There is one thing that I’ve ALWAYS wanted to use on Halloween to create that eerie, macabre, smokey feel on my front porch. That one thing is — wait for it — Dry Ice!!
I say I have always WANTED to use it, because up until this year I have been terrified to even come near dry ice.
The only thing I really know about dry ice is that if you put a rose down into a container of dry ice, it immediately freezes and becomes brittle.
I have been warned my entire life not to touch or come near dry ice, or I will burn my skin off in the most painful, agonizing way ever. — These are the same people that told me that if I crossed my eyes, they would freeze that way forever.
While it’s true, dry ice can definitely burn you, there are safe ways to handle the frozen oddity so you don’t get hurt.
What is dry ice?
Dry ice is not regular ice — like, at all.
While you might want to believe that it’s made from dragon magic, dry ice is actually made by freezing carbon dioxide at a really low temperature — colder than -100 degrees fahrenheit!
Once it’s frozen, it will turn into a gas whenever it meets a liquid at room temperature. How freaking cool is that?!?
Where does one go about procuring dry ice??
There are definitely some grocery stores that sell dry ice. I’ve totally seen it with my own eyeballs. But, most likely, you won’t find it somewhere like your local Walmart.
I’d call ahead to make sure your grocery store actually sells dry ice, before I put all my eggs in that basket.
Probably your best bet for success in the dry ice hunt would be to go to an ice factory. And YES, they have ice factories in most towns, even though you’ve never seen one.
I was going to tell you to grab your Yellow Pages, but seriously, what century are we in?!? A simple Google search for “dry ice” will suffice.
How do you safely handle dry ice?
Now that you have a cooler filled with dry ice, can you just reach in and take it out? NO.
Hear me loud and clear — do NOT, under any circumstances, touch dry ice with your bare hand. Dry ice is so cold that it will actually burn your skin.
The safest way to handle dry ice is with some sort of tongs. You also want to be wearing heavy duty gloves, long sleeves, long pants, close toed shoes, and perhaps some protective eyewear.
You don’t want to take the chance that the dry ice will touch any exposed parts of your body.
Can you store dry ice?
The simple answer is NO. You want to go buy the dry ice right before you need to use it.
Once you procure the frozen magic, you want to store it in a container like a heavy-duty plastic or styrofoam cooler.
You don’t want it closed completely air tight. The carbon dioxide gas can build up, and you will have a nasty little (or big) explosion to deal with.
To make it last longer, wrap the dry ice in something like newspaper. This will keep it from melting so fast in the open air.
But again, do not touch the dry ice with your bare hands!!
Okay. Now that you have the dry ice, how do you use it?
This is the fun part. There are so many cool ways to use dry ice.
You never want to use it in a way that risks the chance of it touching someone’s skin. NEVER ingest or place the dry ice in your mouth. You can cause extreme damage.
Yes, you can use it in cocktails or punch to create a spooky effect, but you only want to use a LITTLE bit. You also want to make sure that the dry ice has COMPLETELY melted before the person goes in for a drink.
One of my favorite ways that people use dry ice is inside Jack O’ Lanterns. Just take off the Jack O’ Lantern lid, put in a bowl of cool water, and drop some dry ice down into it. The steam from the melting dry ice will drift out of the holes in the Jack O’ Lantern, making a totally cool misty, smokey effect.
You can also put some of the dry ice down into a bucket of cool water, and place it on your front porch (out of the reach of small hands). This will make a foggy mist blow across your porch. It’s even better if you can use a small fan to make the smoke really move.
Tips to remember when it comes to dry ice.
I’m just going to say it again. Do NOT touch the dry ice. Don’t ingest it. Don’t place it in your mouth. You can cause severe damage.
Using cool water will make the dry ice last longer. Putting it in hot water makes it melt quicker.
Disposing of dry ice is easy. Just leave it in a well ventilated area where it can’t be touched. It will melt away into nothing.
Watch your pets. You don’t want them getting near the dry ice either. It can burn their skin just like it can burn yours.
Can you make your own dry ice?
The answer is yes, but it’s not something I would suggest. You have to be REALLY careful when making and handling the dry ice.
It is much easier to just buy dry ice, but you can make small amounts if you really need it.
You need to get a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher. This isn’t your NORMAL kitchen fire extinguisher. You can tell it is a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher, because it has this black nozzle hose thingy.
You also need to get a tightly woven pillowcase, like a microfiber pillowcase that doesn’t readily allow air to pass through.
Then you CAREFULLY wrap the pillowcase tightly around the fire extinguisher nozzle, and you CAREFULLY squeeze the trigger handle.
When the carbon dioxide blows into the pillowcase, there will be bits of dry ice that gather on the inside of the pillowcase.
You can dump these dry ice bits into a heavy-duty plastic container to hold them. Be CAREFUL not to touch the dry ice with your bare skin.
Most of all — have a fun, safe, spooky Halloween!!