Quick & Easy Homemade Ice Packs: How To

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Here are a few different options for having ice packs and bags on hand for first aid as well as frugal ideas for keeping your lunchbags and camping coolers nice and chilled.

Reuseable gel type:

Method #1

Example2 cups water
1/3 cup vodka (80 proof)
Food coloring (any color you like)
Ziploc Freezer Bag

  • Pour liquids into ziploc freezer bag, add food coloring (you’ll know at a glance that it’s your ice pack and not something to consume) then freeze.

#2

1 cup rubbing alcohol
2 cups water
Ziploc Freezer Bag (1 quart size)

  • Pour liquids into freezer bag, remove air and seal bag. Place bag seal side down into another ziploc freezer bag, remove air and seal that bag. Place in freezer and use (and reuse) as needed (nice and slushy!).

#3

Liquid Dish Detergent
Ziploc Freezer Bag

  • Squirt liquid dish detergent in a ziploc bag until the bag is about 3/4 full, seal and then freeze.

Tips:

When taking them from the freezer to use, wrap in towel first before applying to body. If they freeze too hard and aren’t slushy, simply allow them to melt and then add more alcohol.

Single use method:

  • Prepare jello as usual, pour liquid into ziploc freezer bag and put in freezer. Wait till the jello gets really cold and gels, then use.

Lunchbox ideas:

  • Just freeze juice boxes the night before and toss in the lunch bag, or buy reuseable plastic drink boxes, fill with juice and freeze overnight (make sure to leave room when frozen juice expands).
  • Fill small ziploc freezer bags with water, freeze and use as needed (solid block).

Camping cooler ideas:

  • Clean empty plastic pop bottles, fill 3/4 full with water, twist cap back on and place in freezer. Take out and use as needed.
  • Large ziploc freezer bags, fill with water and seal. Freeze til needed (this will be a solid block).
  • Wash empty milk cartons, fill with water, close carton and freeze (leave room for expansion).

No time to freeze and need something in a jiffy? Here are some ideas:

  • You can use a bag of frozen vegetables (bags of peas or corn work best)
  • Fill a ziploc freezer bag with some ice (crushed or cubed), add cold water, seal bag, insert seal side down in another ziploc bag, seal that bag, then apply.

Also, don’t forget about this great tip for making microwave heating pads, they can also be frozen and used as cold bags (suitable for first aid treatments).

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Published: December 13, 2006
Updated: September 3, 2012

What Readers Are Saying:
38 Comments to “Quick & Easy Homemade Ice Packs: How To”
  1. Jessica says:

    I am so happy I found this site,
    very good ideals. I would like to
    add that I have taken wet wash clothes wrap them in tinfoil an freeze…remove foil when ready to use.

  2. diane says:

    I fold washcloths in fourths, wet, and place in zip seal sandwich bags. They tuck nicely into a cooler, don’t leak, and provide a cool cloth for face and hands.

    • Jackie@Lilolu says:

      Love this idea! Our small ice packs start to leak way before they should. I put cloth napkins in my kids lunch box but the wet cloth kills two birds with one stone. Thanks!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    If you use green rubbing alcohol it serves the same purpose as food coloring.

  4. Tgal says:

    Don’t forget to double bag when using zip locks, double the leak proof. :)

  5. stewy says:

    look, how many house holds have enough washing detergent at 9pm on a sunday night they can use for more than a couple of days if required with budgets as tight as they are? Try car wash in three tied freezer bags as zip bags can leak with pressure. I find that the car can wait weeks but dish’s can not and you can always re use the car wash defrosted

  6. Verity says:

    My favorite reusable ice pack is a bag of old-fashioned (non-micro-wave-able) popcorn. It stays cold for quite awhile and there is no fear of it going bad if left out too long as can happen with frozen peas.

  7. aardvark says:

    I would think twice b4 using or sending alcohol-containing (whether edible type or not) with children or to school. Dangerous idea – and potentially illegal.

  8. Tracy says:

    I learned this kid safe ice pack from my children’s preschool. Fill a sandwich baggie 3/4 full of Karo syrup. For a colored ice pack add drops of food color. Place in freezer. Stays cold long enough for most boo boos to heal! Can be reused over and over and is nontoxic if opened.

  9. Kelli says:

    I love this Karo syrup idea–it is nontoxic, inexpensive, easy-to-find, and I would think it would be slushy enough for a lunchbox all day! I love TipNut! I would have never thought to make my own icepacks, but now I won’t ever have to buy those wierd blue liquid-filled packs again!

  10. Lenetta @ Nettacow says:

    Thankfully my 2 year old has been relatively injury free, but I can see that changing as she gets more brave and tries new things. I linked to this on my weekly roundup – post is under my name. Thanks!!

  11. Mary says:

    A good friend of mine gave me the recipe for the ice pack using water & rubbing alcohol although in her recipe it called for dried black eyed peas. I don’t remember how many cups to use but start with 1c, freeze and see if it’s enough to help conform the pack around the “hurt.” You can always add more before you put it back in the freezer for the next time. I suggest always have (2) ice packs on hand and a rice bag for heat.

  12. Kelly says:

    I keep my rice bags in the freezer because they work great for headaches and booboos. they conform and are good and cold but not too cold.

  13. AbbNik says:

    I have been looking for information on this topic for a long time… I work at a daycare and have been through many, many ideas for our many booboos. We have tried sponges in a ziplock.. I wonder if you could soak the sponge with the alcohol mixture and then freeze?

