How Does Dry Ice Clean?

co2 blasting equipment

It sounds like it could be a storm on an alien world somewhere, but imagine tiny, rice grain sized ice pellets, at a temperature of minus 109 degrees, being blown at supersonic speeds.

A storm like that could do major damage, except it’s not a storm.  It’s a gentle cleaning method.

Dry ice blasting uses compressed air to accelerate frozen carbon dioxide (CO2) “dry ice” pellets, at -109 degrees F., to a very high velocity.  It works somewhat like sandblasting except that the pellets are relatively soft as compared to sand.  Also, the CO2 pellet changes from a solid to a gas instantly upon impact with the surface to be cleaned, so the process is considered non-abrasive.

Dry ice blasting

Dry ice pellets under magnification.

The instantaneous change from a solid to a gas upon the pellet’s impact with the surface coating absorbs heat from the very thin top layer of the surface coating or contaminant.  This very rapid transfer of heat into the pellet from the coating layer creates an extremely large temperature difference and thermal stress between successive micro-layers within the coating.  The micro-layers of coating crack under this stress.

If you’ve ever listened to ice cubes cracking when you put them in a glass of hot tea, then you’ve seen and heard thermal stress.

When you combine the effect of the impact energy of the high speed ice CO2 pellet and the thermal stress caused by the extremely rapid change in temperature between the micro-layers of coating, then something has to give way. And because the solid CO2 pellets instantaneously change to a gas, it expands nearly 800 times the volume of the pellet in a few milliseconds in what is effectively a “micro-explosion”.  This “micro-explosion” lifts the contaminant particles away from the surface being cleaned.

Dry ice blasting is a superior industrial cleaning method for equipment and machinery.  It’s faster, more cost effective, and an environmentally friendly cleaning method.

And, because the dry ice turns back into CO2 gas, there’s no sand, water, or chemicals to remove from the site.


Blackwell’s, Inc.

Specialized Industrial Cleaning, Concrete Coatings and Concrete Repair


Dry Ice Blasting

LaGrange, GA