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What Is Dry Ice Sandblasting?

Maggie J. Hall
Maggie J. Hall

Dry ice sandblasting is the use of dry ice pellets under high pressure to clean any number of surfaces. Machine sizes differ for home and industrial use, and many companies rent or sell machines, dry ice makers, and dry ice pellets. Dry ice blasting generally requires less preparation and post process clean-up time compared to other methods of cleaning. Individuals who use this environmentally friendly method of cleaning generally require safety equipment.

Conventional sandblasting materials typically require abrasive substances, including glass, plastic, or sand, propelled under high pressure to removes debris, paint, or other undesired material from various surfaces. Dry ice sandblasting uses miniature, solid carbon dioxide pellets, similar in size to a grain of rice. Compressed air propels the pellets at pressures up to 250 pounds (113.6 kg) per square inch (psi) through a flexible, 1-inch (2.54 cm) diameter hose and a specially designed nozzle. The pellets vaporize on impact, leaving only the remnants of debris to clean-up.

Dry ice is simply carbon dioxide that has been frozen solid.
Dry ice is simply carbon dioxide that has been frozen solid.

On impact, the dry ice performs three actions simultaneously. Exposure to the -109-degree Fahrenheit (-79-degree Celsius) pellets instantly freezes contaminants, causing fragility and cracking. The ice pellets immediately vaporize and the gas permeates the surface below the debris, loosening contaminants from the surface of origin. The impact speed of the dry ice pellets projects debris from the site without marring the surface below.

Various sizes and shapes of nozzle allow users to access cracks and crevices or large open areas. As dry ice sandblasting does not leave a residue, the method effectively and safely cleans electronic and mechanical equipment, along with industrial environmental surfaces without requiring additional surface clean-up. The dry ice sandblasting technique removes grease, oil, paint and mold from metal, plastic, and rubber or wood surfaces. Besides industrial cleaning needs, smaller versions of the machines allow do-it-yourself (DIY) sandblasting for automobile cleaning or surface preparation before painting or refinishing.

The sturdy dry ice sandblasting machines range from table top models to cabinet sizes that easily move from one destination to another on casters or wheels. Hoses and nozzles quickly attach to the machine with clamp-on metal connectors. An internal chamber houses the dry ice pellets, and the exterior cabinetry features a control panel. Loading the dry ice sandblasting equipment requires scooping the dry ice pellets from the manufacturer’s container into the chamber of the unit. Companies manufacture dry ice pellets in sizes ranging from that of a typical grain of rice to 0.5 inches (1.25 cm) in diameter.

The noise produced by dry ice sandblasting machines generally requires ear protection, and manufacturers also recommend eye protection because of flying debris. Likewise, the cold temperature of the dry ice as it travels through the hose and nozzle, requires the use of gloves. Manufacturers also suggest using exhaust fans for removing vapors when using dry ice sandblasting in enclosed environments.

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    • Dry ice is simply carbon dioxide that has been frozen solid.
      By: Jane Doe
      Dry ice is simply carbon dioxide that has been frozen solid.