To achieve the maximum spooky factor from your jack-o’-lanterns this year, what you need is a little smoke creeping out of their cold, dead mouthes. Candles don’t produce enough to be worthwhile here, however, and it would be a challenge to get tiny fog machines inside all your carved pumpkins: That’s where dry ice comes in.
Here’s how to use dry ice to produce a smoky effect — without posing risk to yourself or others.
How to use dry ice safely
Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide. It’s typically used to keep food or other perishables cold for long journeys but can also be used decoratively, as combining it with hot salt water produces a foggy effect. While it’s funky and useful, it’s also dangerous: The average temperature of dry ice is -109°F. That means it can burn you — badly. I once tried to remove a cake from a box without realising it was packed in dry ice, laid my forearm down under the cake, and burned the entire length from my elbow to my wrist. The wound was there for days and it hurt terribly — and my skin probably only touched the material for about a second.
According to Dry Ice Corp., to avoid frostbite or other skin injuries, you should always wear protective gloves or use a cloth barrier when handling it. You also need to use it somewhere with good ventilation because it can suffocate you as the solid carbon dioxide sublimates to gas, increasing the carbon dioxide levels in the breathable air around you.
Store dry ice in thickly insulated containers to stop it from sublimating, but don’t use an airtight one, which has the potential to explode as gas builds up inside.
How to use dry ice in this Halloween
With all that in mind, you can proceed with using dry ice to decorate for the spookiest holiday of the year. It works best in a jack-o’-lantern, as it is much more difficult to accidentally touch if it’s ensconced in a pumpkin shell. Dry Ice Corp. recommends filling a large glass about halfway with hot water and a cup of salt, placing it in the pumpkin, and dropping two or three big pieces of dry ice into the water before closing the pumpkin.
Remember to use gloves or another barrier when handling the dry ice, and also keep in mind that carbon dioxide sinks, so it’s going to flow more out of the lower parts of your jack-o’-lantern design. You can encourage some fog to float out the upper holes by using a glass that’s taller. Keep adding hot water as the water in the glass cools to keep the fog flowing.
HGTV also suggests putting a smaller serving bowl in your large punch bowl and adding dry ice in between the two. Put your punch in the smaller interior bowl, pour a little hot water on the dry ice, and let the fog enhance your dinner party.
You may also see cocktail recipes that call for adding a little dry ice to each glass, but we recommend not doing this: While drinking sips after the chunk has sunk to the bottom is fine as long as the dry ice itself is not consumed, it’s too big of a risk — especially if alcohol is involved and your guests are feeling the effects. Keep the dry ice in your decor only.
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