Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and turns directly back into a gas as it heats up. When you submerge dry ice in water, it heats up quickly and produces a thick smoke you can use to create ambience at parties or for special effects. Dry ice smoke is simple to make at home, but just be sure to wear protection when you handle the ice since it is extremely cold!
Dry Ice Fog
The rate of sublimation of Dry Ice is primarily governed by surface exposure and humidity. The smaller the pieces of Dry Ice, the quicker and more violently Dry Ice sublimates (as a result, Dry Ice nuggets are ideal for the smoke effect). The moister and warmer the atmosphere surrounding the Dry Ice, the greater the rate of sublimation (so the best way to make smoke is to immerse the Dry Ice in HOT water).
The greatest tendency when using Dry Ice is to use too much of it in the hopes of getting more smoke. This is counterproductive because it uses up your ice faster and cools down your water source, which slows the rate of sublimation and creates less smoke! With Dry Ice, more is less and less is more!
An ideal mixture of Dry Ice and hot water is about 1 cup Dry Ice (8-12 nuggets) for every 4 litres of hot water. This mixture will blanket a room 10″ X 15″ with smoke for about 5-10minutes depending on ventilation and traffic. Do not waste your Dry Ice! Use minimal amounts of your Dry Ice and keep your water source hot! The good idea is to have at least two water pails or bins so you can rotate them and always have maximum heat and humidity to make smoke with.
Fans and/or hairdryers on a very low setting can help you move your smoke around your party area. Avoid high speed settings as they dissipate the smoke too quickly!
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What Is Dry Ice Fog?
Dry ice combined with hot water produces vigorous bubbling water and voluminous flowing fog. For example, with 5 pounds of Dry Ice in 15 to 30 litres of hot water, the greatest amount of fog will be produced the first 5 to 10 minutes. There will be far less fog for the next 5 to 10 minutes as the water cools down and the volume of Dry Ice diminishes. As the water cools, the fog becomes wispier. Dry ice makes fog because of its cold temperature, immersed in hot water, creates a cloud of true water vapour fog. When the water gets colder than 10°C, the Dry Ice stops making fog but continues to sublimate and bubble. The fog will last longer on a damp day than on a dry day.
How do I make the fog?
For each 15-minute period put 2 to 4 kgs of Dry Ice into 15 to 30 litres of hot water. This will make lots of fog depending upon the temperature of the water and the size of the pieces of Dry Ice. Hotter water will make more fog. Very hot water will add its own rising steam to the vapour cloud. If there is no steam, the fog will flow downhill and in the direction of any air movement. A small fan can help control the direction. Smaller pieces of Dry Ice with more surface area produce a greater volume of fog and cool the water down much faster. In both cases, the result is more fog for a shorter amount of time. Keep the water hot with a hot plate, electric skillet, or some other heat source to produce fog for a longer time. Otherwise, when the water gets too cold, it must be replaced to continue the fog effects. If the container is completely filled with water, the fog will flow over the sides the best. But the Dry Ice sublimation will vigorously bubble the water and splash it out. Even a ¾ filled container will splash some so place the container where spilled water will not ruin anything. The water vapour fog will also dampen the area it flows across. Be careful because after some time floors do get slippery.
Where can I store Dry Ice until I want to use it?
The best container to transport and store Dry Ice is an ice chest or cooler. As a general rule, Dry Ice in a typical ice chest will sublimate at a rate of 1% per hour. Dry Ice changes directly from a solid to a gas – sublimation – in normal atmospheric conditions without going through a wet liquid stage. Have an ice chest or some other insulated container to hold the Dry Ice and slow the sublimation rate. Dry ice is very cold, so use insulated gloves to handle it. Do not store Dry Ice in your refrigerator freezer. The extremely cold temperature will cause your thermostat to turn off your freezer. Do not store Dry Ice in a completely airtight container. The sublimation of Dry Ice to Carbon Dioxide gas will cause any airtight container to expand until a hole opens or it explodes.
Can I put Dry Ice into a pool or jacuzzi?
50 to 100 pounds of Dry Ice dropped directly into a heated swimming pool will make fog for an hour or longer depending on the water temperature and the size of the Dry Ice pieces. Because of the jacuzzi’s hot water, it makes the most fog the quickest. As long as the water is kept hot, it can take 50 to 100 pounds per hour. The Dry Ice will carbonate the water for several days. If possible, drain the jacuzzi. The swimming pool will read more alkaline during this time so wait to add acid until the carbonation has dissipated. If the temperature of the water in a swimming pool, fountain, waterfall, or birdbath is too cold (less than 60°F), the Dry Ice will bubble but produce much less fog.
