How to Dispose of Dry Ice Safely and Easily

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If you have leftover dry ice, it is important to dispose of it appropriately. Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. When exposed to air, it sublimates into carbon dioxide vapor that integrates into the environment. Therefore, disposing of dry ice involves exposing it to open air in a well-ventilated area for it to sublimate.

This article will discuss the steps for disposing of dry ice and the safety precautions to observe. We will also cover the top FAQs for disposing of dry ice.

Related Reading: How long does dry ice last? Before learning how to dispose of dry ice properly, you may wonder how long it lasts.

How to Dispose of Dry Ice?

Disposing of Dry Ice
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What You Need

  • Insulated gloves
  • Hard and wide plastic tray/Styrofoam tray
  • Well-ventilated open area

Wear the Gloves

Do not handle dry ice with bare hands. It is extremely cold and can cause frostbite or severe freezer burns immediately when touching it. Insulated gloves create a barrier between your hands and the dry ice.

Even if you plan on pouring the dry ice into a wider container, it is safer to have gloves on as pellets or a block may accidentally come into contact with your skin. You can use winter gloves or oven mitts.

Thin latex or nitrile gloves are not suitable for handling dry ice as they do not provide an adequate barrier. Alternatively, you can use ice tongs to pick up and transfer the dry ice blocks or pellets.

Identify an Open, Well-Ventilated Area to Dispose of the Dry Ice

An open-air outdoor area is the best place to dispose of dry ice. Or, you can use a big room with large, open windows. You can also use your balcony area if it is well ventilated.

Lay Out the Dry Ice on a Plastic Tray

You may keep the dry ice in a cool box or lay it out on a wide plastic tray. The tray will offer a wider surface area for the dry ice to sublimate faster. The tray should be made of hard plastic or Styrofoam; otherwise, the extremely cold dry ice may damage it.

Do not put the ice directly on your floor—even if tilled—or backyard, as it will damage them by causing ice burns.

Leave the Dry Ice to Sublimate

Depending on the amount you want to dispose of, it may take a few hours or several days. Generally, it takes about 24 hours for a 10-pound block of dry ice to sublimate completely. Pellets and flakes have a larger surface area to volume ratio, so they sublimate faster.

The surrounding environmental conditions may also affect how fast the dry ice sublimates. For instance, if it is sunny, windy, or humid, the dry ice will sublimate faster than if it is cold.

Leave the Cool Box or Tray Out Longer

Even if all the dry ice has sublimated, leave the tray or cool box outside for any residual carbon dioxide to clear before returning it to the house.

Don’ts for Disposing Dry Ice

Don’ts for Disposing Dry Ice
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Do Not Dispose of Dry Ice in Public Places

It puts other people at risk if they come into contact with the dry ice block, flakes, or pellets or inhale the carbon dioxide. Therefore, when choosing an open area to sublimate the dry ice, do not use hallways, shared backyards, driveways, etc. Also, ensure that animals and kids do not have access to the area.

Do Not Dump Dry Ice Into the Garbage Chute or Trash Can

Firstly, the cold may damage the walls of the trash bin or garbage chute. Secondly, as the dry ice sublimates, there is likely to be a buildup of carbon dioxide in the trash or garbage chute, causing an explosion.

An explosion can be fatal to anyone nearby or cause extensive damage to surrounding property, depending on the volume of the dry ice.

Do Not Flush Dry Ice Into a Toilet or Sink

As is the case with putting dry ice in the trash bin, it can damage the surface of the sink/toilet as well as the pipes in the plumbing system. It can also cause carbon dioxide to build up in the plumbing system resulting in an explosion.

Do Not Put Dry Ice into a Tightly Sealed Container

Whether storing dry ice or transporting it to a favorable location for disposal, never put it in an airtight container. Do not close the lid tightly; place it loosely to allow room for the sublimated carbon dioxide to escape.

Do Not Transport Dry Ice Inside the Cabin of a Small Car

The carbon dioxide released can easily accumulate in the car’s cabin, causing the driver and other occupants to get sickly and disoriented or cause accidental suffocation.

The best way to transport dry ice would be using a truck with the cool box at the back. If using a small car, put it in the trunk. Avoid transporting dry ice over a long distance.

Keep Away from Sublimating Dry Ice

It may be tempting to stay nearby and observe the smoky effect of the sublimating dry ice. However, you may inhale a lot of carbon dioxide, leading to rapid suffocation.

Tips for Sublimating Dry Ice Faster

If you want to dispose of dry ice faster, here are some helpful tips for sublimation:

Break the Dry Ice Into Smaller Pieces

If the dry ice is in the form of blocks, use a hammer to break it into smaller pieces for faster sublimation. Wear protective gear—gloves, mask, and safety goggles when breaking it.

Put the Dry Ice in Water

You may put the dry ice in a bucket of water, pour it into your swimming pool, or sprinkle some water on top. Like regular ice, water causes dry ice to “melt” faster. Typically, water transmits heat faster than air resulting in faster sublimation. Hot water sublimates dry ice even more rapidly.

Leave it Out it in the Open Air on a Sunny Day

The airflow and higher environmental temperatures will help it to sublimate faster. Alternatively, you could blow some hot air towards it using a fan if the weather is cold.

Does Sublimated Dry Ice Pose a Risk to the Environment?

Excess gaseous carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been linked to global warming. Therefore, if you are environmentally conscious, you may be concerned that the CO2 gas released when you sublimate dry ice might add to the global warming issues.

However, the volume of carbon dioxide released is quite low, with an almost negligible environmental effect.

How to Clean a Container That Had Dry Ice

You clean it as you would any other container—with warm water, soap, and a soft cloth, then rinse and dry it. The key is to ensure that all the dry ice has sublimated completely before washing the container.

FAQ

Can you pour dry ice down the sink?

No. It can damage the surface of the sink/toilet as well as the pipes in the plumbing system. It can also cause carbon dioxide to build up in the plumbing system resulting in an explosion.

How long does dry ice take to melt?

Dry ice is a great way to add some fun and mischief before your next party, but it only lasts for about 24 hours when stored in an ordinary cooler. To make sure you don’t run out at the wrong time or just need one less than expected we recommend buying on dayshares; they’re perfect because even though five pounds will turn into gas after sitting around all day (and night), by getting them early their durability has been maximized!

Can I leave dry ice outside to melt?

NO! It puts other people at risk if they come into contact with the dry ice block, flakes, or pellets or inhale the carbon dioxide. Therefore, when choosing an open area to sublimate the dry ice, do not use hallways, shared backyards, driveways, etc. Also, ensure that animals and kids do not have access to the area.

Is dry ice toxic?

The use of dry ice can be dangerous to your health if not stored in an area with proper ventilation. Inhaling the gas CO2 from these blocks will cause you pain and discomfort, among other things like confusion or disorientation which could result in death!

Conclusion

As discussed above, disposing of dry ice is quite easy. Put it in an open, well-ventilated space for it to sublimate. However, you must observe safety precautions when handling dry ice and disposing of it. Do not handle it with bare hands. Do not place it into an airtight container, dump it into the trash bin, or flush it down a sink or toilet.

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How to Dispose of Dry Ice Safely and Easily
how to dispose of dry ice safely

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