How to Keep an Ice Bath from Freezing


An ice bath, also known as cold water immersion, provides various benefits for recovery and health. However, a challenge with ice baths is keeping the water from completely freezing in cold weather. Several techniques can help prevent an ice bath from freezing over so you can continue enjoying the benefits of cold water immersion even in freezing temperatures.

Use a Tank De-icer or Aquarium Heater

One of the simplest solutions for preventing an ice bath from freezing is using a de-icer or aquarium heater.

tank de-icer is a stock tank de-icer designed specifically for keeping large volumes of water from freezing. You place the de-icer directly in your ice bath tub or container. It works by circulating the water and increasing the temperature slightly, preventing the water from dropping below freezing while still keeping it plenty cold for the benefits of an ice bath. De-icers come in various wattages for different size tubs.

An aquarium heater can also work, although some are not designed for large tanks. Look for an aquarium heater of at least 200-500 watts for a typical 50-100 gallon ice bath container. Place the heater in the bath and set it to the minimum temperature, around 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit. The heater will automatically turn on when the water temperature drops below this point. Check the recommended wattages for your specific container and be very careful not to overheat the water, or it will no longer provide the benefits of an ice bath.

Using a de-icer or heater is a very effective method for keeping an ice bath from freezing and requires minimal effort. However, it does require access to electricity and will increase your utility costs when running. It also prevents the water from reaching freezing temperatures, so may be slightly less chilling than a fully ice-encased bath. But for most people, water in the 35-45 degree range still provides an invigorating cold soak with various health perks.

Add Salt to the Water

Adding salt to the ice bath water decreases its freezing point, preventing it from turning completely to ice. The more salt you add, the lower the freezing point. A ratio of 3 pounds of salt per gallon of water should lower the freezing point to around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Kosher salt or rock salt work well and are inexpensive options.

To use salt in an ice bath:

  1. Fill your tub, container or stock tank 2/3 full with cold water. Leave some room for the ice.
  2. Add salt and stir to dissolve completely. Start with 3 pounds of salt for every 10 gallons of water. Add more salt for lower temperatures.
  3. Add ice to chill the water to your desired temperature. The salt will prevent it from freezing solid.
  4. Check the water temperature with a thermometer and add more ice/salt to adjust as needed.
  5. Soak in the ice bath, then drain and rinse the tub after. The salt can damage the tub surface over time if left on.

Using salt is an inexpensive way to keep an ice bath from freezing, but it does come with some downsides. The salt can be irritating to the skin, damage the tub surface, and is difficult to remove from the tub after draining. It also makes the water very heavy, so a reinforced tub is needed. And while salt lowers the freezing point, the water temperature will still be quite chilled. For some, water this cold may be uncomfortable for long soaks.

Add a Bubbler or Circulating Pump

Another method for preventing an ice bath from freezing over is adding a bubbler or water circulating pump. An aquarium bubbler with air stones or a small water pump can be placed in the tub to keep the water moving and prevent complete freezing.

To use a bubbler or pump in an ice bath:

  1. Fill your ice bath tub, stock tank or container with cold water and add ice to chill to your desired temperature, usually 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place an aquarium bubbler with air stones or a small submersible water pump in the center of the tub.
  3. Run the bubbler or pump continuously to keep the water circulating. This prevents ice from forming around the equipment and keeps a portion of the water surface open.
  4. Check the water temperature regularly and add more ice as needed to maintain the ideal level. The moving water should stay chilled but not freeze completely.
  5. Turn off the bubbler or pump when finished with your ice bath and drain the tub. Clean and dry the equipment before storing.

The bubbler or pump method requires some equipment and access to electricity to run, but it avoids adding chemicals like salt to the water. The moving water also allows for slightly lower temperatures that may feel more invigorating for some. However, the pumping action may be annoying or distracting to others during a soak. And if the power goes out, the water will eventually freeze over without the circulation.

In summary, for serious ice bath enthusiasts who want to stay chilled even in frigid weather, using a de-icer, aquarium heater, salt, bubbler, or water pump are all options for preventing your ice bath from freezing solid. De-icers and heaters provide the most hands-free and consistent solution. Salt lowers the freezing point but requires more effort and can damage tubs. Bubblers and pumps provide circulation but require electricity to run and can be distracting. In the end, you need to weigh the pros and cons of each method based on your needs, tub setup, and environment to choose the optimal solution for keeping your ice bath open even in the coldest temperatures.

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