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Why does my ice do this?

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I have heavy plastic ice cube trays that came with my refrigerator. I flex them to get the cubes to pop up enough so that I can flip them out into my glass.
Sometimes, but not always, the cubes shatter and instead of having a big cube, I get a bunch of tiny little ice pieces. Why does this happen?

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  1. Most likely air in the water.

    1. I noticed that happening, too. Try letting the tray dry completely before refilling it. Also, my parents finally got new trays after a number of years and that solved their problem.

      1. It's silly, but I get bugged by that too. ;) Just as nemo said, it helps if the trays are dry. If you have shards of ice in the bottoms of the trays (which can build up in increments over time), broken ice is very likely. But instead of drying the trays between fills, you can just rinse them, turn them upside-down, and give them a good whack on the edge of the sink to get the particles out, and then refill.

        1. "the cubes shatter and instead of having a big cube"

          Ice cubes were formed with too many fractures. In other words, the ice cubes were already broken.

          1. You probably just need to replace the trays. When ice trays develop pocks from regular wear, the ice starts to form in the rough little fissures as well. When you go to crack the ice out of the tray, it shatters rather than popping out. I don't think you can find a way to polish the roughness out, so your only choice is to get new trays.

            1. The temperature in your freezer can vary up to 15 degrees between refrigeration cycles. "Warm" ice, close to the melt point, is more elastic and flexible. "Cold " ice is more friable and prone to fractures and spalling. Results will vary for no reason other than when you happen to open the freezer door.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Veggo

                In other words, we're not really sure why ... :-)

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  There is a why, and it's boring chemistry. I had to learn about it when pouring concrete in winter and summer, when icing and drying are critical hinderances to the eventual strength of cement.
                  Tiki drinks are more fun, and why not?

                  1. re: Veggo

                    Veggo is definitely onto something. I, too, use ice trays. The top tray, the ice always pops right out. The bottom tray, the cubes will shatter unless I run the back of the tray under warm water. The tray on the bottom is just slightly colder than the tray on the top.

                    The ice did not freeze in a shattered state, the trays are not old and pockmarked. The bottom tray is just colder than the top. Hold the tray sideways over the sink, run warm/hot water, and move the tray so that the warm/hot water runs across the entire length of the tray. You will hear the cubes "pop" and when you twist the tray, voila, they will pop out whole.

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    > we're not really sure why

                    I'd say Veggo is onto something. If both the tray and the ice in the tray are colder than normal, fractures and spallilng could occur. I wonder if leaving the tray on the counter for a minute, or a quick run under the faucet, wouldn't mitigate the problem.

                2. First, make sure you have no ice crystals left in them when you fill them.

                  Filling with room temperature rather than very cold water also helps.

                  And over fill them a bit.

                  And do NOT try to move them before they are completely frozen.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Karl S

                    "And do NOT try to move them before they are completely frozen."

                    This is why it most likely happens. The ice cubes weren't completely frozen and someone pulled out the tray, gave it a twist and saw it wasn't frozen and put it back. This will cause the cubes to set broken.

                  2. Sometimes I like having cracked, irregularly-shaped ice. Other times, I want uncracked cubes. My experience is that if you twist the plastic ice cube trays slowly, you create fissures and irregularly shaped ice. If you warm the bottom of the ice cube tray with hot water (as Veggo suggested); just bow the ice cube tray, rather than twisting it; or give it a single, good whack on the counter, you are likely to get whole ice cubes, rather than shattered ones.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gfr1111

                      Instead of running them upside down under warm water (when for me they all then fall into the sink), just leave them on the counter for 1 minute, maybe 2. That amount of time out of the freezer is enough to make them slip right out of the trays with no effort or twisting at all.

                    2. Wait a second.......not everyone has an ice machine?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: joe777cool

                        In my "This Old House" there are other priorities. Many, many other priorities.

                        ...Though I do have an espresso machine...

                        1. re: GraydonCarter

                          we're "old-fashioned", a.k.a. poor. Or maybe we're just "urban homesteaders."

                          1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                            My freezer has a plastic square affixed on the back that reads "ICE MAKER READY". I joked with my boyfriend that it should have been a mirror.