How to Make Dry Ice Without a Fire Extinguisher: Chilling Science

So you saw one of those cool DIY dry ice videos, but you don’t want to waste a perfectly good fire extinguisher. First, let me say that you’re making a smart choice. People don’t keep enough fire extinguishers around, and discharging them to make dry ice is a bit irresponsible.

Can you make dry ice without a fire extinguisher? You can make dry ice without discharging a CO2 fire extinguisher. Any source of compressed carbon dioxide will do the job, and most importantly, you will get dry ice and still have a fire extinguisher. Options such as a soda stream refills and the compressor from an old refrigerator can make dry ice, but a five-pound CO2 canister is ideal.  

Using compressed CO2 gas to put out fires is ingenious because it doesn’t leave a mess or even a stain to clean up, and it’s highly effective. Still, you need access to good dry ice in case of an extended warm weather power outage. Survival supplies are only useful if they don’t go bad or explode in the summer. Fortunately, you can keep things cool without emptying your fire suppression systems. I’ll walk you through what you need to make dry ice and how to use it, so you and your temperature-sensitive goods don’t have a heat-related failure after SHTF.

What You Need to Make Dry Ice

Making dry ice is surprisingly simple, and you don’t need to grab your fire extinguisher to accomplish this feat. You will find plenty of uses for this ingenious science experiment. From making a creepy fog to preserving your refrigerated goods in summer, dry ice is incredibly useful stuff.

Before we get into how to make dry ice, it helps to know what dry ice is made of. Dry ice is carbon dioxide. This uniquely cold substance is the solid form of the ‘stuff’ you breathe out after your body uses the oxygen. However, you’re going to need more than your breath to make dry ice.

Keeping several 5lb co2 Tanks from Amazon filled up in your emergency supplies will give you ready access to the main component of dry ice. These brand new aluminum containers have a CGA320 valve on top. Please be aware that these are just the tanks. You will have to get them filled locally. Learn more when you click here. 


To make dry ice the simplest way possible, without a fire extinguisher, you will need the following components:

  • Compressed CO2 gas- You can get this by using a large compressor like those found in a refrigerator, or by purchasing pre-made canisters of compressed CO2. Examples of pre-made compressed carbon dioxide include rechargers for whipped creme, sometimes called whippits, and the canisters used in air guns. However, I suggest buying a much larger canister of CO2.
  • Hoses, Valves & Crackers- All forms of compressed CO2 gas require a unique device to discharge. When used with the tiny canisters these are sometimes called Nos Crackers. However, you will need a hose, and valve for a larger CO2 canister. Using a smaller variety of compressed gas canisters costs a lot more and takes too long.
  • A Pillowcase or a Towel & Staples- People often use a pillowcase for their dry ice. However, I recommend taking a towel and making a slightly more insulated bag. You can fold in half and staple along two sides to make a sack.
  • A Mylar Blanket, Thread & Needle-If you want a more permanent and better-constructed option, use a mylar safety blanket doubled (or more) and sew it to one side of a full-sized towel. Then fold and carefully stitch your towel into a bag leaving a smaller opening, about four to six inches long.
  • Gloves- You need to protect your skin, so I strongly suggest you put on cotton or leather winter gloves to do this project.

If you plan to make dry ice at home, I recommend investing in a pair of Inf-Way Cryogenic Gloves from Amazon. These gloves are meant for handling liquid nitrogen, which is usually -346°F and much colder than dry ice. The extended wrist and arm protectors will help prevent accidental freezing. To see the excellent Amazon reviews, click here

Yes, that is the whole list. You don’t need a ton of supplies to make dry ice. If you only want a little, you can even use a hand towel or two washcloths to make a much smaller bag.

How to Make Your Dry Ice

Making the dry ice is so simple you’ll wonder why you haven’t done this before. Follow these steps to get dry ice ‘snow.’ However, if you want a more hardened chunk of dry ice, you will need to press it into shape using a form and clamps. For this version of the process, we’ll assume you are using a larger tank of compressed CO2 gas because that makes the most sense.

