Jan 7, 2012

DIY Ice Packs

Being a DIY kind of a hippie dude, I decided to see if there was any way to make my own ice packs. Why? Over the course of my life, I've played a lot of sports (soccer, basketball, diving team, volleyball), remain very active (camping, hunting, rock climbing, spelunking, tai chi, qi gong, roller derby ref), and have a son that plays soccer, futsal, and is taking boxing training. As you can imagine, we have used ice packs a LOT. And yes, I learned from my grandma that using a bag of frozen veggies (peas work best) but now that I don't keep any of them in my freezer, I wanted to find another way to have some on hand, yet reduce the amount of chemicals and toxins that might be in the store bought ones.

You Just Need A Few Simple Ingredients To Make Your Own Gel Packs
Image from Tipnut link
In searching the web, I came across one particular website that gave the best amount of information about making your own ice-packs with items you most likely already have. It was the Tipnut entry about Quick & Easy Homemade Ice Packs. I'm going to save you a little surfing time by putting the key suggestions here and offer some other tips I've discovered on other sites.

Reusable gel type:
Method #1
2 cups water
1/3 cup vodka (80 proof)
Food coloring (any color you like)
Ziploc Freezer Bag
  • Pour liquids into Ziploc freezer bag, add food coloring (you’ll know at a glance that it’s your ice pack and not something to consume) then freeze.
Method #2
1 cup rubbing alcohol
2 cups water
Ziploc Freezer Bag (1 quart size)
  • Pour liquids into freezer bag, remove air and seal bag. Place bag seal side down into another Ziploc freezer bag, remove air and seal that bag. Place in freezer and use (and reuse) as needed (nice and slushy!).
Method #3
Liquid Dish Detergent
Ziploc Freezer Bag
  • Squirt liquid dish detergent in a Ziploc bag until the bag is about 3/4 full, seal and then freeze.
Okay, now some tips that I've come across in all of the comments on the pages and in my research.
Before using any ice pack or bag of frozen veggies, wrap it in a towel. The intensity of the coldness can
    damage the skin or nerves near the surface of the skin (depending on where you are putting it)
Putting the filled Ziploc bag into a second one (turned seal side down) helps insure less "leaking"
When filling the bags, use the amounts suggested because as liquids freeze, it expands a little.
  Do not use a homemade ice pack in a lunchbox for kids in school. They aren't allowed to have alcohol there
  Pets need these sometimes too

Anyway...keep active...but be prepared to to handle the boo-boos. I'm trying Method #3 but am using a "snack size" Ziploc and laundry detergent, because sometimes I only need a little one...


  1. I'd be interested to see how the detergent freezes. The other two are simple freezing point depression utilizing different alcohols, but the detergent (while probably the most expensive of the three) will have a higher viscosity as it thaws. The higher viscosity may more closely mimic the commercial ice packs. This presumes that it doesn't separate as it freezes or thaws.

    Also I'd be interested in trying this with a heat sealing device (usually sold to vacuum package food for freezing) as I find that the zipper-type seals fail far too often in my freezer.

    This may sound strange, but the commercial ice packs feel similar to a saturated polymer salt. Some laxatives consist primarily of the salt of a polyacrylic acid and I think it's also found in some diapers (calcium polycarbophil, I made it for years). It holds ~70 times its weight in water. I have no idea how it freezes when saturated but it might be worth experimenting with, possibly in combination with one of the other recipes.

  2. JJ, agreed about the interest in the detergent. I'm going to do one pack of dish soap, one of dishwasher soap, and one of laundry detergent. I'll let you know what I find out.

    Also agree that a vacuum sealer would be the BEST choice, but I'm not going out to buy one just to make this when I have Ziplocs in the the drawer. But I do agree with your point on that. If I had one, I would certainly use it. I even asked 4 neighbors is they had one that I could borrow from them, but none of mine do.

    Which laxative should I get to conduct the experiment by combining it with the detergent?

  3. Sorry, agreed about the heat sealer. I'm just trying to compile a list of compelling arguments to buy one. Some day it shall be mine.

    Per Wikipedia, Fiber-con and similar generics contain calcium polycarbophil @ 625 mg/caplet. Water weighs ~8.34 lb/gal or ~1.04 lb/pint. ("A pint's a pound the world around.")

    2 cups = 1 pint =~ 1.04 lbs (water)
    (1.04 lbs water)/(70 units water per unit polycarbophil) = 0.0149 lbs carbophil = ~6.8 g
    As each caplet seems to be 625 mg, that would be 11 caplets per pint, or 18 per 3 cups of water/alcohol. Maybe err on the side of caution to minimize excess liquid (but adding some detergent might help this (or make it worse for all I know)).

    Amazon has 140 caplets for ~$20 with shipping. So, >=$1.57 per pint plus alcohol/detergent and bags. At scale refrigeration isn't free but for personal use it should add minimally to existing utility costs and several gallons of water/month are similarly ~negligible. Also, food coloring. Add it to the water before adding the polycarbophil.

    Generics should be significantly cheaper even if you have to assume 80-90% performance.

    $2-3 per pint bag seems to be a reasonable goal, but only if you're making/using a lot of them.

  4. Oh, I do use them a LOT for me (for derby) and my son (for soccer, boxing, futsal). So, this helps my bottom line. Thank you for the input.

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  6. Hey one vote for the post! Gotta try this tonight. That's we call DIY.

  7. I also often DIY Ice Packs. That sounds good. Thank for you helpful note so much.

  8. After surgery, medical staff sent me home with KARO SYRUP in snack-sized baggies they kept in their freezer. The syrup was cold, pliable, and felt wonderful. The baggies conformed to the contours of my face.