If you’re in a hurry for fresh ice, waiting for the ice to freeze is like watching paint dry. So how long does it take ice cubes to freeze completely? I’ve gone ahead and run the numbers, so you don’t have to.
The time it takes for ice cubes to freeze completely is determined by a number of different factors.
The standard 12-slot tray of ice can take around 3-4 hours to freeze in a home freezer whereas a nugget ice cube tray will take 1-2 hours to freeze. The size and shape of the ice cube will influence the time it takes to freeze with larger ice cubes taking longer to freeze than smaller ones.
In this article, I will explain how long it takes ice cubes to freeze completely, how long it takes till they reach the temperature of the freezer, and how the sizes and shapes of the ice cubes affect freezing time.
How Long Do Ice Cubes Take To Freeze?
The length of time that it takes ice cubes to freeze completely depends on a number of different factors, like the temperature of your fridge, the temperature of the water you use, and the size and shape of the ice cube mold or tray.
If you had to use a standard 12-slot plastic ice tray and place it in your home freezer (the typical temperature of a home freezer is 0℉/-18℃) then the entire process should take 3-4 hours for the ice cubes to completely freeze over.
If your freezer is warmer than this or if it's an incredibly hot day then this can cause the ice cubes to freeze slower and they may take 4-5 hours to freeze.
For fastest results keep your ice cubes towards the back of the freezer near the air vents. Being closer to the cold air and further away from the door will cause them to freeze slightly faster.
How Long Till Ice Cubes Completely Go Down To The Temperature Of The Freezer?
Just because ice cubes are completely frozen does not mean they are as cold as they will get.
Water begins to freeze at 32℉ (0℃) so your ice cubes will begin to freeze at this temperature. However, ice cubes right at 32ºF (0ºC) will melt extremely quickly when taken out of the freezer.
Ideally you want to wait until your ice cubes cool down to the exact temperature of the freezer which is usually around 0ºF (-18ºC).
This doesn't happen in a linear fashion. The colder the ice get the longer it takes for it to get even colder.
However, based on my experience and experiments it takes roughly between 2-4 more hours for ice cubes to go from completely frozen to get down to the low temperature of the freezer.
This means once the freezing process starts, you will still need to wait at least 4 hours until your ice is as cold as it possibly can be and ready to use.
Factors That Influence Ice Freezing Times
As I have already mentioned, there are a number of factors that influence how long it takes for ice cubes to freeze.
Size of the ice cubes
When it comes to ice cubes, size does matter.
Smaller ice cubes will freeze at a much faster rate because there is less surface area that needs to be frozen. However, this also means they will melt faster once outside of the freezer.
Ice trays that are small and shallow are also a lot faster than ice trays that are wide and deep.
If you're making nugget ice cubes then these will freeze in just 1-2 hours compared to 3-4 hours for regular ice cubes.
Clear ice cubes, on the other hand, take much longer to freeze. Depending on the size of the cube or sphere, it could take up to at least 18-24 hours to completely freeze.
This is because clear ice cubes use insulation to force the ice to freeze omni-directionally. Because ice is only freezing from the top down (and not from all sides) it freezes at a much lower rate. Also clear cubes tend to be larger so this also adds to the time it takes them to completely freeze.
You can freeze clear cubes faster but it'll still take longer than the 3-4 hours of regular ice cubes even if you follow all my tips.
If you don’t mind your sphere ice ball having air bubbles in it, you can lower the freezer temp, not use insulation and freeze them in about 5-6 hours.
The Type and Temperature of The Water
The type of water that you use to make ice should also be factored in ice freezing times.
Water that is loaded with minerals generally takes longer to freeze because the minerals and gasses still need to be dissolved. If you want ice cubes that look like glass, use distilled water to fill your ice tray.
The temperature of the water plays a big role in freezing times. The best way to make a lot of ice fast in your freezer is to start with water that has already been in the fridge and is already colder.
Water starting out at 40ºF/4ºC will freeze much faster than room temperature water starting out at 70ºF/20ºC.
Also, ice can sometimes freeze at a much faster rate if you fill the ice tray with boiling water.
This is known as the Member Effect, and some people claim that this method works 15% faster than using tap water to fill ice trays.
However, I wouldn't use boiling water with plastic trays as it can leach chemicals into your ice. If you're using boiling water then choosing the ice cube tray made from the safest materials.
These tend to be either silicone or metal ice cube trays and I personally like to use metal ice cube trays.
You can check out my full list of metal ice cube trays or you can see the latest price for the Vintage Kitchen Metal Ice Cube Tray (at Amazon). It usually retails for about half the price of other metal ice cube tray brands
These vintage style metal ice cube trays feature a lever-style handle that cracks the ice in a single action. Made from 18/8 kitchen grade stainless steel this brand of durable ice cube trays are around half the price of other metal ice cube trays.
The ice tray or container that you use can either speed up the ice-freezing process or slow it down.
While plastic and silicone ice trays are the most popular choice when it comes to buyers, metal ice trays actually help freeze ice at a much faster rate.
Plastic ice trays can also leach harmful toxins into your ice cubes and are not good for the environment. Read my article on metal ice cube trays to learn more about them.
Ice Trays Vs. Ice Makers
A tray of 12 ice cubes will take around 4 hours to freeze before it is ready to be used, whereas an ice maker takes a much shorter time and can make more ice.
The Opal Nugget Ice Maker can have its first batch of ice ready within 15 minutes, which is a massive difference from manual ice trays.
The Opal Ice maker can make up to 1 pound of ice per hour. A 12-cubed ice tray commonly holds 20 grams of water each, so it will take 3-4 hours to freeze 0.5 pounds of ice in that time frame.
In 3-4 hours the Opal could make 3-4 pounds of ice. Or 6x the amount you could make in a regular ice cube tray or ice maker in your freezer.
When you look at those numbers, it makes sense to switch to an ice maker instead. However, ice makers like the Opal do have their own problems and can be a big investment of money.
How To Make Your Ice Freeze Faster
Waiting for the ice to freeze can be a pain, but here are some of my handy hacks to make ice freeze faster.
Location of The Ice Tray
To get that ice freezing faster, you can put the ice tray right at the beach of your freezer, where it is nearest to the cooling outlet.
Make Smaller Ice Cubes
Making smaller, thinner ice cubes is a surefire of making the ice freeze at a faster rate. Avoid deep and narrow cubes, as there is less surface area for the ice to freeze.
Use a Freezer With Frozen Food
Placing the ice cube in a freezer that is already full of frozen food will allow the ice to freeze faster with less effort from the freezer.
Learn More About Freezing Ice
Freezing ice, in general, will take around 4 hours. But if you want to learn more hacks on how to get ice freezing faster, check out my article on the 14 best techniques to make ice freeze faster.