How to make an ice pack at home using everyday household items

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How to make an ice pack at home using everyday household items

Whether you’re an athlete, fitness enthusiast, or somewhere between a couch potato and a thrice-a-week-workout person (like most of us), chances are you have needed an ice gel pack at least once.

And now that many more people are discovering the advantages and convenience of working out at home, the rise of inevitable muscle pains and injuries have also increased. And this is why so many are looking for ways to make a gel ice pack at home. 

We have three different methods for you to make homemade gel ice packs. We’ll tell you what you need and provide drawbacks of each procedure, so that you know which will work best for you. While these cannot replace the functionality and convenience that a multi-purpose gel pack with straps offers, these homemade options are great if you’re in a pinch. 

Method 1 – The Alcohol Method

This is the simplest and most basic and common way of making a gel ice pack at home. 

What you need:

  • 2 large Ziplock bags (8 x 8 inches will do)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of water
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of rubbing alcohol 
  • Optional: blue food colouring


  1. In one Ziplock bag, combine both the water and rubbing alcohol.
  2. Add a drop of food colouring. This is not necessary, but it gives others a heads up that this is a gel pack!
  3. Seal the Ziplock bag. Make sure there’s little to no air inside.
  4. Place this Ziplock bag inside the second Ziplock bag. This is to prevent leakage.
  5. Freeze the bag. 

Care for the science behind it? Ethanol, which is the main ingredient of rubbing alcohol (87 to 91%), has a much lower freezing temperature. Water has a freezing temperature of 0 degrees Celsius whereas ethanol’s freezing point is -114.1 degrees Celsius. Combine them and, voila, you’ve moved the freezing point  to somewhere in between. The liquid will not freeze solid. Instead, you’ll have a freezing cold liquid “gel” to compress over your injury.

This method of making gel ice packs at home works well if you need one right away, as you’ll likely have these ingredients on hand. This method is an easy substitute for store-bought ice gel packs.

However, the downside to this Ziplock method is that the bag will likely not be good for multiple use. Be mindful that the water and alcohol could leak out of the Ziplock bag, making it slippery and inconvenient to use over time. 

Method 2 – The Diaper Method

This procedure of making a gel ice pack at home will be handy for those with babies at home because it requires a diaper (or nappy to any fellow Brits). 

What you need:

  • 1 diaper (with gel absorption technology, which most diapers have these days)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 large Ziplock bag (8 x 8 inches will do)
  • 1 large bowl
  • Optional: blue food colouring


  1. Place the diaper in a bowl and open it, with the inside part facing up.
  2. Pour 3 cups of water in the diaper. Wait for 20-30 minutes until the water is fully absorbed.
  3. When the diaper is engorged to twice or three times its size, lay it flat on a table or chopping board.
  4. Cut the diaper open. 
  5. Using a plastic spoon, scoop out the gel parts and place them in a bowl.
  6. Optional: add in a few drops of food colouring in the gel mixture. Mix until the colour is evenly distributed.
  7. Transfer the gel mixture in a Ziplock bag. Distribute evenly and remove air before sealing. 
  8. Freeze.

Because this method of making a homemade gel ice pack incorporates the gel technology from diapers, many believe that this is the best simulation of an actual gel pack that you can have.

However, the downside to this is that there’s a tendency for the gel to completely freeze, so you don’t really get a pliable pack in the end. This is because regular ice packs have a chemical called glycerol that enables them to remain flexible when ice cold.

The procedure can also be quite messy and expensive. Diapers are not cheap, and if you do not have toddlers at home, you likely won’t have diapers readily available in the first place. 

There are suggestions to pour alcohol in the diaper instead of water to make it more gel-like, but we find that nothing still beats having actual ice packs with the glycerol inside. Glycerol keeps the cold compress from freezing into a solid block of ice in the freezer, so you always have a compress that’s always pliable and flexible. 

Method 3 – The Stove Top Method

This method requires some of your cooking skills. 

What you need:

  • 3 to 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of cornstarch
  • 2 large Ziplock bags (8 x 8 inches will do)
  • Optional: Food colouring 


  1. Boil the 3-4 cups of water in a pot.
  2. When the water is boiling, add in your salt and cornstarch. 
  3. Whisk carefully until the mixture has reached a thick consistency. 
  4. Optional: add a few drops of food colouring. 
  5. Whisk further until colour has blended evenly. 
  6. Allow the mixture to cool down.
  7. Pour the mixture in a Ziplock bag. Seal the bag, making sure no air is inside.
  8. Place the bag into the second Ziplock bag to avoid leakage. 
  9. Freeze.

For this DIY gel ice pack procedure, the “magic” ingredient is salt, which lowers the freezing point of water. The downside to this method is that it is time consuming and messy if you don’t add the cornstarch properly.

Sometimes it’s not cool being just cool

While all these at-home gel ice pack methods work in some way to relieve your pain and discomfort, these are only quick solutions for when you do not have a proper gel ice pack yet. Yes, homemade is good, but it’s not always better. 

One important thing to note is that these homemade gel ice packs will only be used as a cold compress. They can’t be used for heat compress, the recommended treatment for muscle or back pain. A regular gel pack from the store allows you to put it in the microwave for a few seconds — but if you do that with these homemade ones, you risk leaks and potential burns.

Another drawback is that none of three methods include straps to hold your homemade ice pack in place. This means that common pain areas like shoulders, elbows, knees and ankles cannot be easily soothed. For this, try a product with built-in straps that also secure them in place. 

RICE, the go-to injury treatment with your ice pack

If you’ve experienced any type of sprain, strain or injury in your knee, ankle, elbow or wrist, RICE is the immediate treatment recommended by health professionals. This treatment works perfect with any of the three homemade ice pack remedies or a multi-purpose pack.

The RICE method consists of:

R– Rest the injured area for 48 hours.

I – Ice the area for 20 minutes at a time, 4-8 times per day.

C – Compress the area to reduce the swelling.

E – Elevate the injured area 6 to 10 inches above the heart.

Homemade gel ice packs will soon liquify, so you will either have to re-freeze or have two on hand. 

So, there you go, you’re all set and ready to get started with your own homemade ice packs.  

Got a question or anything I can help with?  My name is Steve Stretton, and I’m the owner and manager at You can drop me a line hereGood luck!

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