What is Dry Ice: Understanding Its Properties and Uses

08 March 2024

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Our customers are often left dazzled by the results of our car cleaning service. While we’d like to think that this is down to our automotive cleaning expertise, much of the hard work is done by dry ice, which can be thought of as our secret weapon in our quest to make your vehicle look better than ever before. This versatile sublimator has been a game-changer in the automotive cleaning industry, and given just how effective dry ice car cleaning is, it’s unlikely that it’ll be anywhere other than the top of the pyramid anytime soon.

We use dry ice for cleaning purposes, but there are plenty of other uses of dry ice. In fact, you’ll likely encounter dry ice, either directly or indirectly, just as you go through life. In this post, we’re going to take a broad look at dry ice, including how it works, its applications, some fun facts, and more.

If you just need to know about the automotive dry ice cleaning capabilities of dry ice, then get in touch with us here at Ice Blast Pro. Our dedicated team of dry ice cleaning experts can guide you through the process of using dry ice to restore your vehicle to its former glory.

Engine Inspection Prior to Dry Ice Blasting

The Science Behind Dry Ice

You’ll probably have heard of dry ice, but you may not know what it actually is. So what is dry ice? It’s simply carbon dioxide that has been frozen at extreme temperatures. The magic of dry ice — plus, where it gets its name — is that it never becomes liquid.

Let’s compare dry ice with water. Water is a solid when frozen, then turns up into water and then gas as it's heated up. Carbon dioxide is different, or at least it is when used at normal pressures. You can create liquid carbon dioxide at extremely high pressure, but that requires advanced equipment. At normal pressure, carbon dioxide will go directly from solid to gas, bypassing the liquid stage altogether. That makes it much easier to work with, as there’s no messy liquid to clear up.

It also makes it the ideal way to clean vehicles. The transition from solid to gas occurs by creating a small — but safe — explosion that effectively lifts away dirt and grime from the surface to which it is applied. If you have stubborn oil and dirt on your vehicle, it’s recommended to book a dry ice blasting appointment; it’ll get the job done.

Creative Uses for Dry Ice

Here at Ice Blast Pro, we use dry ice for automotive cleaning purposes. But that’s far from the only use of dry ice. You’ll find dry ice used in a wide variety of industries around the world, including in the food transportation industry; it is an excellent way to keep food frozen over long periods and distances.

While dry ice may be most commonly used in industrial settings, it also has a large number of everyday applications that can make it appealing to small businesses and amateur enthusiasts.

Dry ice is commonly used as part of Halloween decorations. The smoky effects make it ideal for creating scary pumpkins, cauldron drinks, and creepy mist. If you’re looking to create a haunted house atmosphere on October 31, then dry ice should be on your shopping list.

It’s also used for making ice cream at home, so if you don’t have a dedicated ice cream maker — and who does? — then you can still make delicious ice cream at home, thanks to dry ice. You just need to apply small amounts of dry ice to your ingredients, and you’ll have instant ice cream.

Other uses of dry include making flowers last longer, killing pests, and creating special effects for video and photography projects. As we said: there are plenty of different uses for this amazing product!

Safety Precautions when Handling Dry Ice

Dry ice can be effective, but before you launch your own dry ice project, it’s important to remember it can be dangerous when handled incorrectly. To make dry ice, carbon dioxide is frozen to -78.5 degrees — or in other words, it’s extremely cold. If dry ice comes into contact with bare skin, burns and even frostbite are possible. As such, it’s essential to always wear protective gloves when handling dry ice.

While dry ice can create some fun effects, it’s not a toy. Always treat dry ice with care and respect. Having a clear, tidy, well-organised site will help to reduce risk. Keep it well away from children. And though the word ‘ice’ might be in the title, remember that this isn’t like regular ice, and should never be eaten or swallowed.

It’s important to think about ventilation too. Using large quantities of dry ice can result in dangerous levels of carbon dioxide gas. You can further mitigate the risks of poisoning by using carbon dioxide monitors.

Where can I buy Dry Ice?

There are plenty of businesses that sell dry ice for domestic use, so if you have a project in mind, then it’s best to buy directly from a local seller.

Ways to Store Dry Ice Properly

That dry ice is volatile is one of its strong points. That’s what makes it so effective at cleaning vehicles; as soon as it comes into contact with a surface, a little explosion occurs, which helps to lift dirt and grime off the surface.

