How to Make a Cold Compress: Top 6 Methods Explained


If you suffer from frequent bouts of crippling back pain or recurrent sports injuries, then you are no stranger to cold compress for pain relief.

A cold compress constricts your blood vessels, thereby lowering blood circulation, which helps to stop the flow of blood in case of a severe injury. It also numbs your skin tissues providing pain relief and is commonly used to treat bruises and blunt trauma injuries.

DIY hacks to make a cold compress
DIY hacks to make a cold compress

While many commercial gel packs are available in the market, you don’t necessarily have to shell out your hard-earned money for one.

You can simply use any of the 6 methods described below to make your own DIY cold compress.

Method 1: Using Ice Packs

Ice packs are extremely useful in providing relief to sore or torn muscles. You can easily make them by freezing right liquids in right quantities and in the right manner.

You can follow any of the three methods given below to make your own reusable ice packs at home.

#Rubbing Alcohol

We have used rubbing alcohol for the first ice pack as it attains a gel-like consistency when frozen and can be easily molded to wrap the injured joints or body parts. Rubbing alcohol also retains its temperature for a longer time and you don’t have to constantly refreeze it.

Things you’ll need:

things you'll need to use rubbing alcohol to make a cold compress

  • Rubbing alcohol – ½ cup
  • Liquid dish soap – ¼ cup
  • Distilled water – ½ cup
  • 1 plastic ziplock or vacuum seal freezer bag

Step 1. Combine distilled water, dish soap, and rubbing alcohol in a jug

Mix water, dish soap, and rubbing alcohol to make a cold compress
Mix water, dish soap, and rubbing alcohol
  • Pour ½ cup of distilled water into a jug.
  • Add ¼ cup of liquid dish soap.
  • Add ½ cup of rubbing alcohol as well.

Step 2. Mix and transfer to a vacuum sealable plastic bag

pour the solution in zip lock bag to make a cold compress
Pour the solution into a zip lock or vacuum seal freezer bag
  • Stir the mixture in the jug to get a uniform blend.
  • Transfer it into a ziplock or vacuum seal freezer bag.
  • Make sure you squeeze out all the air from the plastic bag before sealing it.

Step 3. Freeze and use as required

freeze the bag and use to make a cold compress
Freeze the bag until it reaches a gel-like consistency and use
  • Place it in the freezer for at least 4 hours.
  • You can freeze it to solid or till it reaches a gel-like consistency.

Wrap it up in a towel and apply it on bone or muscle injuries for pain relief and to reduce inflammation.

# Dish Soap

Like rubbing alcohol, liquid dish soap can also be frozen to a semi-liquid state for a much longer time as compared to other liquids.

Things you’ll need:

things you'll need to use dish soap to make a cold compress

  • Liquid dish soap – ½ cup
  • 1 plastic ziplock or vacuum seal freezer bag

Step 1. Pour liquid dish soap into a ziplock or vacuum seal freezer bag

Pour colored liquid dish soap in a zip lock bag to make a cold compress
Pour colored liquid dish soap in a zip lock bag
  • Pour out about ½ cup of colored liquid dish soap into a sealable plastic bag.
  • Ensure that it is properly sealed shut; you have to squeeze out all the air from the plastic bag before sealing it.

Step 2. Freeze it in the refrigerator to make a cold compress

freeze the bag and use to make a cold compress
Freeze the bag for 3 to 4 hours and use
  • Place it in the freezer for a couple of hours, i.e., around 3 to 4 hours at least.
  • Take it out; the liquid dish soap should have frozen to a gel-like consistency.
  • You can make sure that the frozen dish soap is spread evenly throughout the plastic bag.

Place a hand towel over the swollen area and place the dish soap cold compress on top; never place a cold compress directly on your skin.

# Salt

Adding rock salt to water enhances its ability to stay frozen. This ice pack is also highly malleable and can be easily wrapped around an injured wrist or ankle.

Step 1. Combine rock salt and warm water in a jug

Mix rock salt in warm water to make a cold compress
Mix rock salt in warm water
  • Take 1 cup of warm water in a jug.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of rock salt as well.
  • Mix well to get a consistent mixture.

Step 2. Freeze in a sealed bag to get a gel-like consistency

Fill the ziplock bag with salt solution and freeze it to make a cold compress
Fill up to 1/3 of the zip lock bag with the salt solution and freeze it
  • Take a vacuum sealed plastic bag and fill it with just enough of the salt solution to fill it up to 1/3 of its length.
  • Squeeze out all the air from the plastic before sealing it shut for freezing.
  • Place it in the freezer till it freezes to a gel-like consistency.

Step 3. Apply the frozen salt water bag on the injured or swollen area

final frozen salt water bag to make a cold compress
Use the cold salt water bag for pain relief or to reduce swelling and inflammation
  • Wrap it up in a linen towel and place it on the injured area for pain relief or to bring down swelling.

You can use this easy-to-make cold compress several times; refreezing it each time when it starts to melt (which won’t happen very soon).The plastic bag needs to be handled gently to avoid any damage leading to the leakage of salt water.

