How Long Does It Take Dry Ice To Melt/Sublimate?

 How Long Does It Take Dry Ice To Melt/Sublimate?

Dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) doesn't melt but rather sublimates (turns directly from a solid into a gas).

Whether you're buying dry ice for foggy halloween drinks, to use in a camping cooler or for shipping or commercial purposes it's good to know how long it lasts and how long is usually takes to disappear.

Dry ice will last anywhere from 15 minutes in water to 3+ days in a high-end cooler. The more dry ice you use and the better the cooler the longer it will last. Expect 5-15 minutes for dry ice fog in drinks and expect 1-3 days when shipping in styrofoam coolers.

How long dry ice lasts varies based on:

  • Quantity of dry ice
  • Storage container for dry ice
  • External temperature

Just like regular ice the amount of ice you use and the cooler or container you keep it in plays a huge role in how long it lasts.

Below are some guidelines

Storage
Container
Small
Cube
1 lb10 lbs100 lbs
In Water5-15 mins15-30 mins30-60 mins1-2 hours
Open Air10-30 mins0.5-2 hours1-4 hours2-6 hours
Fridge/
Freezer
10-30 mins2-6 hours0.5-1 day1-3 days
Styrofoam Cooler
(Shipping)
30-45 mins4-12 hours0.5-1.5 days1-3 days
High-End Cooler
(eg. Yeti)
30-60 mins6-24 hours1-2 days2-4 days

How To Calculate How Long Dry Ice Will Last

When working with dry ice it can be really difficult to work out exactly how long it's going to last.

This can be especially stressful if you're planning a party of shipping frozen goods across the country and you're relying on the dry ice lasting a certain amount of time.

Calculating the exact amount of dry ice you'll need and how long it will take to completely melt/sublimate is difficult but I've found that one particular guideline can really help you.

Think Of How Long Regular Ice Would Last

While dry ice is different from regular ice the time it lasts before it completely dissappears is surprisingly similar to regular ice in a lot of instances.

It's not exactly the same but thinking about how long regular ice would last is a great way to get a rough idea of how long your dry ice would last.

A small cube of regular ice in a cocktail might last 5-20 minutes depending on how cold the drink starts out at. Dry ice is going to be similar, lasting around 5-15 minutes. More on how long dry ice lasts in water or how long dry ice fog lasts.

Also filling a high-end cooler like Yeti completely full of ice will give you anywhere from 3-7 days ice retention depending on external temperatures.

Filling a Yeti completely with dry ice (which would be expensive – more on cost of dry ice) the dry ice will last somewhere between 3-5 days depending on external temperatures.

When considering how long dry ice will last simply think of roughly how long you think regular ice would last and reduce the figure by 25% just to be safe.

So if you expect regular ice to last 1 day then expect dry ice to last around 18 hours.

How Long Will Dry Ice Last In Different Situations?

Different situations massively affect how long dry ice will last. If you're looking for how long dry ice will last in a specific situation (eg. for shipping or in water) I've done individual write ups on each of these.

Click the articles below to check them out:

How Long Will Dry Ice Last in a Yeti Cooler?

How Long Does Dry Ice Last In a Styrofoam Cooler?

How Long Does Dry Ice Last In a Freezer? Plus How Much Should You Use?

How Long Does Dry Ice Last In Water? Can It Last Longer?

14 Smart Ways To Make Dry Ice Last Longer

How Long Does Dry Ice Last For Shipping?

How Long Does Dry Ice Fog Last?

How To Make Dry Ice Last Longer

Making dry ice last longer ultimately comes down to 2 key factors

  1. Use more dry ice
  2. Insulate the dry ice

I've done a full write up on how to make dry ice last longer and there are a lot of great tips in there but below I share the most important tips.

Insulate Your Dry Ice Well

Should You Use Dry Ice In Your Cooler?

Hands down the thing that will have the biggest impact on how long your dry ice lasts is how well you insulate it.

High-quality coolers like Yeti that have thick polyurethane insulation are going to make your dry ice last A LOT longer than simply leaving your dry ice out in the open air or even putting it in a cheaper styrofoam cooler.

Because dry ice is so cold (-109ºF or -78ºC) any outside air is going to be extremely hot compared to the dry ice and it's going to make it sublimate quicker.

So having a good cooler that keeps out the heat from the outside is going to help your dry ice last longer.

Fill Empty Space With Newspaper or Use a Foam Layer

Keep Your Dry Ice At The Bottom Of The Cooler

Empty space and lots of air is going to make your dry ice sublimate quicker. So using a giant high-quality cooler is often worse than using a smaller cheaper cooler if you only have a small amount of dry ice.

This was something I discovered when looking into the best dry ice coolers and the best coolers for ice retention.

You want a cooler that is the right size. Not too big, not too small. You want your cooler to be 1/2 to 2/3 full of dry ice to maximize ice retention.

If you don't have a cooler the right size then scrunch up newspaper to fill up the gaps or put down a layer of foam or cardboard to protect the dry ice from direct contact with the air in the cooler.

Use More Dry Ice

Dry Ice Blocks Melt Slower

The more dry ice you use the more total heat energy that is required to make it all melt.

Also larger blocks of dry ice have less surface area and therefore sublimate or disappear slower than smaller blocks of dry ice.

So avoid pellets and aim to use larger blocks of dry ice if possible. Also pack your dry ice closely together and wrap in newspaper to further insulate it and avoid exposing it to air.

Put Dry Ice At The Bottom Of Your Cooler

Cold air sinks and whenever a cooler is opened warm air flows into the top of the cooler.

Putting the dry ice on the bottom of the cooler will make it last longer than if you put it on the top. Especially if the cooler is being opened frequently or you're using a cheap cooler as these actually have hollow lids.

Read more: Should Ice Packs Go On The Top or Bottom of a Cooler?

Consider Getting Dry Ice Top Ups For Longer Trips

If you are shipping across the country and it's going to take a while to get to your destination then some shipping companies offer dry ice replenishment along the way.

Periodically they will top up your package with fresh dry ice to ensure it isn't compromised and your items never get warm.

This is something you will need to enquire about with your shipping company and it obviously comes with an extra cost. But sometimes this is required, especially if it's going to take more than a few days to reach it's destination.