3 Spooky Ways to Use Dry Ice This Halloween
Looking for some spooky scientific fun this Halloween?
Get some chills and thrills with the coolest substance known to kids: dry ice.
In this article I’ll share three of my favorite bubbling and oozing potions that will light up your Halloween party or fall festival.
Plus you’ll get hours of enchanting science discovery for your family.
What’s So Cool About Dry Ice?
Dry ice and Halloween go hand in hand. Imagine a bubbling witch’s potion, a hazy specter of a ghost, a mad scientist’s lab lined with beakers full of colorful chemicals, a foggy mist masking the full moon in an inky black sky…
These mysterious images and more can all be created with dry ice.
Dropping a few pieces of dry ice in warm water creates a fascinating sensory experience for kids and adults alike—bubbling sounds; smoke that pours from every cylinder and cauldron; and bubbles you can touch, bounce and squeeze.
There’s so much to discover and explore when performing dry ice science.
Whether you’re looking for a sensory experience, a fun science experiment, a cool demonstration that generates lots of “oohs and ahhhs” or a unique way to decorate for Halloween, you and your family will enjoy the three dry ice projects below.
#1: Burping Dry Ice Smoking Bubbles
This activity is perfect for Halloween decorating or any fun fall afternoon. Bubbling cylinders are an experience you can really see and touch.
Caution: Before handling dry ice, put on a pair of heavy gloves. Dry ice is so cold (–110° F/–78° C) that it will burn your skin!
Watch this video for an overview of the experiment you’ll learn below.
Fill a graduated cylinder or tall vase or glass halfway with warm water. (A tall, narrow container will prevent little hands from reaching all the way down to the dry ice.)
An adult should break small pieces off of the dry ice block with a hammer. The pieces should be small enough to fit into the cylinder. Be sure to wear heavy gloves and safety glasses.
Drop a few pieces into the cylinder. The dry ice will begin bubbling and producing smoke that will flow over the top. Ask your kids to describe the reaction of the dry ice using all of their senses.
Squirt a few drops of dish soap into the bubbling potion. The bubbles will get caught inside the dish soap and a snake-like column of bubbles will grow up and over the edge.
Don’t be afraid to reach out and touch the bubbles and give them a squeeze.
When the bubbles slow down, dump out the water and start again.
Take it further! Experiment with the ingredients:
- Add a few drops of food coloring or Fizzers.
- Use a glow stick to create an eerie brew.
- Try adding a glowing substance for glow-in-the-dark fun.
- Experiment with using more or less soap and dry ice.
#2: Spooky Boo Bubbles
Bubbles are cool, but bouncing bubbles filled with smoke are even cooler. Boo Bubbles look like ghosts that appear before your eyes. They’re actually the product of a homemade bubble generator that fills bubbles with carbon dioxide.
Watch a Spooky Boo Bubble generator in action, then make your own!
Start by having an adult use a sharp blade (like a box cutter) to carefully cut the top off of a 2-liter bottle. Make sure the hole is smaller than the funnel you are using.
Attach a length of tubing to the narrow end of the funnel by squeezing the funnel into the tubing.
Using the utility blade, cut a hole in the bottom of a small plastic portion cup just large enough to fit the tubing.
Slide the end of the tubing into the hole on the portion cup.
Mix a batch of your favorite bubble solution into a container that is large enough to fit your portion cup.
Lay out a towel on a table in front of you.
Fill 1/6 of the 2-liter bottle with warm water and add a few pieces of dry ice.
Place the funnel over the hole in the 2-liter bottle. The smoke will come pouring out of the tube.
Experiment with moving the funnel to cover more or less of the hole. The change of pressure will affect the flow of smoke coming from the tubing. You’ll find a comfortable pressure that makes the best bubbles.
Remove the funnel from the top of the bottle and dunk the portion cup into the bubble solution.
Replace the funnel on the bottle and let the bubble fill up. When it reaches the perfect size, shake it off the cup onto the towel to keep it from popping.
Put on a cotton glove and shake a bubble off into your hand. Try bouncing it without it popping.
Can you catch one without it popping?
When the bubble pops, the vapor will erupt and fall to the floor.
#3: Mix Up a Spooky, Bubbling Potion
This potion is perfect for Halloween parties and gatherings. Plain juice bubbles and carbonates before your eyes.
Pour a gallon of juice into a large bowl (apple is perfect this time of year), pitcher or plastic cauldron.
Using the heavy gloves or tongs, add a few pieces of dry ice.
While the drink bubbles, the dry ice is adding carbonation.
Caution: Wait until all of the dry ice is gone before serving the drink. NEVER serve a bubbling drink with dry ice inside.
Some final thoughts…
Don’t forget the science behind all of this spooky fun. Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide that is –110° F (–78° C). It’s so cold that touching it with bare skin can cause burns.
Caution: Never put dry ice in your mouth.
Dry ice doesn’t melt like water—it sublimates, or turns directly from a solid to a gas.
The smoke that you see when you drop a piece of dry ice into warm water is actually a combination of carbon dioxide and water vapor—a cloud of tiny water droplets.
The dish soap traps the carbon dioxide and water vapor in a bubble.
Nothing says “mad scientist” more than a bubbling cylinder of dry ice! I hope you and your kids have lots of fun with this spectacularly spooky science experiment.
What do you think? We want to see your bubbling, oozing dry ice potions. How do you create a spooky Halloween scene? Share your concoctions (with pictures) in the comments below.
Steve Spangler is an author, teacher, toy designer, Emmy award-winning television personality and creator of a huge soda mess. His appearances on television demonstrate his passion for making learning fun. Other posts by Steve Spangler »