7 Ways to Make a DIY Ice Pack

Updated: Nov. 04, 2019

These homemade, doctor-approved ice packs will soothe your aches and keep your your lunches cool. They're perfect in a pinch, and can even save you money.

Sponge drying on a kitchen sink
iStock/Christopher Stokey

Soak a sponge

Here’s one of the easiest ways to make your own ice pack: Soak a clean sponge in cold water, let the excess water drip off, then place the sponge in a plastic zip-top or vacuum-seal type bag. Remove excess air from the bag, then store it in the freezer overnight. The result? An easy, drip-free DIY ice pack perfect for lunches, according to Leigh Vinocur, MD, an emergency physician and national spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) in Baltimore, MD. (Related: Check out these other creative uses for a sponge.)

Array of green soap bottles with red caps
iStock/Anton Chalakov

Soap it up

You know those blue ice packs that are sort-of frozen, sort-of not? It’s surprisingly easy to make a homemade gel-pack. All you need is a zip-top or vacuum-seal type plastic bag and some dish soap. Squirt the dish soap into the bag, remove excess air, and pop it in the freezer. You may want to double bag this, just in case – you don’t want to risk getting soap all over your clothes or lunch. Using colored soap will remind kids (and you) that it’s not edible. (Just don’t leave little ones unattended with the ice pack, warns Dr. Vinocur.) Out of dish soap? You can also use corn syrup. Find out the safest dish soaps on the market.

Picture of rows of clear water bottles with blue plastic lids

Think inside the box

If you’re looking to keep a kid’s lunchbox cool, freeze the drink box or water bottle that goes inside. It has the double bonus of keeping everything inside at a safe temp, while also giving your child the treat of an extra-cold beverage.

Picture of an array of Durex condoms

Freeze a…condom?

Yes, this may sound strange. But when you’re feeling sore in your private parts—either from hemorrhoids or because of post-birth pains—you’ll want to remember this trick. Half-fill a handful of condoms with water and tie them off like a balloon. (They should look flat when you place them down. Don’t overfill or they might burst, says Dr. Vinocur.) Place them in a container in the freezer so they remain flat while freezing. Once frozen, apply it to the area until it melts. Ah, sweet relief.

Clear latex glove on a wooden table.

Lend a hand

You know those latex gloves you see at the doctor’s office? They are a great receptacle when you want to make your own ice pack. Try filling it with a part-rubbing alcohol and part-water mix (about one part alcohol to three parts water) so it doesn’t freeze solid. “Rubbing alcohol raises the freezing temperature,” explains Dr. Vinocur, “so you’ll have super cool liquid that you can mold onto something.” It’s the perfect vehicle for soothing burns to the hands or sore feet.

Blue plastic water bottle sitting on a pink floor and near a pink wall.

Go big

Next time you’re loading up on ice for a barbeque or a camping trip, try this tip: Fill a clean, empty gallon jug mostly full with water and freeze it. (Leave room at the top for expansion.) Because of the volume, it will stay frozen for a long time, keeping those beverages nice and cool. As it melts, you’ll also get to enjoy some icy-cold water.

jar full of change

Save your pennies

Don’t cash in your loose change just yet! Because metal works well at retaining cold temperatures, it makes a great quick fix when you need an ice pack in a hurry. Simply place a handful of pennies in a clean tube sock, tie, and freeze for an hour or two to get them nice and cold. This is better for treating for aches and injuries than for keeping lunches cold. “Just be careful you’re not dropping it on your injury,” warns Dr. Vinocur. It’s just the thing to just the thing to ease those achy joints.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest