How to Make a Gel Ice Pack

Homemade Ice Pack
••• Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Gel ice packs provide cold therapy, which is helpful for reducing swelling and inflammation. Indeed, these handy cold packs can help relieve symptoms from sprains, strains, bruises, and tendinitis, according to PainScience. But gel ice packs can be pricey—and, thus, not a good option for the frugal consumer. Save your hard-earned money and make your own gel ice packs for far less than you can buy them.

The process takes just five minutes or less and requires very few supplies.

What You Need

To make your own gel ice packs, gather a few supplies you're very likely to have at home. You'll need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Water
  • Two freezer bags

Making the Gel Ice Pack

Just follow a few simple steps to create the ice pack:

  1. Mix together two parts water and one part rubbing alcohol in one of the freezer bags. Seal tightly.
  2. Use the second freezer bag to double bag your mixture, so there are fewer chances of leaks.
  3. Freeze the pack until the rubbing alcohol and water gel. The mixture should get slushy, without freezing solid.

Use your new ice pack in place of store-bought ice packs. They're great for icing injuries but work just as well keeping food cool in a lunch box or cooler.

Tips

  1. Make a variety of sizes to accommodate different uses. Gallon-sized bags make great ice packs for large coolers and take up little space.
  1. Add a few drops of food coloring to the bag before you freeze it to create a colored ice pack. This will help identify it as a nonfood item.
  2. These ice packs can be used again and again. Just keep refreezing them until they wear out.

Avoid Ice Pack Errors

The traditional first aid treatment RICE—rest, ice, compression, and elevation—has been the standard first aid for decades and is often used on sports and other injuries.

 And while ice has been shown to greatly reduce swelling and pain, it's important to use ice packs correctly to avoid further injury.

Steer clear of these ​common errors when using your homemade ice gel pack:

  • Icing an injury too long: Because ice constricts the blood vessels, it can reduce the blood flow to the injured area and slow the healing process. Apply the ice pack for no more than 10 minutes at a time.
  • Applying ice directly to bare skin: Done incorrectly, ice may cause frostbite and damage to the delicate tissues of the skin. Sewing cloth sleeves to your gel ice pack—to insert between the ice pack and your skin—can help you avoid injury.
  • Not elevating the injury: Remember the "E" in RICE. If you're using your gel pack on an injury, elevate the affected body part if possible.
  • Not resting your injury while icing: Sure, making your gel ice pack at home takes just a few minutes. But you'll need plenty of rest time to allow your injury to heal. Always consult a doctor or seek medical help if the pain doesn't diminish or the injury does not heal within a day or two.