    Has anyone tried this?

  14. Tammy says:

    I use the karo syrup method. But I use my foodsaver vacumn sealer instead of ziplock bags and they last forever without the worry of busting open when you try to get it into just the right spot.

  15. Suzi says:

    If you use food coloring to the water and rubbing alcohol (in either sanwhich or snack bags), as ice packs, the children get to pick their own color when they get hurt. Beleive it or not, the pain seems to go away before they even get use the bag. It is a miracle bag, lol!

  16. Victoria says:

    At the school I used to work at they simply took dollar store sponges, filled them with water, put them in a plastic bag and then in the freezer. They’re colorful and safe =)

  17. Sylvia says:

    Actually, using the green alcohol supposedly will make your “slushy” ice pack even colder. It is or at least was what they used for athletes when they got injured, because it gets colder and STAYS colder than regular. Personally I use the old fashioned “ice bag” with a cap on it, to put mine in. Holds up for ages! :)

  18. Pam says:

    Save the little ketchup, taco sauce,mayonnaise from fast food. Freeze and use for those little boo boo’s . Kids live them.

  19. dottie says:

    When my hubby had hip replacement done, the nurse had given me this home receipe for ice packs. Worked great. A few years later I needed this receipe again for a broken foot. Couldn’t remember how much alcohol to add to the water. Logged onto the internet under home made ice packs and “wella” found the receipe. Thank you so much for this web site. I love the alcolhol and water mixture. Freezes well and extremely handy.

  20. Tina Suarez says:

    Hi just wondering if there are any tips for keeping lunches colder longer. My son works outside in 100 degree heat but he says by the time lunch comes around his ice pack in his lunch box has already melted, he usually takes sandwiches and chips but has to pack plenty of fluids…and suggestions?

    • Susan says:

      Yes, try freezing a 16.9oz water bottle. A few if there is room, then by the end of the day, the water has melted enough to drink ice cold water.

      • Kathy says:

        I pack my husband’s lunch, he has the same problem. I take a Propel/Gatorade bottle and fill it half way with water and freeze that overnight. In the morning I fill the rest with water. Not only does it guarantee him cold water but it also helps cool the other stuff.

  21. Sam says:

    I have a simple recipe that beats all that are on this page.
    3 cups water
    Ziploc Freezer Bag (1 quart size)
    2 to 3 tablespoons of salt
    (NO FOOD COLORING)

    Pour water into a freezer bag; add salt; mix; remove air; and seal bag. Place bag seal side down into another ziploc freezer bag, remove air and seal that bag. I do this a 3rd time for security. Place in freezer and use (and reuse) as needed (nice and slushy!). If the water freezes too hard, let it melt and add more salt to the mix.

    The reason this solution is superior to the others mentioned is that if it gets punctured, so what! All you have to clean up is water and some salt. Alcohol will probably bleach any clothing or other fabrics. And have you ever tried to clean up dishwashing liquid that has spilled? You’ll be washing that for days and you can’t put it in the washing machine or the suds will overwhelm the washer, just like they did to Bobby Brady.

    Technically, salt does not “melt” ice — it lowers the freezing temperature of the water it mixes with. The same is true on winter roads. So, your freezer and your ice bag may be 0 degrees Fahrenheit, but the solution will not be frozen.

    • JAMIE says:

      thanks I have been looking for something like this for a homemade ice pack I got a blow up half ring that you can use for your neck and I was wanting to use it for a ice pack because when my husband gets bad headaches he puts a ice pack on his neck and I thought that would be good for it going to try it tonight :D

  22. Dani says:

    Thanks Sam! I needed a recipe with items I actually had and wanted to use at home! Perfecto!

  23. joyce says:

    When our children were small, we learned to freeze a red washcloth . Blood is not so visible on red and therefore less frightening .

  24. keona mcmahon says:

    I’m so happy I found this site .I’m so happy this site was here when I needed itthe most……..thank you so much……….bye and thank you again………so thank thou so so so so so much……..<3……..<3……..thank you……..<3

  25. kinzienicole says:

    For Kid ice packs (for ouchies) we take cheep sponges cut into quarters, wet wringing out all excess liquid put in snack size ziploc bag and freeze. Once thawed just throw back in the freezer. Perfect size for little ones.

  26. B. says:

    Stay away from milk cartons unless single use. The milk will never come out of the plastic and the water will be nasty. I use soda bottles and sometimes drink the water at the end of our trip. Small water bottles mixed in with the cooler stuff take up less space and are drinkable in the hot afternoon.

  27. Elaine says:

    We use a foodsaver sealing system for a truly leak proof ice pack.

  28. Embarrassed Kelly says:

    Please be careful!!! Adding alcohol to water significantly lowers the freezing point of water, meaning packs with alcohol (drinky or rubbing) are WAY colder than just plain ice. I just literally gave myself frostbite on both shoulders this way and I feel really stupid but all I can do is hope I didn’t do too much damage. When you ice all the time (injuries, surgery), you have a pretty good tolerance for icepacks and this happens more often than you might think.

  29. Nick says:

    DO NOT use FOOD COLORING. There is absolutely no reason to color to contents. But if it springs a leak, you will have food coloring wherever it leaks, which will be nasty to try to clean. Otherwise, you’d just leak water and alcohol, which is no big deal.


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