While, in that instance, the volatility of dry ice is a virtue, it also means that it has to be stored correctly. Doing so incorrectly may make the dry ice ineffective, and can also pose a safety threat.

There are multiple ways to store dry ice effectively, and it mostly comes down to how long you’ll need it. If you’ve bought some for domestic use, then you can simply wrap the ice in a towel. Remember to always wear gloves when handling dry ice and avoid contact with skin. You can also place the dry ice in a well-insulated cooler; this won’t be quite as effective as storing it in a freezer, but it’ll still slow down the sublimation process. Make sure that the cooler doesn’t have an airtight seal, as the pressure caused by sublimation could result in a (small) explosion. It’s best to place the lid loosely on top.

You won’t have too much time to use dry ice. Even with correct storage, it won’t last longer than 24 - 48 hours. In all likelihood, it’ll be shorter. It’s generally best to buy your dry ice as close to the time you’ll need it as possible.

Remember that you should never dispose of dry ice in the regular trash. Just let it sublimate entirely in a well-ventilated area.

Fun Facts about Dry Ice

Dry ice is fascinating. It might not look like much, but it’s highly versatile and you’ve almost certainly benefited from its effects throughout your life. It’s often found in domestic use fire extinguishers, so you can even thank dry ice for keeping your family safe!

At Ice Blast Pro, it’s the magic ingredient we use to make your vehicle as clean as it's been since it left the showroom. Let’s take a look at some fun facts about dry ice.

  • Dry ice was first observed back in 1835 by Adrien-Jean-Pierre Thilorier, a French inventor.
  • Dry ice is denser than water.
  • Dry ice is usually white since it quickly turns into frost when it comes into contact with a surface. However, it can also sometimes be clear.
  • The ‘dry’ part of the name is because it bypasses the liquid phase altogether, going straight from solid to gas.
  • Dry ice is excellent for cleaning. It’s the go-to vehicle cleaning method at Ice Blast Pro because of its effectiveness.
  • Dry ice can cause cold burns and frostbite if it comes into contact with skin.
  • Dry is made entirely of carbon dioxide. Though there’s ‘ice’ in the name, it contains no water! This makes it excellent for cleaning vehicles, as there’s no water residue or drying time.

Unique Ways to Decorate with Dry Ice

If you’ve got some dry ice, then you’ll have a great opportunity to put together some pretty outstanding decorations. Dry ice is commonly used in the entertainment industry to create cool effects, and you don’t need to have any special equipment — the dry ice itself will do most of the work!

If you’re hosting a Halloween party, then fill some cauldrons with hot water and throw in the dry ice. The hot water will interact with the dry ice and cause it to sublimate more quickly, creating a spooky fog. Other Halloween ideas involve placing a small amount of dry ice in a carved pumpkin. It’ll give it a ghoulish look and feel.

You can do a pretty cool party trick with some dry ice and balloons, too. Simply put a small amount in a deflated party balloon, tie the end, and then watch as the balloon fills with smoky fog.

Exploring the Different Types of Dry Ice

Dry ice has the same chemical make-up regardless of the form it comes in. After all, it’s all just frozen carbon dioxide.

However, there are some different types of dry ice. Mostly it comes down to shape since some shapes/sizes are specifically designed for specific applications. At Ice Blast Pro, we use specialised dry ice pellets, which allow us to target precise areas of the vehicle. Which is unlikely what you’d have for home use.

Dry ice sliced blocks are used for industrial purposes. You’ll typically find dry ice sliced blocks used to transport food and medical supplies. This type usually comes wrapped in plastic and is highly effective at keeping items cool over long periods.

Even more effective are dry ice blocks, which are even larger than dry ice sliced blocks. They’re normally double the size, though they can be larger depending on the needs. You’ll find these used in the transportation of temperature-sensitive supplies over large distances, such as international shipping.

Dry Ice Pellets used in Automotive Dry Ice Cleaning

Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen, there’s much to know about dry ice! Even if you don’t plan to handle and use it yourself, you’ll certainly have benefitted from its properties in your life. Here at Ice Blast Pro, we’re experts at automotive dry ice cleaning. If you have a vehicle that you want to restore to its former glory, then don’t hesitate to get a free quote for our dry ice car cleaning services. Our dry ice cleaning processes are completely safe for your vehicle.

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