How Long does Dry Ice Last in a Cooler? The Ultimate Answer by Professionals

Are you a traveler who likes to take your food and drinks with you on the go? If so, you know the perfect way to keep those snacks cold is by using dry ice in your cozy cooler. But have you ever wondered how long does dry ice last in a cooler?

Most of us don’t have that kind of information handy, but thankfully it isn’t as complicated as we would think.

In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of dry ice and the precautions that should be taken when using it. So that you can enjoy traveling confidently while having delicious meals along the way!

What is Dry Ice?

Dry ice is the frozen form of carbon dioxide. In scientific words, it is called CO2. It has benefits such as being colder than water ice and leaving behind no residue except for occasional moisture frost.

So, it’s ideal for keeping food and beverages cool in coolers and has other uses like creating special effects in theaters, cinemas, and for medical purposes.

how long does dry ice last in a cooler
Dry ice is ideal for keeping food and beverages cool in coolers and has other uses. (Source: Internet)

Solid dry ice turns directly into gas at a temperature of 194.7 K (or -78.5 °C, or -109.2 °F) at normal air pressure on Earth. The temperature is so low that it can cause frostbite if you touch anything without protection.

Although not usually toxic, if dry ice is used in enclosed spaces, it may produce outgassing, leading to a dangerous increase in carbon dioxide levels in the blood called hypercapnia.

How long does dry ice last in a cooler?

Typically, a chunk of dry ice will evaporate at a rate of 5-10% per day based on how it’s stored and its surrounding conditions.

According to the USDA, if dry ice does not touch the food and the food is stored at a temperature of -10°F or below, it can be used to transport food for up to two days. Additionally, if you expose less surface area of the dry ice to the air, it will last longer.

Dry ice will sublimate faster if you keep it in the open air than if you store it in a cooled facility. The process of turning into a gas is accelerated by heat, humidity, and wind.

Note: Dry ice can only last for a few hours to a day when exposed to the open air, and its longevity depends on the surrounding climate.

Typically, a chunk of dry ice will evaporate at a rate of 5-10% per day
Typically, a chunk of dry ice will evaporate at a rate of 5-10% per day. (Source: Internet)

So how long does dry ice last in a cooler exactly?

The lifespan of your dry ice also depends on how you store it and the size of the block you have.

For example:

  • A five-pound block of dry ice can last between 18 – 24 hours in a cooler.
  • If you put this block in liquid, it can last from 15 to 45 minutes.
  • In an outdoor environment, this block can last about 3-5 hours.
  • If you store a dry ice pack in a well-insulated cooler that is properly sealed, it can last for several days.

As dry ice turns directly from solid form to gas, you should estimate how much it may evaporate before you need to use it.

If you purchase 40-50 pounds and store it in a cooler, you can expect to have about 30 pounds left the next day.

Our recommendation is to buy the dry ice as close to the event as possible, so it can last as long as possible.

Cooler size

4 hours 12 hours 24 hours 48 hours
25 qts. 10 lbs. 10 lbs. 10 lbs. 15 lbs.
50 qts. 10 lbs. 15 lbs. 15 lbs. 20 lbs.
100 qts. 15 lbs. 20 lbs. 25 lbs.

35 lbs.

Benefits of using dry ice to keep food and drinks cold in a cooler

  • Dry ice is much colder than regular ice, making it the perfect choice for keeping food and drinks cold.
  • It evaporates quickly so you don’t have to worry about dealing with melted ice at the end of your trips.
  • It lasts longer than regular ice, allowing you to keep items fresh and cold for longer. It is especially useful for long trips such as fishing trips or car camping. With dry ice, your items can stay cold for days as opposed to hours, which helps prevent food from going bad quickly.
  • It is easy and safe to use, as long as you follow the guidelines to handle dry ice in a safe way below.
  • Dry ice is typically available in block form or small pellets, while regular ice is commonly sold in cube form.
  • Frozen water is less dense than dry ice.
  • Furthermore, dry ice is more space-efficient and lightweight than traditional ice cubes. This means that it won’t occupy much space in your cooler, providing you with additional storage space for other belongings.

