How Cold is Dry Ice?

Answer: -109.8 °F (-78.5 °C)

Dry ice is cold, incredibly cold. It has a surface temperature of -109.8 degrees Fahrenheit or -78.5 degrees Celsius (197.85 Kelvins).

These numbers can be difficult to fully comprehend, so we made two charts comparing some widely known temperatures to dry ice. First in Fahrenheit:

Chart of the Relative temperature of dry ice in Fahrenheit
Relative temperature of dry ice in Fahrenheit / Source: Own work

And then in degrees Celsius:

Chart of the Relative temperature of dry ice in Celsius
Relative temperature of dry ice in Celsius / Source: Own work

And below is the table containing the actual figures:

Coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth (on Antarctica)-128.6 °F-89.2 °C
Dry ice temperature-109.8 °F-78.5 °C
Coldest temperature ever recorded in the lower 48 states (in Montana)-70 °F-56.6 °C
Ideal freezer temperature0 °F-18 °C
Water’s freezing point32 °F0 °C
Ideal refrigerator temperature40 °F4 °C
Ideal wine storage temperature55 °F13 °C
Room temperature70 °F21 °C
Hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth (in Death Valley, California)134.1 °F56.7 °C

How does dry ice compare to temperature records?

Of course, -109.8 Fahrenheit is the sublimation temperature of dry ice on the surface of it where it meets with air. Inside it can be even colder. Due to these temperatures, its handling requires extreme care.

As we can see, the surface temp of dry ice is much colder than the lowest temperature any average person would experience in their lifetime. The coldest temperature ever recorded in the contiguous US is actually 40 degrees warmer than it. Quite a difference if you ask us. But it is also worth noting that the lowest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth (at the Soviet Vostok Station on Antarctica) is nearly 20 °F below what solid CO2 is.

Although dry ice is absolutely freezing by everyday standards, it is still closer to the boiling (!) point of water than it is to absolute zero (the lowest limit of the temperature scale at 0 Kelvin or -459.67 Fahrenheit / -273.15 Celsius ).

Another cold substance commonly used by scientists and frequently starring in viral videos is Liquid Nitrogen. Both dry ice and LN2 are notoriously frosty, but there is a big difference between them still. The liquid form of Nitrogen is actually a lot colder with it being -320 Fahrenheit (-196 °C) at normal athmospheric pressures.

So yes, please do not attempt to touch dry ice with bare hands anytime! It is incredibly important to wear protective clothing (gloves) to decrease the risk of frostbite.

What is Dry Ice?

Answer: The solid form of carbon dioxide

In simple terms: Dry ice is the solid occurence of CO2 – also called carbon dioxide. The ‘dry’ part of the name comes from the fact that it skips the liquid phase when heating up and turns into gas instantly during a process called sublimation. The ‘ice’ part comes from the substance being incredibly cold with sublimation happening at -109.3 °F (equivalent to -78.5 °C) at normal pressure levels. This extreme cold provides for its most important usage cases too, like utilizing it as a cooling agent for food and other goods.

Dry ice sublimating on the ground
Some dry ice on the ground / Source: Tony Webster

Dry ice definitely comes in handy when you need to keep stuff chilly, but it is actually most sought after during October, due to, of course Halloween. The misty-foggy effect it creates when sublimating is the perfect addition to any scary Halloween party or for another example, rock concerts.

So that is dry ice in brief. Now let’s take a look at what actually carbon dioxide is.

CO2

Carbon dioxide is a gas found naturally in the athmosphere of Earth (with a concentration of 0.04% compared to say oxygen’s 21%). It’s molecule consists of one carbon atom covalently attached to two oxygen atoms hence the chemical formula CO2.

Model showing the structure of CO2
Structure of carbon dioxide

It doesn’t have a liquid form under normal circumstances, only if pressure is sufficiently high (5.2 bar; 75 psi). This is the reason why dry ice turns into gas instantly at a certain temperature (-109.3 Degress Fahrenheit), skipping the usual solid-liquid-gas phase steps as seen with water for example.

