safe handling guidelines for dry ice.

What Is Dry Ice?

  • Dry ice is stable carbon dioxide in solid form.
  • Rather than melting, dry ice sublimates, or transitions from solid to gas without becoming a liquid.
  • Adding dry ice to water produces a cloud of what looks like smoke or fog, which is water vapor!

Related: Cold, Hard Facts About Dry Ice

We know that dry ice is incredibly fun to use in experiments. Even though it’s a simple process, seeing it happen in our homes or businesses—or even with our food—is otherworldly.

The Basic Science of Dry Ice

If you’re familiar with our blog, you know we love talking about science! Nothing but frosty facts here.

Dry Ice Is Sublime

Unlike H2O, carbon dioxide converts from a solid directly to a gas under normal atmospheric pressure. Rather than becoming a liquid, when a chunk of dry ice is exposed to room temperature air, it undergoes sublimation, which means it changes from a solid directly into a gas.

Dry Ice Hates Getting Wet

What happens when you mix hot water with dry ice? Well, you get a much more reactive fog. Bubbles galore! And if it’s a humid day, you’ll have fog that lasts just a bit longer than on a dry day. The fog sinks toward the ground both because it is colder than the air and because carbon dioxide is denser than air. After a time, the gas warms up, so the fog dissipates. When you make your own dry ice fog, the concentration of carbon dioxide is increased near the floor.

Dry Ice Is So Cold It's Hot

Dry ice is CO2 gas compressed into a solid. While regular H2O ice becomes a solid at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 degrees Celsius, the surface temperature of dry ice is a shocking negative 78 degrees Celsius. Touching dry ice directly with your skin freezes cells and causes injury similar to a burn! For this reason, insulated gloves should be worn at all times when handling dry ice.

We Love All Things Ice Here At Memphis Ice!

Even if you’re not as fanatical about all things ICE like we are, we hope you enjoyed learning more about dry ice! If you’re interested in renting or purchasing an H2O ice machine, we’ve got you covered. With our robust rental program, you can have all the crystal clear ice you or your customers need, for as little as $4 a day. You’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing that if there are ever any issues with your machine, our service technicians have your back.

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