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How Cold Should My Ice Bath Be?

How cold should my ice bath be

Once you’ve purchased your Freeze Tub it’s a simple process to keep it cold. But how cold should my ice bath be is a question many people are wanting to know when they order their Freeze Tub.

Generally, if you’re relatively new to cold water plunging or cold-water therapy, we find general hose, or tap water is sufficiently cold enough to provide the benefits that cold water plunging provides. But it is all relative to perhaps what part of the country you live in, and the season it is.

However, after a few weeks of cold water plunging with just tap water, your tolerance levels to cold water immersion improves and you can start to add ice and stay in for longer periods of time to get the full Ice Bath benefits.

Quick Tips for Getting Your Ice Bath Cold

  • Ice cubes from the freezer
    • Pros: Easy. Cheap. Fast.
    • Con: Lower surface area so they don’t last long and melt faster. Can’t produce a lot.
  • Ice bags from the service station
    • Pros: Lots more Ice than your freezer ice.
    • Cons: Can get expensive and time-consuming to go get ice each time you plunge.
  • Fill up empty Soda bottles and freeze them
    • Pros: Easy and reusable.
    • Cons: Takes a long time to cool the water and takes up lots of room in the freezer.
  • Fill up ice cream containers and freeze them
    • Pros: Good reason to buy ice cream.
    • Cons: Hard to get out of the container. Plastic cracks after a while.
  • Use the chilly-bin plastic ice blocks
    • Pros: Easy. Reusable. Stacks well in the freezer.
    • Cons: Need 25+ and takes a while to cool water. Could be scratchy on your skin.
  • Silicon Ice Tray Moulds
    • Pros: Easy. Reusable. Ice comes out easily.
    • Cons: Finding room in the Freezer.
Watch what options you can use to cool your Ice Bath water.

Ice Cubes vs. Blocks of Ice

Most often, it’s easier to use ice cubes in your Freeze Tub Solo ice bath but the only problem is your freezer ice cubes tend to melt a little bit faster, plus you probably gather those ice trays don’t supply a huge volume of ice, and don’t keep the water as cold for that long so there are some other options you could consider.

What most people tend to do is go down to the service station and pick up a few kilos of bagged ice but after a while that gets a bit cost prohibitive so there are some other options that are quite useful to know.

Start saving a few of your two litre water bottles and repurpose them by filling them up with water and putting them in the freezer. One to two hours before cold plunging, remove them from the freezer and place them in the ice bath. Cover the ice water with your thermal lid. Sorted!

If you are building up your tolerance to ice bathing by lowering the water temperature by a degree every week, just keep an eye on the water using the waterproof thermometer and when the desired temperature level is reached, jump in the freeze tub.

It’s handy to wear a waterproof watch with a timer or just have your phone ready close by with the timer set if you were trying to improve on the length of time you could plunge.

We have seen some very innovative options where our tubbers have used empty ice cream containers also and filled them with water and carefully placed them in their deep freezer. Larger blocks of ice take a little bit longer for water to cool down but these chunks of ice do not melt as fast as the smaller, freezer ice cubes therefore the water stays cooler for longer.

But bear in mind the service station ice cubes tend to be largely crushed therefore it has a smaller surface area so they tend to cool down the water faster, but don’t last as long.

In the South Island in the winter, you’ll find a general tap or hose water it’s cold enough to get the benefits of cold water therapy. During the summer there needs to be a little bit more work that goes into keeping the water cooler.

The most important thing is consistency.

The benefits of ice baths are compounded if you initially cold plunge three to four times a week. Building up to daily ice baths and the evidence suggests, that ice bath therapy peaks after four to five weeks.

You’ll start to notice an incredible change in the way you feel, how you sleep, and your immune system and of course, if you exercise you will notice a way faster recovery.

How Cold Should My Ice Bath Be?

This depends on a few factors. Are you new to cold water plunging? If you are, generally tap or hose water will do just fine, this sits around 15° C and most people tolerate this temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.

The next phase tends to be adding ice. If you add around 2kg to 3kg of ice then it tends to drop the temperature by roughly 1° to 2° C. Again, this depends on the season you’re in and how cold the tap or hose water was initially.

