Safely Dispose of Dry Ice: Guidelines, Methods, and FAQs

December 20, 2020 in environment, recycling

Article summary and Key takeaways: Dry ice should never be disposed of in regular trash or down the drain due to its extremely cold temperatures. Instead, it should be allowed to sublimate in a well-ventilated area. When handling dry ice, gloves or tongs should be used to avoid direct skin contact. Disposal methods may vary depending on the situation, such as removing dry ice from packaging or using water to accelerate sublimation. Safety precautions include proper storage and transportation, wearing protective gear, and ensuring well-ventilated areas. Leftover dry ice can be stored or donated. Dry ice does not melt, but rather undergoes sublimation. By following these guidelines, accidents and injuries can be prevented, contributing to a safer and more sustainable disposal process.

Dispose of Dry Ice

Dry ice is a fascinating substance that is widely used for various purposes, from keeping food frozen during transit to creating theatrical smoke effects. However, when it comes to disposing of dry ice, there are important safety considerations that must be taken into account. In this article, we will explore the proper methods of disposing of dry ice to ensure the safety of both individuals and the environment.

How to Dispose of Dry Ice

When it comes to disposing of dry ice, there are some general guidelines that should be followed to prevent any accidents or injuries. Firstly, it is crucial to never dispose of dry ice in regular trash or down the drain. Dry ice is incredibly cold, with temperatures reaching -78.5 degrees Celsius (-109.3 degrees Fahrenheit), and can cause damage to waste containers or plumbing systems. Instead, it is best to allow the dry ice to sublimate, or change from a solid to a gas, in a well-ventilated area.

When handling dry ice, it is important to wear gloves or use tongs to avoid direct skin contact. Dry ice can cause frostbite or burns if handled improperly, so taking these precautions is essential for personal safety.

Disposal methods for specific situations

The method of disposing of dry ice may depend on the specific situation or context. For example, if you have received a delivery from Omaha Steaks or any other company that uses dry ice to keep food frozen during transit, it is important to handle the dry ice with care. Remove the dry ice from the package, place it in a well-ventilated area, and allow it to sublimate completely. Once the dry ice has fully evaporated, it is safe to dispose of the packaging in regular trash.

Dry ice bags can also be disposed of in a similar manner. Simply take the bag outside or to a well-ventilated area and allow the dry ice to sublimate. Once the dry ice has disappeared, the bag can be discarded in regular trash.

In a laboratory setting, where dry ice is commonly used for research and experiments, disposal should be carried out according to specific protocols. Typically, dry ice is placed in a designated container or a sink with running water to facilitate the sublimation process. It is important to consult the laboratory’s safety guidelines or seek guidance from a supervisor to ensure proper disposal.

If you need to dispose of dry ice quickly and safely, you can also use water. However, this method should only be used if you have a small amount of dry ice to dispose of and are unable to wait for it to sublimate naturally. Place the dry ice in a container, such as a bucket or sink, and pour warm water over it. The water will accelerate the sublimation process, causing the dry ice to evaporate more rapidly.

Safety Precautions when Handling Dry Ice

While disposing of dry ice, it is crucial to take certain safety precautions to protect yourself and others. Proper storage and transportation of dry ice is essential to prevent accidents. Dry ice should be kept in a well-insulated container, such as a cooler or an insulated bag, to maintain its low temperature. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the container allows for the release of carbon dioxide gas, which is produced as dry ice sublimates. This helps prevent the build-up of pressure, which could cause the container to burst.

When handling dry ice, it is imperative to wear gloves and protective clothing to shield your skin from potential frostbite or burns. Dry ice can cause severe damage if it comes into direct contact with bare skin, so wearing the appropriate protective gear is crucial.

Avoiding direct contact with dry ice vapors is also important. Dry ice sublimation produces carbon dioxide gas, which can displace oxygen and lead to asphyxiation in confined spaces. Therefore, it is essential to only handle dry ice in well-ventilated areas or wear a respirator if working in a confined space.

When using or disposing of dry ice, it is important to ensure that the area is well-ventilated. Carbon dioxide gas can accumulate in enclosed spaces, leading to a decrease in oxygen levels. Opening windows or doors or using exhaust fans can help dissipate any built-up gas and maintain a safe environment.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dry Ice Disposal

What can be done with leftover dry ice?

If you have leftover dry ice that you do not need to dispose of immediately, there are a few options. One option is to store it in a well-insulated cooler or container with proper ventilation. This will slow down the sublimation process and allow you to use the dry ice at a later time. Another option is to donate the dry ice to a local school or science center that may have a use for it in experiments or educational demonstrations.

How long does it take for dry ice to melt?

The time it takes for dry ice to fully sublimate depends on various factors, including the quantity of dry ice, the ambient temperature, and the ventilation of the area. On average, a standard 10-pound block of dry ice will sublimate completely within 24 to 36 hours.

Tips for safely handling dry ice?

When handling dry ice, wearing gloves and protective clothing is crucial to prevent frostbite or burns. It is also important to handle dry ice in a well-ventilated area and avoid inhaling the carbon dioxide gas produced during sublimation. Always store dry ice in a well-insulated container with proper ventilation to ensure safety during transportation and storage.

Will dry ice melt if left out?

Dry ice will not melt like regular ice. Instead, it undergoes sublimation, transitioning directly from a solid to a gas. If left out, dry ice will gradually sublimate until it completely disappears.


Proper disposal of dry ice is essential to ensure the safety of individuals and the environment. By following the general guidelines for disposal and taking necessary safety precautions, such as wearing gloves and handling dry ice in well-ventilated areas, accidents and injuries can be avoided. Remember to never dispose of dry ice in regular trash or down the drain, and allow it to sublimate in a safe environment. By treating dry ice with the respect it deserves, we can all contribute to a safer and more sustainable disposal process.

Question: What can I do with leftover dry ice?
Answer: You can use it for fog effects, keep items frozen, or create carbonated drinks.

Question: How long does dry ice take to melt?
Answer: Dry ice typically takes about 24 to 36 hours to completely sublimate (turn from solid to gas).

Question: How do you safely handle dry ice?
Answer: Always wear gloves or use tongs to handle dry ice, and never touch it with bare hands. Handle it in a well-ventilated area and avoid inhaling the gas it produces.

Question: Will dry ice melt if left out?
Answer: Dry ice will eventually melt if left out, but it will sublimate (turn from solid to gas) rather than melt like regular ice.


About the author 

Taylor Kenny

Hi everyone, I'm Taylor. As a Cornell-educated veterinarian, my career has been focused on the welfare of animals. From bustling vet clinics to serene wildlife sanctuaries, my experiences have taught me the importance of compassion and understanding in animal care. I'm here to share my knowledge, experiences, and tips on how we can all make a difference in the lives of animals.