Dry Ice Blasting vs. Sandblasting Cost: Comparing Restoration Methods

03 March 2024

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You’ve probably already noticed that sandblasting and dry ice blasting both have the word blasting in their names. Both processes are also commonly used on automobiles, but that does not mean they use the same materials or even achieve the same thing.

The good news is you can read all about the processes of dry ice blasting, and sandblasting below. Including what each product is made of, how they work, and what types of tasks they are best used for. Read on to find out more.

Car Inspection Being Conducted Prior to Ice Blasting

What is sandblasting?

Sandblasting is a process of cleaning/stripping vehicles that relies on the application of high-pressure particles to the surface in question. Sandblasting is abrasive in nature and can use a range of materials from nut shells to glass beads as pellets in its process. Due to its highly abrasive nature sandblasting is used to remove substances like unwanted paint, or rust on vehicles.

What is dry ice blasting?

Another pressure-based cleaning method for vehicles is dry ice blasting. However, rather than pushing pellets of sand under pressure, dry ice relies on frozen carbon dioxide at minus 78.5 degrees Celsius! The cleaning takes place not by abrasion but by sublimation, as the dry ice evaporates as it hits the surface, lifting away any dirt and debris with the gas.

Dry Ice Pellets Being Loaded into Machine

1. Cost Comparison: Dry Ice Blasting vs Sandblasting

Before you can make a decision on which type of blasting process to use on your vehicle you’ll need to know all the relevant details. The first of these is the cost of these processes.

Sandblasting tends to be the cheaper option of the two, for several reasons. The first is that it's a coarser process requiring less precision so will not be as bespoke and take as long. However, bear in mind that sandblasting usually requires parts to be disassembled before administering the treatment. Secondly, the technology and supplies needed for sandblasting have been around for a while now and so are less expensive. However, dry ice blasting is relatively new in the car detailing scene, and so those offering these services will have higher overheads, such as the specially formulated dry ice pellets.

With these factors in mind, a typical hour of sandblasting will cost around £75, while the same duration of dry ice blasting will cost around £300. However, it's important to remember that comparing the costs of these two services is like comparing apples and oranges, as they do different things. A topic we’ll look at in more detail in the next section.

2. Efficiency Showdown: Sandblasting vs Dry Ice Blasting

While they both have blasting in their names, dry ice blasting and sandblasting are not the same processes, and offer different efficiencies and benefits to vehicle owners.

Benefits of Dry Ice Blasting

First of all, dry ice blasting is a non-abrasive process. This means it efficiently can be used to clean a range of areas on your vehicle from the engine to the undercarriage without damaging the surface.

Another important benefit of dry ice blasting is that it uses non-toxic materials. This means it is perfectly safe for the environment.

Dry ice is also a cleaning process that does not create the vast amounts of dust and debris as sandblasting does. This means it's not only safer for those doing it, but you won’t need to worry about cleaning up any stray debris once the process is complete.  

Due to the ingenious mechanism by which dry ice works, it's a very gentle but effective process. This means it can be used on even the most sensitive equipment, and delicate surfaces without fear of damage or disassembly of parts.

Lastly, a major advantage of using dry ice blasting is that it's effective on a range of finishes and contaminants, including paint, grime, oil, and dirt.

Benefits of Sandblasting

Unlike dry ice blasting, sandblasting is not a delicate process. Instead, its power lies in being able to speed up the timescale involved in restoring cars to their former glory. It does this by being particularly efficient at stripping away paint, corrosion and dust and bringing elements back to metal, so your vehicle can be repainted.

3. Choose Wisely: Dry Ice Cleaning vs Sandblasting

Before you make your decision on whether to use dry ice blasting or sandblasting on your vehicle it is important to understand some of the drawbacks of each.

Disadvantages of Dry Ice Blasting

To begin with, it's important to note that because dry ice blasting uses carbon dioxide gas at low temperatures requires specialized equipment and handling for use and disposal. However, working with an experienced dry ice blasting provider means all these issues will be responsibly handled for you.

Dry ice blasting can also be slower than other options such as sand blasting. This means it can take longer to treat the same area of your vehicle, and so result in a higher cost. However, most vehicle owners find the increased cost is justified because dry ice blasting offers such an efficient but gentle cleaning.

Lastly, while dry ice blasting can be used to remove a range of materials from your vehicle it may not be suitable for some in particular such as waxes, and adhesives.. This means if you are looking to rid your vehicle of these, you may need to find another option.

Disadvantages of Sandblasting

The main drawback of sandblasting is that it can easily damage the surface of your vehicle if it's not done in the right way. This is something that can mean extra costs may be involved due to the need for repair and even replacement.

Additionally, the sandblasting process creates vast amounts of dust, which will require time-consuming, and labor-intensive cleaning up once the process is complete, as well as putting the parts back together.

4. The Ultimate Battle: Dry Ice Blasting vs Sandblasting

In the ultimate battle of dry ice blasting versus sandblasting who will emerge triumphant?

Well, first of all, you need to carefully consider what outcome you are looking for. If you are looking to strip paint, grease, oil, or rust from a car efficiently so it can be repainted, then sandblasting is usually the victor.

However, if you are looking for a process that is effective at cleaning are larger variety of surfaces including the more delicate areas of your vehicle such as the engine bay and underbelly, without the risk of damage, then dry ice blasting is the clear winner!

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