We have to note here that CO2 is a greenhouse gas commonly identified as a major contributor to global warming.

So dry ice the solid form of this colorless gas, what’s next? Let’s look at some properties of dry ice.

Properties of Dry Ice

Here we list six quick facts about dry ice below that everyone should know:

  • Colorless, just like it’s gas form.
  • It’s unburnable (some fire extinguishers use pressurized carbon dioxide to put out fires)
  • It’s very cold and can cause frostbite when touched without necessary safety precautions.
  • It doesn’t conduct heat or electricity very well.
  • It’s relatively easy to make in large quantities.
  • Can be very toxic if stored or used incorrectly.

Where to Buy Dry Ice in the U.S.

Have you ever wondered where you can buy the dry ice you often see in your favorite viral YouTube videos? Or were you ever in need of something colder than water ice to cool vast amounts of food and drinks before a big summer barbecue, but you just could not find a store which sells dry ice anywhere? Maybe you need some for Halloween? On this page, you’ll find useful information about where to buy dry ice in the United States.

Bowls containing dry ice

There are numerous places to get dry ice. Some are more obvious than others and sometimes you have to be quite creative to get hold of the solid form of carbon dioxide. This guide will show you the places where you have the best chance of finding it near you.

Overview of the Best Places that Sell Dry Ice

Kroger

Kroger Logo
Kroger logo / Source: Kroger Corporation

Most Kroger stores sell dry ice blocks and pellets. In some states however you will have to show identification to prove you are 18 or older and therefore eligible to buy. They have stores in 35 states so there is an excellent chance you can find one of their chains within driving distance. Tip: Don’t just look out for Kroger signs but also for Ralphs, Harris Teeter’s, Dillon’s, Food 4 Less and Fred Meyers as the parent company owns all of these brands.

Costco

An image showing a costco store
A Costco Wholesale store in Minneapolis / Source: Tony Webster

If you have no luck finding dry ice at your local Kroger, you can always check Costco. Many of their stores have dry ice available for purchase but this chain does not have a company-wide policy regarding the sale of solid carbon dioxide.

How to buy dry ice at Costco: If you would like to avoid any surprises, you will need to give your local store a ring to find out whether they have it or not. You can find the phone number for a specific store using their warehouse locator.

Walmart

Image of a Walmart store in Pennsylvania
A Walmart store / Source: Random Retail

If you’re still wondering where to buy dry ice, you have to check Walmart. It has the most number of stores for any retail chain in the United States (11000+). Most larger towns have at least one but most likely dozens. Some of them are even open 24/7 making them a great place to buy dry ice. An important thing to note here is that not all Walmart stores carry the item.

The best way to find out whether your local one has it is to phone them up. Sometimes they do have it, but you may have to ask around in the store, as it may not be freely accessible due to the high risk of frostbite.

Safeway

Safeway logo / Source

If you live in the western half of the country, Safeway and its associated brands are a solid choice when it comes to purchasing dry ice. They have 240 locations in California so there is a great chance that you can reach one with a 30-minute car ride if you live in The Golden State. Most of their stores carry dry ice, and it’s one of the cheapest options among all.

How to buy dry ice at Safeway: You can select your town in the Safeway store locator, and it will display all of their locations near you. The best part is that they list whether or not they have the commodity available at each store. This means that you don’t have to call them, you only need to check their website before leaving for the store. Talk about convenience!

For example: Here is the page of the Market Street store in San Francisco. You can see the hours and under that where you have the label “Location Services”, you can see that they indeed sell dry ice.

Meijer

An image of a Michigan Meijer store
A Meijer store in Detroit / Source

Almost all Meijer stores sell dry ice. If you live in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin or Indiana, this chain is a great option to purchase it. Meijer has 117 locations in Michigan and 25 in Illinois. This means that there is a good chance you will find one within a couple of miles in these states.