The amount of detail that goes into wedding planning nowadays is amazing from flowers to decoration and entertainment to gifts for guests. One question that we always hear when planning the first dance is dry ice or smoke machine? In this blog, we run you through what we believe are the advantages and disadvantages, as well as our recommendation!
The Smoke Machine
To begin, let’s start with the smoke machine. This device is generally a much cheaper option. However, we see this as the only real advantage. But does the cheap cost act as an advantage? The type of smoke that this emits is generally warmer, meaning that the smoke raises quickly. This will generally set off fire alarms within your venue, and also cause some guests to cough. If this is the device you choose to book, you must advise your venue, where they will generally charge a large fee to isolate the alarm during your first dance. Further to this, the smoke isn’t as thick and won’t fill the room up as much.
The Dry Ice Machine
This device works by adding dry ice to the machine where it meets hot water. This mixture creates a thick cloud-like effect. Because of the use of dry ice, the cloud is a lot colder, allowing it to stay at the floor level for the entire first dance. The dry ice will also then evaporate at the floor level, preventing it from setting off any alarms. This saves you from having to organize to isolate the alarm, removing this particular cost also. The clouds with this device is also a lot more extravagant and are the choice of the majority of weddings.
If the cost between these two devices is what’s holding you back from making your decision, consider the actual effect each produces as well as the additional costs that might be involved (delivery fee, operator costs, isolating alarms). Our choice on this one is the dry ice machine! If what you’re going for is ‘spectacular’, then this device is nothing short of that – this is a hit and will have your guests wowing!
Submerging Dry Ice in Warm Water
Fill a large bucket with half full of warm water
Either use the hottest water that comes out of your sink or heats the water in a large pot. Make sure the temperature of the water is above 50 °F (10 °C) or else the dry ice won’t produce a lot of smoke.
- Don’t fill your bucket or container all the way since the dry ice will cause it to bubble and spill over once you add it.
- You can reduce the amount of water you use to fit whatever container you need.
- Avoid adding dry ice to boiling water since this will cause water to spout up violently.
Wear thick gloves before handling dry ice
Dry ice is extremely cold and can cause frostbite if it comes into contact with your bare skin. Put on thick leather gloves before you use dry ice, so you’re protected from the cold temperatures. If you don’t have gloves available for handling the dry ice, use a thick folded towel instead, so you still have layers of protection.
- Put on your gloves even if you plan on using tongs or a scoop to transfer your ice since they can also get cold the more you use them with the dry ice.
Break off pieces of dry ice using a hammer
After you put on your gloves, remove the package of dry ice from its insulated container and set it on a hard surface. Tap the dry ice with a small hammer to chip off small pieces from the larger block. Larger pieces won’t create as much smoke, but the smoke will last longer since it takes more time to turn to vapour. Smaller pieces create the most fog, but won’t last as long. Aim to have at least 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of dry ice chunks when you’re finished.
- You can buy dry ice from some grocery stores or ice suppliers, or you can make your own.
- Get dry ice pellets if you don’t want to break it apart yourself.
- Store your dry ice in an insulated container in a well-ventilated area before you plan on using it.
Drop the dry ice chunks into the water
When you’re ready to produce the smoke, transfer the dry ice into your container with the hot water. Make sure the dry ice is completely submerged under the water for the best smoke effects. As the water heats up the dry ice, the dry ice will change into carbon dioxide gas and spill over the edge of the container you’re using.
- Put a sign near the container with your dry ice to warn any guests not to touch it.
- Warning: Open windows or use a fan to ventilate the room with your dry ice smoke since it could be harmful to breathe if the vapour builds up.
Add more dry ice after about 15 minutes
The dry ice only produces smoke for about 15-30 minutes before it completely turns to vapour and cools down the water. Once the container stops producing smoke, put in another 3–5 pounds (1.4–2.3 kg) of dry ice so it can start forming smoke again. Continue refilling the container with dry ice for as long as you want to create smoke.
- If you put in more dry ice and it still isn’t creating vapour, the water may have gotten too cold. Try emptying the cold water from the container and refilling it with something warmer than 50 °F (10 °C).
