Using Dry Ice to Clean Machines and Surfaces


For as long as people have cared about the appearance and sanitation of items and surfaces, a clean industry has existed in one form or another. A cleaning solution is always to be desired for dirty surfaces, such as kitchen counters, hand rails, door knobs, windows, and much more, both residential and commercial. Many different cleaning liquids and materials have been developed and are commonly in use, such as chemicals, rags, sponges, steel wool, and even sandpaper. But sometimes, chemicals create harmful fumes, or they may leave residue or even damage surfaces. These surfaces and items may need a different cleaning solution, and dry ice blasting is one such option. What is ice blasting, and why should someone call for dry ice blasting contractors? Someone unfamiliar with dry ice blasting may be pleasantly surprised by how clean and effective dry ice blasting can be, and they may soon see the benefits. Dry ice itself is something to be handled delicately, however, so this work is best left to the professionals.

Dry Ice and Cleaning

For those unfamiliar with it, dry ice is simply frozen carbon dioxide. Although it may somewhat resemble water ice, dry ice does not melt into a liquid, and it tends to be much colder than most water ice. Dry ice will sublimate when heated, or evaporate directly from a solid to a gas (bypassing the liquid phase). Dry ice is very cold, typically -79 degrees Celsius, and this is much colder than most environments where it will be used. For this reason, dry ice is best stored carefully in containers that can maintain this very low temperature. Depending on the level of insulation of the dry ice’s container, this ice may sublimate 2-10% per day or so.

Dry ice should be handled with care. For one thing, it is extremely cold, so it should never be touched with bare skin, or it may cause serious frostbite. What is more, the sublimated carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a breathing hazard for people and animals, so a respirator and skin protection are recommended. Dry ice may quickly sublimate if exposed to too-warm air, so it should be handled by professionals who know how to best maintain its condition. How can this somewhat dangerous material be used as a cleaner?

Dry ice is hardly scrubbed by hand on a dirty surface. Rather, dry ice blasting entails frozen CO2 pellets being discharged from a machine’s nozzle at high speed onto the targeted area. Shooting volleys of dry ice is more effective and practical than it sounds. These pellets can easily scour a surface free of dirt, grime, dust, pollen, bacteria, and much more without too much trouble. What is more, dry ice leaves no residue whatsoever once it has cleaned the affected area. The dry ice sublimates quickly, and it will not leave behind chemicals or even plain liquid water once it is finished. This means that dry ice blasting can even be done on delicate surfaces or items such as computer parts or vehicle engines. No corrosion or water damage of any kind will occur, since the dry ice sublimates without a trace. Best of all, dry ice can reach many areas that a person cleaning by hand cannot reach with a rag or sponge, so it can be used nearly anywhere. Computer parts, car engines, industrial parts, and even kitchen countertops can be scoured clean with this chemical-free cleaning method.

Due to the dangers of dry ice and the technicality of its use, dry ice blasting is not something a private homeowner can do. Dry ice blasters are unlikely to appear at one’s local hardware store, so instead, a client may turn to professionals. Once a cleaning crew is hired for a job, whether for a vehicle engine or a countertop, the professionals will know how to use dry ice to great effect. These workers will have portable dry ice blasters that can get the job done, and they will also have access to dry ice itself. It is unlikely that a private citizen or business owner could easily get their hands on usable dry ice, but professionals can get it for their own use during cleaning operations.