How to Make a Flexible Reusable Ice Pack

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How to make a reusable ice pack
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Aches and pains happen, and when they do, it is handy to have flexible ice packs in your freezer ready to go. In my house, they are frequently used for “boo-boos” but inevitably, the store-bought ones all begin to leak.

Frozen vegetables work for a time or two but after a couple of uses they become a solid block of ice that is no longer flexible or easy to use. Ice cubes can work in a pinch but they also make a wet mess as they melt quickly and cannot be reused.

DIY Reusable Flexible Ice Pack

I discovered how easy and inexpensive it is to make my own ice packs and I can bag them in such a way that they will not leak. I also love how easy it is to make them in many different shapes and sizes for specific uses.

As a bonus, you can toss one of these into your lunch bag to keep your food cool while you are at work or the park. The best part? You’ll only need a few ingredients to make these simple ice packs and one simple ingredient keeps the ice packs flexible:

How To Make A Flexible Ice Pack

The key to making an ice pack that stays flexible is alcohol. Rubbing alcohol has a freezing point between -26 and -58 degrees F, depending on the percentage of isopropyl alcohol to water, making it virtually impossible to freeze in a home freezer. When it is combined with water that will freeze at 32 degrees F, the result is a slushy, partially frozen mixture that can be frozen and reused again and again.

I use a 2-1 ratio of water to rubbing alcohol. You can adjust the ratio to suit your needs. More alcohol will make the ice pack slushier. Less alcohol will make it firmer.

Ice Pack Supplies

Ice Pack Instructions

  1. Measure 1 cup alcohol and 2 cups water into a freezer bag
  2. Remove as much air as possible and seal
  3. Place bag with mixture into the second bag by inserting it zipper side first
  4. Remove as much air as possible and seal
  5. Freeze and use as needed

For vacuum bag option: after step 2, place your bag with mixture into a vacuum bag that has been cut to the appropriate size. Follow the directions for your vacuum sealer and seal the bag. This is the best way for preventing leaks and is recommended if kids will be using them.

Experiment with different sized bags for different uses. Try using larger bags for back pain and smaller bags for lunch boxes.

This ice pack is very cold so remember to place a cloth barrier between it and your skin. I have included directions to make a simple removable (and therefore washable) cover that can be used for this purpose.

Removable Cover

I used a scrap of flannel I had laying around the house. There is minimal sewing required to complete this cover. For the sake of explanation I will use my actual measurements. Yours may vary.

  1. Measure the width and length of your finished ice pack. Mine was 8″x 8″. Add 1 inch to each measurement
  2. Cut 1 piece measuring 9″x 9″
  3. For the second piece, using the dimensions of your ice pack (8″x 8″), add 1″ to the length and 2″ to the width
  4. Cut 1 piece measuring 9″x 10″
  5. Cut the width of the second piece in half so that you will end up with 2 pieces measuring 9″x 5″
  6. Sew a narrow hem (approx. 1/4″) along each 9″ edge where you cut the piece in half. Do not hem the outer edges
  7. Lay the half pieces on top of the first piece with right sides together so that the hemmed edges slightly overlap in the center
  8. Pin around the edges to hold the pieces together
  9. Sew a 1/2″ seam around the outside edge
  10. Flip the cover right-side-out and insert the ice pack like you would a pillow into a pillow sham

A Reusable Pre-Made Ice Pack

If you don’t want to make your own from scratch or if you want to avoid plastic bags, consider making a fully reusable version by mixing the same ratio of water and rubbing alcohol in an ice bag like this one. Just keep in the freezer, and you’ll always have an ice pack on hand without the need to change out the ice inside the bag each time you use it.

This is still a much more cost effective option, and it takes only seconds to make. Not only is the water/alcohol ice mixture inside reusable, but the materials cost much less than store bought ice packs. The last store bought ice pack I purchased cost just over $13, and all of the supplies for this ice-bag version cost about $7 total.

I’ve also found that these homemade versions are much more effective since they can be customized for desired firmness and coolness.

Have you ever made your own flexible ice packs?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


16 responses to “How to Make a Flexible Reusable Ice Pack”

  1. Chris Avatar

    Adding more water then alcohol seems to me the ice pack would be more frozen and not mold around the area like it is needed to. Why not forgot about the water completely? Wouldn’t that make for a better ice pack using straight isopropyl alcohol? Water freezes alcohol does not.