How Long Can I Keep 1 Lb Of Dry Ice?

As mentioned before, the lifespan of dry ice depends on several factors, including the temperature of the storage area and its usage.

If you put a 1 lb piece of dry ice in a freezer and it’s evaporating at a rate of 5-10% per day, then you can expect it lasts for roundly 10-20 days.

For optimal safety, it is recommended to use dry ice within the next 10 days. It is crucial to handle even a small piece of dry ice with caution.

How long your dry ice can be stored also depends on the quality of insulation in the storage area. If there is even a slight opening in the door, the dry ice will start to turn into gas faster.

If you are using the product outdoors in sunlight and open air, it will probably last only a couple of hours.

How to handle dry ice safely?

To ensure safety while using dry ice in a cooler, remember to take some storage precautions.

  • To keep your food and drinks safe from the extremely cold temperature of dry ice, do not place them directly beside them. Instead, place it at the bottom of the cooler, and put a few layers of newspaper or paper towels on top of it.
  • Make sure to avoid direct contact of dry ice with walls as it can make them extremely cold and susceptible to cracking.
  • If your cooler does not have a pressure release valve, you should make a vent for the carbon dioxide to escape.
  • You should also be cautious when using dry ice in confined areas and make sure to research the safety guidelines. Additionally, it is important to ensure that your cooler is compatible with dry ice before using it.
  • When dealing with dry ice, it is important to note that it can cause skin damage in a way similar to frostbite, due to its extremely low temperature. Therefore, it is recommended to wear insulated gloves as a safety precaution. 
how to handle dry ice
You need to handle dry ice carefully. (Source: Tripsavvy)

In case of cutting or chipping, it is advisable to also use safety glasses and a face shield.

  • Avoid inhaling carbon dioxide gas.
  • Make sure to keep dry ice away from children.
  • Do not consume or ingest dry ice.

How to pack your drinks and food you want to chill with dry ice?

Below is our guide on how to keep your items cold with dry ice:

For the items that don’t need to be frozen, you can use both dry ice and regular ice cubes to keep those stuff cold together. The dry ice and regular ice combination will keep your food from melting too quickly.

Always remember to wear gloves or wrap the dry ice with a towel when handling it, as it can be harmful to your skin.

Step 1: Buy dry ice at a store near your home

Step 2: Use materials such as newspaper or cardboard to insulate dry ice.

Step 3: Place the dry ice at the bottom of the cooler.

Step 4: Cover it with a layer of wet ice

Step 5: Add your items to the cooler

Step 6: Add regular ice on top of the items

How to pack frozen items with dry ice?

Step 1: Place dry ice at the bottom of the cooler.

Step 2: Add a layer of insulation such as newspaper or cardboard at the bottom of your cooler.

Step 3: Pour the items you want to freeze and cover them with another layer of insulation.

Step 4: Place more dry ice on top and close the cooler. Avoid using regular ice if you want your items to stay frozen longer.

Factors that Affect the Lifespan of Dry Ice in a Cooler

The length of time your dry ice lasts depends on a variety of factors, such as the size and quality of the block you have, how you store it, and ambient temperature.

Here are some tips to help you extend the longevity of dry ice:

  • Use a pre-chilled insulated cooler: This can extend its lifespan from a few hours to a few days. Remember to chill the inside of the cooler beforehand to help maintain the dry ice’s temperature.
  • If you don’t have an insulated cooler, you can use aluminum foil to line it and keep the cold in. However, make sure there is proper ventilation to let CO2 gas escape from the cooler. Avoid sealing dry ice in a container, as it may cause the container to burst.
  • Additionally, having too much food or drinks in the cooler can reduce its effectiveness.
  • Use larger bricks of dry ice: To maximize the life of your dry ice, use bigger bricks of dry ice instead of smaller ones. Breaking dry ice blocks into small pieces can decrease their longevity, as they will sublimate faster. However, if you want to break them, make sure to wear protective gear and never touch dry ice with bare skin.
  • Keep them away from water: Water can shorten the life of your dry ice. You can keep water out by only opening the lid of your cooler when it is absolutely needed to prevent anything from melting or thawing out.