  1. Put on your gloves. It is also wise to use eye protection. Although it’s unlikely that a chunk of dry ice snow will come flying out of your bag, it’s always best to take the additional safety precaution. You do not want to freeze part of your eyeball.
  2. Get your tank of CO2 and attach a hose. You want to use an extension, so you’re not trying to vent directly into your bag.
  3. Insert your hose and close the collection bag around it. You may want to use a zip-tie or piece of twine to tie the opening shut. You can use your gloved hand in a pinch, but it’s not a safe or sensible solution.
  4. Facing the tank, hold the bag away from your body with two gloved hands. You don’t want any cooled air to hit your arms or body as it escapes the smaller holes along the sides. Likewise, little bits of your ice could come out if you’ve left gaps that are too large.
  5. Turn on your CO2 and shake that bag. You want to keep the bag in motion to help the gas coalesce into your dry ice snow.
  6. Turn off your gas and remove the hose from the bag. You should have a powder of solid carbon dioxide at the bottom of your pouch if you’ve done this right.

Part of the reason I recommend hand sewing or using staples is to leave enough small gaps along the sides of your bag to let oxygen out. Otherwise, you can accidentally inflate the mylar like a balloon and pop it.

You can pick up a Red Gas Line Air Hose with Clamps from Amazon. The simple odorless hose will connect to most CO2 tanks easily. Plus, it’s backed with a forty-five-day money-back warranty, so you’ll have plenty of time to test it. Have one delivered to your door when you click here to order.

Dry Ice is a Survival Supply

When summer gets hot, and the power goes out, having dry ice without using up your fire extinguisher can help keep you cool. Rising heat can damage your food stores or even turn your fuel supplies into a bomb waiting to happen. Hence, you need access to dry ice.

Unfortunately, you can’t just lay down a pile of dry ice and hope it works. Instead, I’ll walk you through a couple of essential uses. Plus, I’ll explain how to make a mini cooler for yourself using dry ice and a solar-powered fan.

Using Your Dry Ice to Cool Supplies

The freezing temperature of dry ice means you can do a lot more than making a cool Halloween brew.  According to How Stuff Works, “dry ice has a surface temperature of -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit (-78.5 degrees C).” That’s a lot of cooling power.

If you need to preserve things inside your refrigerator during a summer blackout, you can line vegetable drawers with old towels. Alternately, you can opt to put the dry ice on a covered baking sheet. Place it on the top shelf so the cold air sinks. Either way, make sure you cover the surface you plan to put your dry ice on.

Using the same technique, you can keep survival supplies like canned goods at a reasonable temperature. Choose a flat, thin bottomed container like a cookie sheet, and put some baking paper or an old hand towel down on the surface. Then add dry Ice and place your pan on top of the canned goods you need to keep cool. To prevent freezing, you can use another towel between the sheet and your food.

Dry Ice to Cool People

Making a mini AC unit for yourself takes a little more effort. You will need a bucket with a lid, a towel, dry ice, some caulk, and a solar fan, or a long cord, and a solar power source. Near the top of your bucket, drill a few holes.

You can put the holes all-around to help cool a whole, small room, or place several holes on one side to aim the flow at you. You may want to enlarge the holes to allow airflow, but start with four to eight small diameter holes and work your way up as needed.

Next, place your towel in the bottom and gauge where your dry ice will sit. Just above that line, you need to make a hole for your fan carefully. If it has a cage, set the ‘box’ around the fan in the side of the bucket. Otherwise, you need to caulk the fan inside and make a hole for the cord.

Seal things as much as possible to prevent excess air leakage, but leave space for your fan to suck in outside air. Add a couple of drill holes behind where you plan to mount an unshielded fan before you caulk it in place. Keep in mind; you may need to sand the surface of the bucket or otherwise rough it up to get your caulk to set.

Place your dry ice inside, and close the lid tightly. When you turn on the fan, it will blow air across the dry ice, which evaporates slowly. Cold air then escapes from the holes in the top, cooling the immediate area slightly.

While this process isn’t as effective as a modern AC or even an evaporative cooler, it will help you prevent heatstroke in the middle of summer. Resist the urge to hug the cold bucket. Additionally, you may want to use a blanket around the base of your bucket for insulation. Doing this prevents heat from the floor and room from melting your dry ice faster.

Final Thoughts

Making dry ice is easier than you think, and you don’t need to use a fire extinguisher to accomplish your goal. Since fire extinguishers are incredibly useful survival tools, wasting them isn’t the best idea. Fortunately, any compressed CO2 gas will do the same job.

If you have access to your own CO2 compressor, you can easily make dried ice using gasses emitted from fermentation. You’ll need a power source for your compressor and an enormous container, like an air mattress for your carbon dioxide gas. However, with a little patience, you can easily make all the dry ice you’ll ever need.

Remember to practice common-sense safety when working with compressed gasses and especially dry ice. Wear safety goggles and protect your skin, so you don’t get a dry ice burn.

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