How Long Does It Take For Ice Cubes to Freeze?

It’s summer, and I often need ice for cold drinks, chilling foods, and ice packs for parties.

Many times, I don’t have ice cubes, and I have to wait till the water is turned into ice cubes.

If you’re in a similar situation and wondering how long it takes for ice cubes to freeze, we have everything you need to know (including some tips to freeze the ice faster)

How Long Does It Take for Ice Cubes to Freeze?

It usually takes about three to four hours for ice cubes to freeze in a standard ice tray in your home freezer.

However, this duration can vary depending on factors such as the temperature settings of your freezer, the size of the ice cubes, water temperature, and the type of ice tray you’re using. 

Factors Affecting the Time Duration for Ice Cubes to Freeze

By understanding these factors, you can better estimate how long it takes for your ice cubes to freeze and plan ahead for your needs.

Freezer Temperature

The temperature of your freezer plays a significant role in the freezing time of ice cubes. Generally, a colder freezer will freeze ice cubes more quickly. 

Most home freezers have a temperature range between -18°C and -22°C (0°F to -8°F). To maximize the freezing efficiency, maintain your freezer at a consistent temperature within this range.

Size of the Ice Cubes

The size of your ice cubes is another important factor. Smaller ice cubes will freeze faster than larger ones due to a reduced surface area and volume. 

For instance, if you have an ice cube tray with 1-inch cubes, these will freeze more quickly than 2-inch cubes. Keep this in mind when selecting or designing your ice cube tray.

Water Temperature

The initial temperature of the water you’re freezing will also impact the freezing time. 

If you use hot water, it actually freeze faster than cold water, due to a phenomenon known as the Mpemba effect. 

While the mechanism behind this effect remains unclear, one reason could be that hot water evaporates faster, reducing the volume left to freeze.

Size of the Ice Tray

Lastly, the size of your ice tray is another factor in determining the freezing time. 

Larger ice trays require more time to freeze than smaller ones due to their increased volume and surface area. 

So, if you want faster freezing times, it might be helpful to use smaller ice trays or divide your ice into multiple trays.

Also read: Can You Heat Almond Milk?

How Can I Make My Ice Cubes Freeze Faster?

Here are some ways to help ice freeze faster: 

Select the Right Tray/Container

Choosing the right tray or container is essential for quick ice freezing. 

Opt for trays specially designed for making ice, as they provide better surface area contact with cold air in your freezer. 

Smaller ice cubes will freeze faster than larger ones, so consider using trays that produce small cubes or an ice mold with thin, intricate designs.

Use Prechilled or Hot Water

Although it may sound counterintuitive, hot water freezes faster than cold water, thanks to the Mpemba effect.

You can also opt for prechilled water. Using tap water that’s already cold, or refrigerated water, can give the freezing process a head start.

Position the Trays

Ice freezing time can be affected by the position of the trays inside the freezer. 

Place the trays on the top shelf, as cold air tends to settle toward the bottom of the freezer. 

Ensure there’s enough space between the trays and the freezer walls or other items to allow for proper airflow.

Set the Right Temperature

The freezing rate of ice largely relies on temperature. A standard freezer should be set at 0°F (-18°C) to ensure ice freezes quickly and efficiently. 

Double-check your freezer settings and, if necessary, adjust the temperature to achieve optimal freezing conditions.

Don’t Open to Peek

It’s tempting to check on the progress of the freezing ice cubes, but opening the freezer frequently can cause the inside temperature to rise, slowing down the freezing process. 

To make your ice cubes freeze faster, resist the urge to peek and let the freezer do its job uninterrupted. This will allow ice to freeze within 3 to 4 hours.

Watch the video below on how how to quickly make ice from a bottle of water

Also read: Induction Cooking Temperature Guide (with settings and controls)

What Is Mpemba Effect ?

The Mpemba effect is a fascinating phenomenon in which hot water actually freezes faster than cold water. 

This counterintuitive effect has been observed and discussed for years, but it is still not completely understood why it happens.

