7 Ways to Make a DIY Ice Pack
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Leigh Vinocur, MD, emergency physician and national spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, Baltimore, MD.
- Make Your Own Zone: "5 Ways to Make Homemade Ice Packs."
- Direct Advice for Dads: "Why Frozen Condoms are an Actual Thing."
- Stockpiling Moms: "How to Make an Ice Pack Out of Water and Rubbing Alcohol."
- Wonder How To: "7 Ways to Make Your Own Cold Packs at Home."