What is the Difference Between Dry Ice and Fog Machine?

  • By: Kevin
  • Date: May 26, 2023
  • Time to read: 7 min.
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A dry ice machine will be the best effect as the fog sticks to the ground and twists around, however; it is a lot harder to operate because you will need to purchase and manage the dry ice. Smoke machines heat a glycol or oil and water based fluid to create smoke that rises into the air and is not as thick.

Dry Ice vs Fog Machine

The Fog and Ingredients

There are a lot of differences between the output of a fog machine and dry ice machines. Yes, they both do make fog, however; it is a really different type of fog and the ways it is produced are as well.

When you are using a fog machine or referred to as a smoke machine the fog is created by using glycol or oil-based fluid which is then heated to produce particles of smoke to fly up in the cool air. It doesn’t last too long and will float high up until it disperses.

When you are using a dry ice machine the fog comes out low to the ground and sticks to it. It will also wrap around anyone or anything so it creates a really cool twisting effect.

It is considered the best fog effect if you are looking for fog on the ground, however; it’s not the easiest to produce since you will need dry ice for the machine. The ice in the machine is then dropped into warm or hot water at a rate the machine determines and it causes a chill effect in the fog.

Since the fog is colder it stays closer to the ground.

Ease of Use

The fog machine usually does come with a remote control which is very nice you can turn it on at any time. There are a huge amount of machines available.

If you go too cheap you will be looking at failed heaters and longer rest time between producing the fog. This isn’t an issue at a Halloween party but if you are throwing a concert in a grand hall then you will definitely want the top of the end machine.

Most people instead go with a haze machine which is kind of in the middle. Haze machines are nice because the fog is designed to work very well with the lighting and the laser beams will bounce off the fog making a great display for the fans.

The dry ice machine requires dry ice. It is hard to maintain and does have a half-life so if you wait too long the effect of the dry ice machines will be halved, and then halved again.

It’s also not readily available compared to the fog machine fluid. That fluid can run a very long time as long as the machine is of decent quality where the dry ice will be used up at a much faster pace than the water based fluid.

Best Option

It really depends on what you will be using it for. If you are not going to be using it for a huge event then a fog machine works well.

You can also turn the output of that fog machine into something that gives off a similar effect. You can do this by creating a chiller.

A chiller is basically a box that goes around the nozzle of the fog machine that is filled with ice. This cools off the fog as it comes out and if the fog temperature is lower than the temperature outside it will sink to the ground.

This is inexpensive and there are people that even create the chillers themselves.

Pros of Using a Smoke Machine

Run time is great in smoke machines and if they are the larger models they can hold a lot of liquid so it requires very little maintenance as the show goes on. They do also come with remote controls so you can change them without going to the location.

They are relatively quiet and will produce the fog by heating the fog fluid and then it will fill the room.

Pros of Using a Dry Ice Machine

The amazing dry ice fog machine smoke that is produced that sticks to the floor are amazing. It looks like people are floating on the clouds and adding some lights will even make the effect look even better.

These are by far the best low lying fog producers, the output just can’t be matched. If only they were easier to operate.

Cons of Using a Smoke Machine

If you obtain a good quality smoke machine the main disadvantage is the smoke will disperse quickly. Thought the better ones will offer a constant flow and take little to no break so the smoke will continue to pour out.

This is great for outdoor events and large concert halls. If you are in a smaller location make sure to have a remote so you can turn it off from time to time.

Since you are using an oil based fluid to produce the fog make sure to hang a sign to warn people who have allergies. You can read more about that in our “Is Fog Machine Safe to Breathe?“.

The fog machine can also leave residue on furniture.

A smoke machine will set off alarms most of the time since it is thick smoke that rises up which is usually where the smoke alarms are. Don’t worry this will not set off sprinkler systems as they are controlled by the melting of units.

Cons of Using a Dry Ice Machine

Dry ice uses a lot of carbon dioxide and with such will remove air from a location. It’s very important to make sure no one is laying on the floor with enough fog that can remove the air for an extended period of time.

These machines also have to be handled with care, it can burn the skin if not handled properly. Since this risk exists some venues may classify this equipment as dangerous and not safe so make sure you talk to the person running the event first.

This should not set off smoke alarms though we can’t promise this as you never know the quality of the sensors.

Fog Effects for Big Events

Fog effects are employed for many applications such as parties, dance clubs, Halloween haunted buildings, popular musical performances, and Nutcracker dances. The effects available range from thin fogs to opaque clouds to dark shadows.

The two most commonly used technologies today to make theatrical fog effects include: dry ice machines and a smoke machine with a chiller. Creating your own chiller on fog machines is the way to save some extra money and get a similar effect.

This will not give you the same special effects though it will be close. These amazing dense low fog clouds will float upon your stage.

How to choose the Best Low-Lying Fog Machine?

Low lying fog machines are important to choose the correct ones and being so we do have a guide for the best low lying fog machines. Here you will find the best machine to purchase and a detailed guide on the differences between them.

Can I Use Dry Ice in My Fog Machine?

It depends on what type of fog machines you have purchased. There are fog machines that offer fluid and low fog machines that use dry ice.

Most of these will be labeled as dry ice machines. The ones that use the ice are designed for that and have a place for the warm water so the dry ice can be turned directly into a gas, skipping the liquid phase.

You will then get an intense burst of low lying fog.

To directly answer the question, no you can not use dry ice in a fog machine that uses fog fluid, it has to specifically be a dry ice machine.

How Long Will Dry Ice last in A Fog Machine?

Dry ice fog usually lasts 10-15 minutes in the air depending on the thickness and volume. Dry Ice Fog is used when the material is dipped into warmer water and it produces a gas, fog.

It’s hard to say how long the amount of dry ice will last in your machine because it will depend on the size of the machine. Please check your owner’s manual or the info on the website when purchasing.

Here are our best dry ice machines to help you find the best one.

Can I Use My Fog Machine for Snow?

Snow machines are completely different than fog machines. They both use liquid but the process of how the fluid is used is completely different.

A snow machine works by injecting air into its room temperature fluid, resulting in microscopic foamy particles that look like snow. This can’t be done in a fog machine since the fog heats up the fluid to where it is vaporized.


Now you know the differences between the machines. I do recommend using more of the smoke machines and creating a chiller which will make the fog cooler and give similar effects.

This way, you can still use the fluids, and with the humid air, the fog will drop and create low fog. This can still dissipate quickly though, so make sure you get a decent machine.

If you are going to be running it for long periods of time, make sure the container inside can hold lots of fluids. That way you can just use the remote control to aim the nozzle and produce the perfect output at a cheaper price. Please check our buying guides for the perfect machines.

Please be careful and use at your own risk
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