How to Make Hot Ice

Two Methods:Making Sodium Acetate At HomeUsing Store-Bought Sodium Acetate

How can ice be hot? When it's not ordinary ice. Using the same ingredients as a baking soda volcano, you can create sodium acetate. By cooling this below its freezing point, you get a liquid that's ready to freeze at the slightest trigger. In the process of forming a solid crystal, it releases a burst of heat. And that's how you get "hot ice."

Method 1
Making Sodium Acetate At Home

  1. Image titled Make Hot Ice Step 1
    Choose a large cooking pot. This must be a clean pot made of steel or Pyrex, and should hold about two quarts (two liters) or more. "Hot ice" is non-toxic, so don't worry about ruining your cookware.
    • Do not use a copper pot.
  2. Image titled Make Hot Ice Step 2
    Add baking soda. Measure out three tablespoons (45 mL) baking soda into the pot.
    • You cannot use baking powder, which contains other chemicals that interfere with the process.
  3. Image titled Make Hot Ice Step 3
    Pour in white vinegar. Measure out about one quart (liter) white vinegar, then pour it bit by bit into the container. It will fizz immediately, so don't pour too quickly or it might overflow.
    • This measurement assumes you're using 5% acetic acid, which is a common concentration for commercial vinegar. This doesn't need to be a precise measurement, though.
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    Wait until the liquid stops fizzing. The vinegar (acetic acid) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) are reacting to produce sodium acetate, along with the carbon dioxide that causes all this fizzing. Give the liquid a good stir as it fizzes to make sure all the baking soda is mixed in, then wait for the reaction to end.
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    Make sure the liquid is completely clear. If you still see a single grain of baking soda, add more vinegar until they all disappear. Any baking soda left in the liquid could freeze your "hot ice" before you want it to, later in the process.
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    Boil until the first trace of a film appears on the surface. Vinegar is mostly water, which you'll need to boil away. Once about 90% of the liquid is gone — which could take half an hour of boiling or more — a crusty film will begin to form on the surface. This means all the excess water is gone and you need to turn off the heat as fast as possible. If you let too much of a crust develop, your liquid will get cloudy and not work very well.
    • If it does get very brown and cloudy, add a bit more vinegar and boil again.
    • The sodium acetate starts out as "sodium acetate trihydrate," meaning it contains water. Once all the water around it is gone, those water molecules start to evaporate and the sodium acetate becomes "sodium acetate anhydrous," meaning "without water."
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    Scrape off the crystals on the side of the pot. As the water level gets lower, you'll notice powdery sodium acetate crystals sticking to the inside of the pot. You'll need these later, so use a spoon to gather them in a separate container. You can do this at any point while the mixture is boiling.
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    Transfer to a sealed container. Ladle the liquid into Pyrex glass or another container that can safely hold hot liquid. Make sure not to get any solid crystals into this container. Cover tightly.
    • It's a good idea to add 1 or 2 tablespoons (15–30 mL) of vinegar. The vinegar will help keep the solution in its aqueous state, instead of forming that crust again.
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    Chill the container in an ice bath. Wait until the container of sodium acetate cools to room temperature or lower. This should take about 15 minutes in a bowl of ice water, or longer in the fridge. The goal is to "super-cool" the sodium acetate trihydrate. This means it will drop below its freezing temperature, but still remain liquid.
    • If the liquid freezes during this stage, there might be a solid piece of crystal in it, or some other impurity. Add more vinegar, return to the stovetop, and try again. This is a difficult process, so it's rare that you'll get it on your first try.
  10. Image titled Make Hot Ice Step 10
    Add a bit of crystallized sodium acetate to your aqueous solution. Use the powder scrapings you removed from the pot while you were boiling down the solution. Start with a small pinch or two; if they have no effect, add more.
  11. Image titled Make Hot Ice Step 11
    Watch your hot ice form. The solid sodium acetate provides a seed crystal for all the super-cooled acetate to grow from. Since the sodium acetate is already super-cooled and ready to freeze, this should set off a rapid chain reaction, freezing the entire solution. This releases heat, which you can easily feel if you put your hands near the container.
    • If this does not happen, there is a problem with your solution. Add more vinegar and boil again — or try the more reliable store-bought method below.

Method 2
Using Store-Bought Sodium Acetate

  1. Image titled Make Hot Ice Step 12
    Find sodium acetate trihydrate. Although this is an inexpensive, nontoxic ingredient, it’s not commonly available in local stores. You'll probably have an easier time buying it online. (You may be able to take it from a squeeze-activated warming pad instead.)
    • Sodium acetate is also sold as "sodium acetate anhydrous," and some vendors do not specify which form they mean. The instructions below cover both forms.
  2. Image titled Make Hot Ice Step 13
    Place in a boiling water bath. Place the sodium acetate in a steel or Pyrex container, then place that container in a pot of boiling water. It should melt to pure liquid sodium acetate trihydrate, or "hot ice."
    • If the sodium acetate does not melt, you've bought sodium acetate anhydrous. To turn it into sodium acetate trihydrate, add hot water while it's still in the boiling water bath. It will take about 2 mL water for every 3 grams of sodium acetate to fully dissolve the substance.
    • Don't use all of your sodium acetate. You'll need a little for later.
  3. Image titled Make Hot Ice Step 14
    Chill immediately. Transfer to a clean container, cover, and place in an ice bath or fridge until it reaches room temperature or below. Make sure not to get any solid sodium acetate in this container, or it will freeze too early.
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    Touch the cool solution with solid sodium acetate. The solid crystal is a nucleation point, meaning it allows the other sodium acetate molecules to stick around it and expand into a crystal form. Soon the whole container should look like a block of ice — except it's radiating heat!
    • Other impurities can trigger the freezing if they happen to be the right shape. This means you can sometimes trigger it by touching it with a toothpick or your finger, but solid sodium acetate is the only reliable way.


  • You can make ice sculptures if you pour the solution onto a pinch of the solid crystals. The solution will turn into a solid when it comes in contact with the crystals, and will continue to solidify while you pour. The ice will soon tower up!
  • The home-made hot ice is more difficult to use and gives less impressive results than the store-bought method. If you have any problems with it, your best bet is to add more vinegar, boil away the water, and try again.
  • You can melt the solid "hot ice" and repeat the show by cooling it again. You can melt it easily in the microwave, since you no longer need to boil away any water.


  • Do not touch the solution until it's cooled!

Things You’ll Need

  • Sodium acetate trihydrate (or white vinegar and baking soda)
  • Medium to large pot (steel or Pyrex)
  • Water
  • Clean container
  • Ice bath (or refrigerator)

Sources and Citations

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