How to Get the Most Out of Ice and Cold Packs for Shipping

Safely ship perishables and medical specimens that require a temperature-controlled environment. Cold packs are better than dry ice because they don’t pose the same risks for recipients or shippers and comply with most travel regulations.

But which ice pack is best for your needs? This depends on the package type and how long you need it to stay frozen.

Choose the Right Size

The type and size of ice and cold packs for shipping you use can significantly impact your package’s temperature control. The best choice is often based on what you are shipping and how long you must send it.

For example, the reusable Polar Tech Ice Brix Viscous Cold Pack is designed to be slim and lightweight, which means it can fit easily into a small cooler without taking up too much room. It also holds its chill for longer than some other options, which makes it more cost-effective.

It has a food-safe gel refrigerant and is leakproof, which makes it an ideal option for keeping perishables at a stable temperature for days. These cold packs are great for shipping foods, pharmaceuticals, and medical specimens.

However, they require careful handling due to their sensitivity to temperature changes and the risk of freezing skin contact. This is why shipping fresh meat over long distances may be a better choice. On the other hand, dry ice is often used for these shipments and works well to maintain chilled products at a low temperature. It does require special packaging and safety protocols, however. It can also damage some surfaces and be a hazard for handling.

Use the Right Container

The demand for perishable products that need to be maintained at chilled or frozen temperatures shows no sign of slowing down. This includes a whole gamut of chilled and frozen foods, wine, flowers, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and biological products.

Whether you use dry ice or cold packs to ship these products, you must pack your temperature-controlled shipment properly. The best way to do this is to start with a suitable container and then choose the correct refrigerant based on your product’s needs and the cold shipping regulations for your region.

Dry ice works well for frozen products, but gel packs are often the better choice for items that must be kept cold (34 and below). This is especially true when the product is in transit for extended periods.

The water-based nature of these cold packs makes them less likely to freeze and thaw your product, so they can help reduce temperature damage to some sensitive products, such as certain pharmaceuticals. They can also supplement dry ice shipments by slowing the sublimation process, resulting in longer life and extended coverage for frozen products in transit.

When packing your products, seal them in airtight bags before placing them inside an insulated container. You should also fill any dead space with shredded newspaper, Styrofoam peanuts, or other packaging materials to ensure your product maintains its proper temperature.

Measure Your Items

Ice packs are not one size fits all, and you’ll want to be sure you get the right ones for your specific needs. To do this, measure your item’s length, width, and height to find a box that will fit it well. This will help to ensure that it doesn’t get crushed during transit and that the items inside stay cold and safe.

For example, if you’re shipping some meat and want to ensure it stays cold for the longest time possible, use enough cold packs to wrap it so that heat is blocked from its sides and top. Seal a box with the item and the appropriate number of cold packs to test this, then add a thermometer. Repeat this step until you’ve found a packing solution that works for your situation.

Check out our cold gel refrigerants for food products and medical specimens requiring refrigeration or heating. These food-safe, nontoxic ice alternative products can keep foods chilled or provide heat for hot sandwiches and premade dishes like potato salad.

Keep It Clean

Ice and cold packs are great tools to keep your perishables cold. However, these supplies will only stay effective if adequately cared for and stored. Follow these tips to get the most out of your ice and cold packs.

Always Clean Before Storing

Wipe them down before using your ice packs, and allow them to dry completely before storing. This will help them maintain their cleanliness and prevent the buildup of bacteria or unpleasant odors over time.

Keep Away From Sharp Objects

To protect your ice packs from punctures and other damage, store them away from anything that could cause harm. This will also help them retain their integrity and prevent leaks.

Designate a Dedicated Freezer Compartment

When storing ice packs in your freezer, dedicate a specific area or compartment to them. This will help you avoid over-stuffing the freezer and ensure they are not accidentally mixed with other food items. It will also help you avoid freezer burn, which can decrease their effectiveness.

In addition, when storing ice or gel ice packs in your freezer, please place them in a sealed bag or container to help prevent cross-contamination with other foods. This will also prevent them from absorbing odors from other foods in the freezer. If possible, use a vacuum sealer to create an airtight seal that will further minimize the risk of contamination.


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