Dry Ice

Using dry ice to displace oxygen from food storage containers is a very straightforward affair. To get the best purging results it is recommended that all foodstuffs and packaging materials be put in a warm location for a few hours before beginning the purging process. The reason for this is that the cold CO2 sublimating from the dry ice will be denser than the warmer, lighter oxygen containing air. The cold gas will tend to stay on the bottom, gradually filling the container and pushing the warm air out of the top.

When you first pick your dry ice up from the supplier, put it in a moisture proof container so that water vapor will be less able to condense and freeze on it. The sublimating gas will prevent you from being able to tightly seal it, but you can slow down any water ice accumulation.

Assemble the container and any interior packaging materials. Break off a piece of dry ice of sufficient size for the volume to be purged. One pound of dry ice will produce about 8.3 cubic feet of carbon dioxide gas so approximately two ounces per five gallon bucket will do. Wipe off any accumulated water frost which should look whiter than the somewhat bluish frozen gas. Wrap in a paper towel to keep foodstuffs out of direct contact. Place in the bottom of the container that will actually contain the food, i.e. the bag. Fill the package with the food product, shaking and vibrating while doing so to achieve the maximum packing density.

If a vacuum process is not to be used then place the lid on the container, but do not fully seal. If a liner bag is being used then gather the top together or heat seal and cut off a small corner. This is to allow the air being purged to escape as it is pushed upward by the expanding gas from the dry ice. Do not move or shake the container while the ice is sublimating so as to minimize turbulence and mixing. After approximately two hours feel the bottom of the container immediately below where you put the ice at. If it's not still icy cold complete the seal. Check the container every fifteen minutes or so to be sure that a pressure build up is not occurring. A small amount of positive pressure is OK, but do not allow to bulge.

If a vacuum process is used then cut off a corner of the bag and insert the probe or place the container in the vacuum chamber. Draw a vacuum and when it has reached the desired point shut it off, but do not allow air to get back inside. When the dry ice has finished sublimating seal the container. If a slightly larger piece of dry ice is used this process may be repeated once more to improve oxygen removal. Watch for pressure signs as above.

NOTE: It is natural for some grains and legumes to adsorb carbon dioxide when stored in a atmosphere with high levels of the gas. This will result in a drop in head space air pressure much like using oxygen absorbers will cause as they absorb oxygen. Precautions should be taken in thin walled containers against buckling and possible loss of seal integrity. When the food products are removed from the container they will release the adsorbed CO2 and suffer no harm.

WARNING: Dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) is extremely cold and can cause burns to the skin by merely touching it. Because of this you should wear gloves whenever handling it. Also, dry ice evaporates into carbon dioxide gas, which is why we want it. CO2 is not inherently dangerous, we breath it out with every breath we take, but you should make sure the area you are packing your storage containers in is adequately ventilated so the escaping gas will not build to a level dangerous enough to asphyxiate you. If you must pack your containers in your coat closet, leave the door open.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Because dry ice is very cold, if there is much moisture in the air trapped in the container with it, and your food, it will condense. Try to pack your containers on a day when the relative humidity is low or in an area with low humidity, such as in an air-conditioned house. Use of a desiccant package when using dry ice to purge storage containers may be a good idea.

B.1.1 DRY ICE SUPPLIERS: Dry ice may be found at ice houses, welding supply shops, some ice cream stores, meat packers or you could look in your local phone book under the headings "ice","dry ice" or "gasses". If you are still unable to locate a source, contact your local hospital and ask to speak to the laboratory manager. Ask where the hospital gets the dry ice they use to ship biological specimens. You may be able to use the same source.

Misc.Survivalism FAQs maintained by Alan T. Hagan, athagan@sprintmail.com
Copyright ©1996, 1997, 1998, 1999. Alan T. Hagan. All rights reserved.

Excluding contributions attributed to specific individuals all material in this work is copyrighted to Alan T. Hagan and all rights are reserved. This work may be copied and distributed freely as long as the entire text, my and the contributor's names and this copyright notice remain intact, unless my prior express permission has been obtained. This FAQ may not be distributed for financial gain, included in commercial collections or compilations or included as a part of the content of any web site without prior, express permission from the author.