It is named after Erasto Mpemba, a Tanzanian student who, in the 1960s, noticed this effect while making ice cream. 

Try freezing hot and cold water in identical conditions and observe the results. This way, you can experience this intriguing phenomenon firsthand and form your own conclusions.

Also read: Can You Freeze Olives?

Why Does Hot Water Freeze Faster?

Several theories may potentially explain the Mpemba effect. From evaporation to covalent bonds, allow me to share with you some reasons why hot water might freeze faster: 


When you pour hot water into the ice tray, it starts to evaporate. The evaporation process removes some of the water, which means there’s less water to freeze. 

As a result, it takes less time for the remaining water to turn into ice. The Mpemba effect is an unusual phenomenon where hot water can freeze faster than cold under certain conditions.


Convection currents play a crucial role in the freezing process. In hot water, the warmer particles rise to the surface, and colder particles sink, creating a continuous flow. 

This flow helps to transfer heat faster from the water to the surrounding air, resulting in a quicker cooling process. 

The convection currents continue even after the water cools, allowing it to freeze faster than cold water without such currents.

Released Gases

As hot water cools, it releases dissolved gases, such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. 

The release of these gases helps to lower the water’s freezing point, so the water can freeze faster. 

Cold water, on the other hand, is denser and has a higher concentration of dissolved gases, which inhibits the freezing process. 

Removing these gases allows the hot water to freeze more quickly.

Covalent Bonds

Water molecules form covalent bonds with each other, which affect the freezing process. 

When water is heated, some of these bonds are broken, and the water molecules move more freely.

As the hot water cools, the broken bonds re-form more tightly, promoting a more rapid crystallization process. Consequently, this causes the hot water to freeze faster than cold water with its covalent bonds still intact.

Also read: Can You Freeze Mason Jars?

Do Built-in Refrigerator Ice Maker Freeze Ice Faster than Ice Cube Trays?

Built-in refrigerator ice makers tend to have more controlled freezing environments and use specific freezing methods. 

This can result in ice cubes that freeze faster compared to those made in ice cube trays. However, there is no universal rule, as various factors may influence the freezing process.

For instance, the temperature setting of your freezer plays a significant role. To achieve the fastest freezing time, it’s recommended to set the freezer temperature between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to -15 Celsius). 

In a colder environment like this, ice cubes will freeze more quickly, and your ice maker’s thermostat can reach its set temperature faster.

While built-in refrigerator ice makers usually provide a consistent freezing environment, the temperature and performance of your refrigerator influences the speed of the freezing. 

This makes it difficult to say whether a built-in ice maker universally freezes ice faster than ice cube trays. 

Does a Dedicated Ice Maker Freeze Ice Faster Than a Built-In Refrigerator Ice Maker?

When it comes to ice-making capabilities, there may be a difference in the speed at which dedicated ice makers and built-in refrigerator ice makers freeze ice. 

Let’s explore these differences in the following paragraphs.

Dedicated ice makers are specifically designed to produce ice, making them more efficient in the process. 

The freezing temperature in a dedicated ice maker is generally lower than that in a typical freezer.

In addition, these appliances usually have insulation and other features that help maintain a consistent temperature, promoting faster ice-making cycles.

On the other hand, built-in refrigerator ice makers need to share space and resources with the rest of the refrigerator. 

This means that when the refrigerator door is opened, the temperature in the freezer can fluctuate. 

As a result, the ice maker might not be able to maintain an optimal temperature for quickly freezing water into ice. 

Furthermore, a refrigerator might take a longer time to produce ice because it must also cater to its primary purpose of keeping your food cold.

In summary, dedicated ice makers are likely to freeze ice faster than built-in refrigerator ice makers due to their design, temperature control, and insulation features. 

The Three Best Countertop Ice Makers for Your Kitchen

If you’re looking for a top-notch countertop ice maker to help you keep your drinks chilled, you’ve come to the right place. 