How to buy dry ice at Meijer: All you have to do is check out their dry ice product page. This webpage will instantly show whether it is available near you. The current price is $2.39 per pound. There is also a link which says “check nearby stores”. If you click there, it will show all of the nearby locations which carry it. Also, it’s important to note dry ice is only obtainable in-store at Meijer. Delivery is not supported for the product.

Publix

Image of a Publix Food & Pharmacy store
A Publix store in Georgia, USA / Source: Mike Kalasnik

If you are located in the southeastern part of the country, especially if in Florida, this is your best bet. A good number of Publix stores sell dry ice without any limitations, but to make sure, we always recommend calling your local one to get confirmation. You can also check out their website and click on the “Choose a store” button to get detailed product availability information.

HEB

HEB Grocery Chain Logo
Logo of HEB / Source

There is no better place to buy dry ice in Texas than H-E-B grocery stores. This privately held supermarket chain has around 300 locations in The Lone Star State and almost all of them have the item on their shelves.

How to buy dry ice at HEB: They used to have a dedicated dry ice page on their official site much like Meijer, but this feature seems to have been removed (as of Summer 2020). The best way to get it today is to call your local store beforehand to check availability. You can find your nearest store here.

Dry Ice Suppliers

In the US, most big cities have dry ice suppliers which specialize in the production and sale of the item. There are some nationwide supplier chains with dozens of stores across the country. Their advantages include low prices and high flexibility. Here is a quick list to get you going:

  • Penguin Brand Dry Ice (from Airgas): They are one of the biggest dry ice suppliers in the whole United States, as this company distributes dry ice blocks to nearly 5,000 retail stores in the country each year. To find the nearest outlet where you can buy it, you can call: 877-PENGUIN (877-736-4846)
  • Continental Carbonic: This manufacturer has 50 production and distribution facilities across the country with most located in the eastern half of the States. They primarily serve commercial customers but normal consumers can also purchase from them on a cash-and-carry basis.
  • Local Dry Ice Suppliers: Large towns always have at least one small business which specializes in this field. To find them, you can do a search on Google Maps or you can look them up on Yelp or in the Yellow Pages. When you visit these stores, you’ll be met with friendly service, and it’s also an excellent way to help the local economy.

Dry Ice Online Delivery

A man delivering goods
There are businesses which offer delivery of dry ice

If you don’t want to leave the convenience of your home, you can try a company that offers the delivery of dry ice to your doorstep.

  • Dry Ice Delivered: Their promise is to ship dry ice to any location in the United States. Sounds great, doesn’t it? The pricing is progressive for blocks, which means the more you order, the lower the price per pound. Currently prices start at $1 per lb for a minimum order of 10 lbs of blocks or pellets. Great deal.
  • Local delivery company: Type “dry ice delivery [your location]” or “dry ice delivery near me” into your preferred search engine and if you live in a bigger city you’ll most likely see plenty of local companies offering delivery of the product.

Ice Cream Parlors

An image of various flavors of ice cream
Ice cream parlors can be your “secret weapon” when it comes to dry ice

Ice cream shops have to keep their delicious treats cold somehow and most use dry ice as it is relatively cheap and safe. In most cases, you will need to get creative and ask whether you can get some at the location. Usually, they don’t sell it, but there are lots of places where they will be happy to give you some, maybe even for free. Exceptions are some ice cream shops which sell it by the pound. Like Graeter’s, which has a good number of locations in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois.

Gas Stations

A gas station in GA / Source: Michael Rivera

Some gas stations sell dry ice in front of the store from big freezers. We recommend this as a last resort as many of them don’t have it. Sometimes it is also possible that you have to ask the staff if you don’t see it anywhere around the kiosk, because of limited accessibility.

Final remarks

Finding a store that has dry ice can first seem like a daunting task. But with the contents of this guide and some planning (phone calls etc.) you can get it in basically no time. The 10 options listed above are the best choices for buying everyone’s favorite Halloween substance in the United States.