  2. Char Stillwell Avatar
    Char Stillwell

    This might sound odd. Many years ago I developed pelvic pain on my left side. My physical therapist gave me an alcohol/water ice pack made in a condom. It fits perfectly in the area where the upper leg meets the pelvic area. Thank you Loretta! I’ve made many of these over the years and they work great.C

  3. Diana Marshall Frasier Avatar
    Diana Marshall Frasier

    Hi Again! I sent a question/comment about the Alcohol and Water ice packs. The ones I made that didn’t get slushy were 2 cups water and 1 cup 91% isopropyl alcohol. I think in my original comment, I wrote 3 cups water! Oops, I’m old?. Diana

  4. Diana Marshall Frasier Avatar
    Diana Marshall Frasier

    Hi, I just signed up for your emails! I just had 2 teeth extracted yesterday and thought the ice packs that were already in my freezer would do just fine for the swelling. Well, it’s like placing a brick on an extremely sore area. I looked up making my own ice packs and made 2 and put them in my freezer but they Never got slushy. Then I realized that the isopropyl alcohol I used was 91% instead of 70%. That’s all I had in the house and I really don’t feel well enough to go to the store for 70%. If I try again and change the amount of water and the amount of 91% isopropyl alcohol, what would I change it to? My math skills are bad at my age! I used 3 cups water and 1 cup 91% isopropyl alcohol and that was 4 hrs. ago and it’s still like water. I also turned my freezer to the coldest setting. Looking forward to getting your weekly emails too!

  5. Christina Avatar

    I have a few of these and absolutely love them – they stay colder longer than store bought ones. I actually add food coloring to mine, in case a leak has sprung, you can tell immediately that the liquid is leaking and possibly save furniture or clothing.

    1. Dawn Avatar

      Good idea! I’ve had one leak in the past, and I couldn’t get the bag to reseal again so that I could reuse it. I’m going to go with the double bag this time as suggested in the recipe.

  6. Joy Avatar

    I was a home Physical Therapist for almost 30 years. Many of my patients were of retirement age, on fixed incomes. When I had a patient with an acute musculoskeletal injury, especially my patients with total knee replacements, it would be imperative for them to ice frequently to reduce swelling, which in turns decreases pain and allows for increased range of motion. This was the “recipe”I gave them to make ice packs (I recommended 2, so one could be refreezing while the other was in use); 15 – 20 minutes at a time every one to two hours, wrapped in a tea towel works wonders! And I can vouch for the effectiveness – in 2010 I had both knees replaced (one in late June, the other the beginning of November);I iced every hour for the first couple weeks and my recovery was remarkable; of course, my surgeon does a fantastic job – which is why I chose him. I love homemade “fixes” that are effective and don’t cost an arm and a leg!

  7. Julia Avatar

    My daughter received Orbees (squishy gel beads) foot spa and refill packs as a gift but doesn’t like them and I did not want the pets ingesting any that dropped on the floor. I reconstituted them with saline water as suggested on the pack and packed them in double freezer bags to use as ice packs. They are much like the ones sold at stores. The foot bath itself is used at the door for the dogs with a mild hydrogen peroxide solution to clean and disinfect their paws.

  8. Jen Avatar

    Yes, a friend turned me on to using corn syrup, undiluted in a ziploc. Still flexible, and works great. Can’t wait to try the alcohol/water mix, though.

  9. Kavita Goyal Avatar
    Kavita Goyal

    I have also made rice packs as mentioned in the above comments. They are inexpensive and reusable.

  10. Willie Avatar

    Yes, I use rice in baggies….reusable and you can also heat them in the micro. Very flexible and inexpensive!

  11. Jennie Avatar

    I keep a “rice pack” in the freezer. I have another rice pack that i heat in the micro Different sizes are easy to make also.

  12. Linda Sand Avatar
    Linda Sand

    I used a large zip lock bag folded in thirds to make a long, narrow bag. Then I wrapped it in a bandana so I could pin it around my bad knee. That meant I could wiggle without losing it. I love the flexibility of these homemade bags.

  13. Laurie Avatar

    Hi Katie. Are the Blue Avocado bags something you, personally, would use to store food in?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I still don’t like them for food (post on what I use instead soon) but am fine with them for storage and topical uses like these.

  14. Cindy Avatar

    Yes I have. A bag of unopened frozen peas or corn works really well and cost about a dollar each. Cover it with a washcloth or wrap it in a hand towel – and and then clean the used bag before you put it back in the freezer – Mark it with a felt marker.

    Now about alcohol: 91% alcohol in a spray bottle is a great de-icer for people who live with snow and ice. In addition to melting ice slush, it cleans the dirt off of windshields and they stay clean longer. It’s very cheap about a dollar and lasts. I have used it in Washington state at the beginning of the snow season.

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