To get the maximum benefits of cold water therapy, you should aim to keep the water below 12° Celcius and try and stay submerged for up to 8 or more minutes. Alongside your Freeze Tub purchase, buy one of the waterproof floating thermometers and test the water temperature as you go.

You will find you need to build up your tolerance but stay committed and know your boundaries.

If you are struggling to stay in and are starting to shiver, we suggest getting out and warming up. You have reached the point where it may start to get dangerous and you may become hyperthermic.

Remember the core benefit of cold water immersion therapy is the therapeutic effects that the iced environment you soak in provides. When you first enter the Freeze Tub, the body triggers vasoconstriction. This is where the vessels in your blood constrict, or tighten, and if you think of what happens when you blood vessels constrict, the flow of the blood reduces to the muscles and the surface of the skin.

This has several effects which alleviate inflammation, flush waste and improves recovery.

But remember – Ice baths are supposed to be fun and provide benefits to the body, not dangerous.

As they say ‘Submerge Safely’ and ‘Plunge in Pairs’ Watch over each other and be a little like a spotter in the gym, it helps.

Add Epsom Salt To Your Water To Make it Colder and To Help with Muscle Soreness

You can try to add Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to the water as it’s proven to aid in help with improving delayed muscle onset soreness (DOMS)

Salt also helps lower its freezing point and allows it to become colder than it would be without using salt.

Salt in ice is called ‘freezing point depression’ – it’s a little like water physics.

In a liquid, like water, the molecules are constantly moving, colliding with each other and when the temperature drops, the molecules lose their kinetic energy and move more slowly.

At freezing point, the molecules slow down and start to crystalise, and they transition from water to ice.

When you introduce Salt (sodium chloride NaCI) to water, it dissolves into its constituent ions: sodium and chloride ions. These ions, in turn, disrupt the hydrogen bonding and this interferes with the water molecules to form ice crystals.

As a result, your water doesn’t freeze but it stays colder for longer.

If you’re going to soak in an ice bath and you’re mostly doing it for sports recovery, then try Epsom Salts.

Ice Bath Time

Many people who are just starting to get into the practice often ask about the minimal time required to stay submerged while reaping the maximum benefits.

For each session, it is recommended to plunge for 10-15 minutes for each session. For beginners, it is advised to start with only 5 minutes and gradually build stamina to withstand the cold as you learn to regulate your breathing and get used to the shock.

To enhance the effects of cryotherapy, people often combine it with a sauna – this method is known as contrast therapy. To do this correctly, you plunge yourself in cold water for 5 minutes, then stay in the sauna for 10-15 minutes and keep alternating for 2-3 rounds.

Regardless of whichever method you choose, you should always know your body’s limits. While it is good to stray outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself, you should only spend a reasonable amount on a cold plunge.

It takes time and energy to reheat your body and the more time you spend in the cold, the more risk you take of catching hypothermia or frostbite.

When To Take Ice Bath?

Again, this is personal preference.

Some people prefer to take ice baths in the morning. It provides a rejuvenating start to the day, instantly fills you up with energy that lasts throughout the day, and also helps increase focus immensely.

It also helps you sleep on time when you are winding down the day. If you are a heavy coffee drinker and want to cut back, cold water therapy first thing in the morning is a great, healthy, and effective alternative.

However, if your routine does not permit you to cold plunge in the morning, then some also prefer to do it at night.

At the end of the day, the cold plunge is quite personal and if you don’t do it your way, it would be very hard to create a habit out of it.

Only plunging 2-3 times would not drive any benefits unless you are regular. To do this safely, try to have a plunge buddy or join a group with shared interests that will help you be accountable and also guide you.

Slowly build your tolerance and enjoy your results!

Shoot us a message or leave a comment if you have another great way of cooling down your Ice Bath.

Happy Freeze Tubbing and don’t forget to give us a shout-out on Social Media – you just might get a little gift in the mail.


  • Dale Folland

    Dale is a seasoned Nutritionist with over two decades of experience in the health and wellness industry. His expertise has been sought after by elite groups such as NZ SAS Soldiers and NZ Fire Service, where he has contributed to optimising their performance and well-being. Dale is also a renowned speaker and educator and his work has been recognised in publications like the Daily Mail and various US media outlets.

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