What Chemicals Are Used in Instant Ice Packs?

What Chemicals Are Used in Instant Ice Packs
••• Tatomm/iStock/GettyImages

Instant ice packs are a good first aid solution to sprains, strains, and other minor injuries and thus are included in most first aid kits available today. But the way that ice packs generate cold so quickly, or how they are able to be stored at room temperature for so long, often remains a mystery to most consumers. Understanding the chemicals used in chemical ice packs will allow you to use them safely and effectively in an emergency.

Ionic compound

Ammonium Chloride (NH4CL) is a common ionic compound used in chemical ice packs to react with a non-ionic compound to create that "cold" sensation.

Alternate ionic compound

Ammonium Nitrate (NH4NO3) is used in older chemical ice packs, but interacts with the non-ionic compound in the same manner. Ammonium Nitrate is also used as a common chemical fertilizer.


Water (H2O) is the non-ionic compound used in both kinds of chemical ice packs. Water is both safe and common, thus making an ideal non-ionic compound for ice packs


When the ionic and non-ionic compounds come in contact, an "endothermic" reaction takes place which uses energy (in the form of heat) from the surrounding atmosphere, creating a "cold" sensation.


Typically, a small amount of the ionic compound is placed in a thin glass vial and suspended in a water solution (or water-laden gel) inside of a sealed pouch. The user breaks the vial causing the reaction but because it is sealed, the reaction is less likely to cause harm to users.

Related Articles

Substances That Affect the Rate of Melting Ice
Why Does Adding Salt to Water Make it Colder?
How to Cool a Can of Soda in Ice Water & Salt
What Happens When You Add Ammonium Nitrate to Water?
How to Make a Sodium Silicate Solution
How to Mix Calcium Chloride and Water
How to Make Bromine Water in the Chemistry Lab
How to Separate Benzoic Acid & Sodium Chloride
Endothermic Science Projects
Chemicals Used in Heat Packs
How Does Salt Melt Ice?
Chemicals That Absorb Moisture
Urethane vs. Polyurethane
Why Does Water Melt Ice?
Facts About Calcium Chloride
How Does Sugar Affect the Freezing Process?
What is Ethanolic Potassium Hydroxide?
Heat Absorption Properties of Salt

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!