Having Fun with Dry Ice Smoke
Put dry ice in a punch bowl to cool your drink down and make it smoke
Fill a large punch bowl ¾ full with the drink you want to serve for you and your guests. As your guests arrive, add a 1–2 lb (0.45–0.91 kg) chunk of dry ice on the bottom of your punch bowl to cool it down quickly and to make it produce smoke. Once the punch stops smoking, you can add more dry ice to it if you want it to keep making smoke.
- Warn any guests that there is dry ice in the punchbowl so they don’t accidentally put some in their cup and drink it.
Create large bubbles filled with dry ice smoke for a fun experiment
Put 1–2 teaspoons (4.9–9.9 ml) of liquid dish soap in a bowl filled with 1 US quart (0.95 L) of water and mix it together to create suds. Put your dry ice in another bowl and submerge it in water, so it starts creating smoke. Dip a towel in the soapy water and wring it out, so it isn’t dripping wet. Pull the towel taut between your hands, and rub it across the top rim of the bowl with dry ice to cover it with a single layer of bubble “skin,” similar to a bubble wand.
- The smoke from the dry ice will inflate the bubble, and it will eventually pop, causing the smoke to spill over the sides of the bowl.
- If may take multiple times to start your bubble. If you have trouble getting it started, try dipping the towel in the soapy water before trying again.
- Be careful that the light gels don’t touch the light bulbs since they could melt from the heat.
Attach a pipe filled with dry ice to a fog machine to make the smoke denser
Use a PVC pipe that’s about 3–4 feet (0.91–1.22 m) long, and drill holes along the length every 6 inches (15 cm). Feed small chunks of dry ice into the pipe and attach the end of the pipe to the output hose of your fog machine. Fill the fog machine with fog solution and turn it on, so it starts running. The fog from the machine will mix with the dry ice vapour and create smoke that stays low to the ground and adds ambience to the room.
- Replace the dry ice every 20-30 minutes if you want to keep creating more fog.
- Set up the machine and pipe against a wall, so people don’t trip over it by accident.
Put dry ice in a heated pool or hot tub to make outdoor smoke
Drop 50 pounds (23 kg) of dry ice into the water of a heated pool or jacuzzi when your event is about to start. The dry ice and the heat from the water will keep producing smoke for 1-2 hours depending on the temperature and the size of the chunks. Don’t let others swim or relax in the water while there’s still dry ice there, so nobody accidentally gets hurt.
- If you have an unheated pool, the dry ice won’t make as much smoke, but it will bubble.
- The dry ice can make your pool more alkaline, so you may need to adjust the chemicals after doing this.
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Use coloured lights in your room to make the smoke appear a different colour
Adding food colouring to the water you use with dry ice will not change the colour of the smoke, so you need to use coloured lights instead. If you don’t want to buy coloured lightbulbs for your fixtures, look for light gels, which are thin sheets of translucent colours, and place them in front of your lights. Not only will you give a party or room more ambience, but the colour of your smoke will be the same as your light.
- Use a spotlight or flashlight with a sheet of coloured plastic over it if you only want to light your smoke in a specific place.
Never order Dry Ice or attempt to create First Dance Smoke if you don’t understand the process, or have not previously worked with Dry Ice.
Extreme care should be taken when handling Dry Ice; the temperature of frozen carbon dioxide can be up to -80 degrees celsius. Special gloves should be used at all times.
Dry ice should also be stored and transported in well-ventilated areas, and this is because gasses are released as the Dry Ice naturally dissipates. Never store in a freezer or a sealed compartment, or you are essentially creating a Dry Ice Bomb.
The correct machinery should be used to create the First Dance Smoke at a venue or in an event environment.
When we announce your First Dance, its the last formal Wedding Photograph of the day and a photo opportunity that will have your guests scrambling for their cameras, please note …you are officially opening the dance floor for the evening …expect excitement levels to rise amongst previously sensible wedding guests as they begin to cut shapes on the Starlit Dance Floor gasp at those usually mild-mannered relatives in ridiculous props as the Selfie Mirror rolls out the red carpet …and see pints of lager now magically start to turn into double rounds, straight Jack Daniels and rounds of Sambuca. ITS PARTY TIME ! …. IT’S GOING TO BE THE BEST WEDDING RECEPTION EVER ! and EVERYBODY LOVES YOU !!!