How to Make Fake Smoke

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Fake smoke can be useful in a wide variety of situations. It provides a realistic touch to a school volcano project, can be a spooky addition to Halloween decorations or adds ambiance to a romantic dance or a play set during a foggy London night. Though you can buy a fog machine, the most simple and inexpensive way to make fake smoke uses just dry ice and warm water.

Things You'll Need

  • Dry ice
  • Insulated container
  • Smoke-making container
  • Warm to hot water
  • Fans (optional)
  • Hot plate (optional)
  • Determine your dry ice needs. In general, 10 lbs. of dry ice creates about 15 minutes of heavy smoke. If you create a lighter smoke effect, the dry ice lasts slightly longer.

  • Acquire the dry ice. You should be able to find a supplier in your local phone book under ice supplier, party supplier or restaurant supplier. In a pinch, you may be able to buy small amounts of dry ice from ice cream stores or even local grocery stores.

  • Store the dry ice in an insulated but not airtight container. You want to keep it as cold as possible; however, some ice will turn to gas while you store it no matter how cold you keep it. The gas could make an airtight container explode.

  • Prepare your smoke making container. You will need 4 to 8 gallons of water for every 5 to 10 lbs. of dry ice. For best results, you want to have the water as close to the top of the container. This allows your smoke to flow immediately instead of having to fill the container first.

  • Create your desired effect. Water close to boiling temperature creates the heaviest fog when you add dry ice to it in small pieces. It also melts your dry ice the fastest. You can use a hot plate to keep the water hot. If you want a lighter smoke effect, you can use warm water and keep the ice in larger pieces.

  • Direct your smoke, if needed. The smoke will follow whatever air currents are in the room. You can use fans to push the smoke in the desired direction. For more targeted smoke, you can create the water/dry ice mixture in the canister of a shop vacuum and direct the smoke with the attached hose.

Tips & Warnings

  • Take the air conditions into account when you're determining your dry ice needs. Your smoke will last longer on a humid day and dissipate faster on a dry day.
  • Always wear gloves when you handle dry ice. It's extremely cold and will burn your skin if you touch it.
  • Always use in a well-ventilated area. The smoke is mostly carbon dioxide gas, which is heavier than oxygen. It will fill a small unventilated room from the bottom up and make breathing difficult.
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