Method 2: Using Sponge

Freezing a water-soaked sponge is another absurdly simple and cheap way to make a reusable ice compress at home. As kitchen sponges are quite flexible, they can be used to make highly adaptable cold compresses to relieve back and joint pain.

Things you’ll need:

things you'll need to use sponge to make a cold compress

  • Sponge – 1
  • Water
  • 1 plastic ziplock or vacuum seal freezer bag

Step 1. Take some water in a large bowl and soak the sponge in it

Soak a sponge completely in water to make a cold compress
Soak a sponge completely in water
  • Fill a large bowl with water.
  • Immerse the sponge in the bowl; make sure it is completely submerged beneath the water.
  • Let it soak for around 20 to 30 minutes, and then remove it from the bowl.
  • Take care not to squeeze out any of the soaked up water from the sponge.

Step 2. Place the soaked sponge in a ziploc bag, freeze & use as required

Place the sponge in zip lock bag to freeze it to make a cold compress
Place the sponge in zip lock bag to freeze it and use
  • Carefully place the sponge in a plastic vacuum seal freezer bag.
  • Ensure that the plastic bag is sealed properly.
  • Place it in the freezer for a few hours to freeze the sponge as required.

Your cold compress is ready; you can use it to treat inflamed joints and torn muscles.

Method 3: Using Rice

This is an extremely simple way to make a cold compress at home using simple items such as uncooked rice, a common household ingredient, and an old sock.

Step 1. Prepare a rice bag and place it in the freezer

Fill an old sock with uncooked rice and freeze it to make a cold compress
Fill an old sock with uncooked rice and freeze it
  • Take an old sock that you no longer use and fill it with raw rice.
  • Knot the sock at the end to make a sealed rice bag.
  • Place the prepared rice bag in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours or until it becomes chilled.

Step 2. Use it as a cold compress

apply the rice bag on the pain areas to make a cold compress
Place the chilled rice bag directly on your injured or wrenched joints
  • Take the chilled rice bag out of the freezer and apply it directly on injured or wrenched joints.
  • Re-freeze and re-use the rice bag as required.

Method 4: Using Towels

You can also use paper towels soaked in rubbing alcohol and water and freeze them to make a highly effective and adjustable cold compress.

Things you’ll need:

things you'll need to use paper towel to make a cold compress

  • Paper towels – 5 to 6
  • Rubbing alcohol – ¼ cup
  • Water
  • 1 plastic ziplock or vacuum seal freezer bag

Step 1. Combine rubbing alcohol and water

Mix rubbing alcohol with equal amount of water to make a cold compress
Mix rubbing alcohol with equal amount of water
  • Pour ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol in a mixing bowl.
  • Add an equal amount of water; try and use distilled water if you can.
  • Stir and mix the two liquids.

Step 2. Soak the paper towels and freeze them in a plastic bag

Soak paper towels in the solution and freeze them in plastic bag to make a cold compress
Soak paper towels in the solution and freeze them in plastic bag
  • Stack 5 to 6 paper towels together and soak them in the prepared solution.
  • Leave them in there for 5 to 10 minutes, and then insert the soaked paper towels into a vacuum seal plastic bag.
  • Properly seal the bag and place it in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours depending on your needs.

Take it out of the freezer and apply it directly on the skin, you can re-freeze it as and when required.

Method 5: Using Frozen Food

One of the most popular habits is to employ bags of frozen food as cold compresses. You can set aside bags of vegetables and use them as a cold compress whenever required.

Using smaller vegetables such as peas offers greater flexibility.

Single-Step Treatment: Freeze a bag of peas and use it as a cold compress

Freeze a bag of peas to make a cold compress
Freeze a bag of peas to use as a cold compress
  • Take a sealable plastic bag and fill it up with green peas.
  • Store it in your freezer for use in emergencies.
  • To treat any injury or muscular pain, simply take the bag out of the freezer and mold around your skin for maximum coverage.

Method 6: Using Cold Spoon

Cold or chilled spoons are one of the simplest DIY cold compresses that you can easily prepare at home. They are especially suitable for application on delicate skin surrounding your eyes.

You can use chilled spoons as cold compresses for pain relief and to bring down the swelling in case of a black eye.

Single-Step Treatment: Apply a cold spoon over your eyes

freeze metal spoons to make a cold compress
Freeze metal spoons and use them as cold compress for eyes
  • You can use chilled spoons as cold compresses for pain relief and to bring down the swelling in case of eye problems.
  • Simply place some clean metal spoons in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Take them out one-by-one and apply them as cold compresses to treat itchy eyes by reducing redness and inflammation.
  • You can also use cold spoon compresses to get rid of black eyes.

Tips

  • Keep checking plastic bags for damage and leakage; in case, you find anything, transfer the contents to a new bag or simply place the damaged bag and its contents inside a larger plastic bag or pouch.
  • It is always better if you wrap cold compress in a small towel or dish cloth before application.

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