Combine dry ice with regular ice cubes

Although combining regular ice with dry ice won’t extend the lifespan of the dry ice, it can improve the duration for which your food and beverages stay chilled. This is because dry ice slows down the normal melting process of regular ice.

When the dry ice disappears, there will still be ice left in the cooler, thus maintaining the cold temperature for a longer period.

Signs You Need to Replace Your Dry Ice

  • When dry ice begins to dissipate, you will start noticing visible steam or fog coming out of your cooler.
  • Additionally, the temperature inside may not be as cold anymore. When this happens, it is time to replace the dry ice with a new block.
Signs You Need to Replace Your Dry Ice
When dry ice begins to dissipate, you will start noticing visible steam or fog coming out of your cooler. (Source: Internet)

Troubleshooting Common Problems with Storing Dry Ice in a Cooler

Here are some common issues you may encounter when storing dry ice in a cooler:

1. The cooler is not staying cold enough and items are beginning to thaw.

Solution: Make sure the lid of the cooler is closed tightly, or use an insulated cooler to help keep the items cold for longer. Additionally, try adding more dry ice or bigger bricks of dry ice.

2. Dry ice is melting too quickly. 

Solution: Add a layer of insulation such as newspaper or cardboard at the bottom of your cooler, and between layers of items to help maintain the cold temperature for longer. Furthermore, make sure to keep it in a cool place away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

Tips on Properly Disposing of Dry Ice when it Has Reached the End of its Lifespan

  • If you need to dispose of dry ice, simply leave it in a room with good air circulation at normal room temperature. Eventually, the ice will evaporate on its own.
  • Do not throw dry ice in the trash, chemical waste container, or any other garbage/waste can.
  • Do not dispose of dry ice in sinks, toilets, or other fixtures as it can damage the plumbing due to the extreme temperature difference.
  • Do not leave dry ice unattended in open areas.

See More:


Can dry ice stay frozen for three days?

If you put 2 dry ice blocks in a regular-sized styrofoam cooler, it will last for about 24 hours. However, if you use a larger styrofoam cooler and add more dry ice blocks, it can last for up to 3-4 days.

Is it safe to put dry ice in my sink?

It is advised not to dispose of dry ice in sinks or toilets as the extreme cold of dry ice can damage the pipes and parts of the sink/toilet. It is also not recommended to dispose of dry ice in garbage chutes or receptacles.

Moreover, do not leave dry ice in a room without proper ventilation to evaporate.

What is the duration of dry ice in a Styrofoam cooler?

If you store 2 dry ice blocks in a regular-sized styrofoam cooler, they will last for around 24 hours. However, if you use a larger styrofoam cooler and add more dry ice blocks, the dry ice will last for approximately 3-4 days.

The shelf life of dry ice in styrofoam is affected by the amount of dry ice used, the thickness of the styrofoam, and the placement of the dry ice (whether it is on the top or bottom). Also, the amount of space in the box is another factor that affects it.


All in all, dry ice is a great and reliable way to cool your food whether you are heading out on a short or long trip.

Most of the time it should last around 24 hours or longer depending on your setup and conditions.

To prolong its effect, make sure the cooler is sealed properly and add more blocks of dry ice as needed.

Furthermore, always remember to wear proper gloves when handling dry ice as it can be incredibly dangerous without them.

Lastly, if you plan on taking your food with you for a few days, don’t underestimate the power of dry ice – give it a try! You never know just how long that cooler might keep things nice and cold for you as a savvy traveler!

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