How to Ship With Dry Ice

What Is Dry Ice?

Dry ice, a solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2), is a versatile and essential coolant used to maintain the freezing temperature of shipments during transit. Unlike traditional wet ice, dry ice sublimates directly into a gas, eliminating the risk of damage to your shipment from melting ice. It offers several advantages, including ready availability, cost-effectiveness, and the ability to sustain a frozen temperature for extended periods.

Where to Get Dry Ice

Dry ice is readily available at local suppliers, grocery stores, and some big box stores. Mercury couriers can also deliver dry ice to your location, whether it's your lab, office, or clinical site.

Why Use Dry Ice for Shipping?

Dry ice is the ideal coolant for keeping shipments frozen, whether you're transporting sensitive medical supplies, perishable goods, or temperature-sensitive research samples. With a chilling temperature of -109.3°F (-78.5°C), dry ice provides exceptional insulation capabilities when securely packaged, ensuring a prolonged frozen state. This resilience becomes particularly crucial for long-distance or international shipments, where maintaining consistently low temperatures is essential to prevent spoilage or degradation of the invaluable goods. Additionally, dry ice's rapid sublimation process means there's no need to worry about excess moisture, reducing the chance of damage to your cargo. Dry ice shipping is also a cost-effective solution as it doesn't require additional refrigeration equipment, reducing shipping expenses.

How Long Does Dry Ice Last?dry ice shipping

If your shipment requires dry ice to maintain the appropriate temperature, it's crucial to consider the rate of dry ice evaporation, which can impact the duration of your shipment. Generally, dry ice evaporates at a rate of 5-10 lbs. per 24 hours. For instance, if your shipment weighs up to 12.5 lbs. and requires dry ice, you should have at least 5-10 lbs. of dry ice per day. For a two-day journey, it's recommended to have at least 20 lbs. of dry ice to ensure temperature maintenance. Using an inadequate amount of dry ice can result in spoilage or damage to your goods, so it's wise to exercise caution and use a more generous amount than you might initially estimate.

Replenishing Dry Ice During Transit

Depending on your shipping method, dry ice can be replenished while in transit in case of a carrier issue or customs delay. The availability of dry ice replenishment during shipping varies with express carriers, but when using a specialty cold chain service like Mercury's, it is possible to refill the dry ice during transit.

How to Ship With Dry Ice

Questions or need a quote? If you require further assistance or have any inquiries, feel free to reach out to us by completing the contact form or calling us at 617-723-5205. We will be glad to assist you with your shipping requirements. 

Dry Ice Packaging and Labelling

Packing dry ice requires specific care to prevent potential hazards, as it releases carbon dioxide gas that can build up pressure and become suffocating in confined spaces. To safely pack dry ice, follow these steps:

Packaging: Ensure your packaging is designed to allow the release of carbon dioxide gas to prevent pressure buildup and package rupture. It's crucial to select the right packaging materials.

  • Choose high-quality fiberboard, plastic, or wooden boxes as outer packaging. These materials are robust and can withstand the extreme temperatures associated with dry ice.
  • Avoid using sealed plastic bags or Styrofoam as outer packaging, as they can create an airtight seal, leading to pressure buildup.
  • Consider using a layer of Styrofoam within the box as insulation, but make sure it is not sealed to be airtight. This helps maintain the required ventilation.
  • Keep in mind that the maximum amount of dry ice per package may vary based on the destination and specific regulations.

Labelling and Documentation: Label the package with "Dry Ice (or Carbon Dioxide Solid)," UN 1845, the net quantity of dry ice, and both the shipper and recipient's name and address. Use a Class 9 label, noting the dry ice amount on the package or label to meet regulatory requirements.

*For our clients, Mercury works with the best validated thermal shipper manufacturers to provide you with the boxes that are best for your specific shipment as well as temperature monitors and GPS trackers if you need them.

Choosing the Correct Shipping Method

When choosing a shipping method, it is important to assess the importance of your shipment. For high-value, irreplaceable shipments, it is advisable to use a specialty cold chain service or a same-day courier. Conversely, routine, low-value shipments with dry ice can typically be sent through express carriers, especially if they are within the same country.

Below is a general guide on which shipment method to use but we recommend to consult with an expert should you have any questions.

Express DeliveryCold ChainCourier Service
Used for ambient shipmentsTemperature-controlled 
international shipments 
Shipments within driving distance
Overnight shipmentsCritical domestic shipmentsRequires fastest delivery method
Overnight shipments that need
to maintain +2 to +8 Celsius
Specific pickup or delivery 
Specific pickup or delivery instructions
Routine, low value international shipments

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