How Do I Ship Dry Ice?

by
February 21, 2020
Illustration of boxes labeled 'dry ice' with steaks on a platter outside the boxes

What is dry ice?

Dry ice is carbon dioxide in its solid form at or below -109º F. Because it converts from a solid state into a gas, it doesn’t thaw and risk ruining the packaging or contents. Apart from fog in Halloween punch bowls, dry ice is used to keep items such as medical supplies and food frozen at a stabilized temperature during transport. 

Dry ice is good for keeping food such as steak or ice cream cold, but should not be used on things like live seafood. We have additional resources with more information on how to ship perishable foods with gel packs instead of with dry ice.

Where do I buy dry ice?

Dry ice should be bought the day it needs to be packed and shipped. Because of this, it’s best to buy dry ice in person. Luckily, major brands are widely available.

How long does dry ice last? 

Dry ice begins the process of sublimation once its temperature climbs above 109º F. Use 5-10 lbs of dry ice to keep 10-15 quarts of goods frozen per 24-hour period. If you are shipping items for a longer duration, increase the amount of more dry ice used. Additionally, gel packs can also extend the life of dry ice and keep temperatures below freezing for longer.

How do I pack dry ice?

Packing dry ice requires specific care, or it can become dangerous. First of all, dry ice needs to be properly ventilated. As carbon dioxide sublimates, it can cause an increase in pressure. An airtight container could cause expansion that leads to an explosion. However, the major danger of a sudden release of carbon dioxide is that it can be suffocating in a confined space.

Here’s how to pack dry ice:

  1. Be sure to use a foam cooler that is at least 2” thick (Think about companies like Omaha Steaks). This should be shipped within a cardboard shipping box. 
  2. Line the cooler with a 2 mm thick plastic liner. Inside, place the dry ice blocks underneath and on top of the sealed food container.
  3. Again, DO NOT create an airtight seal on any of the containers or packagings.
  4. On the exterior of the cardboard box, note that this package “contains dry ice” or “frozen Carbon Dioxide.”
how to pack dry ice in shipping container. 

Steps same as above.
Picture courtesy of FedEx.com

Tutorial Video from Penguin Ice

How Do I Ship Dry Ice With Different Carriers

Any air shipment with FedEx, UPS, or USPS MUST include a Class 9 label specifically designating that the parcel contains dry ice. They are widely available for purchase and should be adhered to the label-side of the packaging.

UPS

UPS Ground

For UPS Ground shipments containing dry ice, simply process these shipments to/from the 48 contiguous US states as you would any of your UPS Ground shipments. Just be sure to mark the packaging as having dry ice on the label-side of the package. 

UPS Air

Their regulations differ depending on what you are shipping with the dry ice and how much. If you are shipping non-medical items, such as frozen food, the regulations differ if you are shipping over or under 5.5 lbs of dry ice. It is necessary to follow UPS’s guidelines directly.

UPS International 

International shipments containing dry ice may require the shipper to have a UPS International Special Commodities (ISC) contract. For more information, please contact the UPS Hazardous Materials Support Center at 1-800-554-9964, or visit the UPS Guide for Shipping Dangerous Goods Globally.

FedEx

Shipping dry ice with FedEx has a few stipulations, to ship dry ice with FedEx, you need to have a Class 9 label to be adhered to the package with a maximum allowable amount of 200 kilograms of dry ice per parcel. For more information on shipping dry ice with FedEx, read their stipulations outlined in this blog

USPS

USPS is restrictive of shipping dry ice, and allows domestic shipping of dry ice, but not international shipping. 

Marking

  • Each mailpiece must be clearly marked on the side of the box that the label is placed along with the type of the contents being cooled (such as frozen medical specimens, ice cream) and the net weight of the dry ice.
  • For air transportation, each mailpiece must bear a Class 9 DOT miscellaneous hazardous material warning label and must be clearly marked “Carbon Dioxide Solid, UN1845” Or “Dry Ice, UN1845.”
  • For surface transportation, each mailpiece must be clearly marked “Surface Only” or “Surface Mail Only” and “Carbon Dioxide Solid, UN1845” or “Dry Ice, UN1845.”
Documentation
  • For air transportation, a properly completed shipper‘s declaration for dangerous goods must be prepared in triplicate and affixed to the outside of the mailpiece.

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