Here are three of the best countertop ice makers that are perfect for your kitchen:

Igloo Self-Cleaning Portable Countertop Ice Maker Machine

The Igloo Self-Cleaning Portable Countertop Ice Maker Machine is an excellent option for your kitchen because it combines convenience with efficiency. 

This ice maker produces up to 26 pounds of ice per day, and with its self-cleaning feature, it’s easy to keep it clean and ready for your next batch. 

It’s a great solution for small spaces, as it doesn’t take up much countertop real estate.

Magic Chef 27-Lb. Portable Ice Maker

Another top-notch choice is the Magic Chef 27-Lb. Portable Ice Maker. 

This compact machine can produce up to 27 pounds of ice per day, making it perfect for hosting or cooling beverages on a warm day. 

With its easy-to-use controls and quick ice-making process, you’ll have cold drinks in no time. Its compact size means it won’t take up too much space in your kitchen.

FRIGIDAIRE EFIC189 Compact Nugget Ice Maker

The FRIGIDAIRE EFIC189 Compact Nugget Ice Maker is a fantastic option for those who love nugget ice. 

This compact machine can produce up to 26 pounds of nugget ice per day, providing you with a unique and chewable ice form. 

The sleek design of this ice maker seamlessly blends with your kitchen, and the efficient ice-making process ensures you’ll always have nugget ice on hand.

Alternative Ice Cube Making Techniques

These techniques can help speed up the freezing process and result in ice cubes that melt at a slower rate.

Directional Freezing

One technique you can try to freeze ice cubes faster is directional freezing. 

This method works by controlling the direction in which the water freezes, usually from the top to the bottom. By doing so, you can reduce the time it takes for the ice to form.

To use directional freezing:

  • Fill your ice cube tray with water as usual.
  • Place a small cooling rack or another flat surface on top of the tray.
  • Cover the entire setup with a layer of aluminum foil, ensuring there are no gaps or openings.

This setup will encourage the water to freeze from the top down, resulting in quicker ice cube formation. Avoid opening your freezer frequently, as this can disrupt the freezing process.

Here is another method of directional freezing done using a cooler in the freezer

Adding Salt

Another technique for making ice cubes freeze faster and melt slower is by adding salt to the water. 

Salt lowers the freezing point of water, allowing it to freeze at a lower temperature than normal. This can result in ice cubes that take less time to form and have a higher resistance to melting.

Here’s how to use salt in your ice-making process:

  • Dissolve about 1-2 teaspoons of salt (preferably kosher salt for better dissolving) in a cup of warm water, then let it cool to room temperature.
  • Combine the saltwater solution with the water you’ll use to fill your ice cube tray.
  • Fill the ice cube tray with the saltwater mixture and place it in the freezer.

Keep in mind that while this method can speed up the freezing process and produce slower-melting ice, it might not be a good idea for all drinks, as the salty taste could alter the flavor. 

Also read: Can You Put a Yeti Cup In the Freezer?

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions:

Do Different Types of Ice Freeze At Different Speeds?

Yes, different types of ice can freeze at different speeds. 
Factors such as water purity, the presence of impurities, and air temperature can all impact the freezing speed. 

For example, distilled water may freeze more quickly than tap water because it contains fewer impurities.

How Long Do Small Ice Cubes Take to Freeze?

Small ice cubes usually take less time to freeze compared to larger ones. On average, ice cubes in a standard home freezer take 2-4 hours to freeze completely. 

Smaller cubes might freeze even faster.

What is the Best Freezer Temperature For Freezing Ice?

To freeze ice efficiently, set your freezer temperature at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) or colder, ensuring water reaches its freezing point.

Does Ice Freeze at Different Speeds in Different Containers?

Yes, the type of container used can affect ice freezing speed. Containers with better thermal conductivity will freeze the ice faster. 

Containers made of insulating materials will slow down the process.

How to Keep the Ice Cubes Frozen for Long?

To keep ice frozen, store it in an insulated cooler or freezer. Minimize the exposure to warm air by keeping the lid or door closed as much as possible. 

If you’re transporting ice, using insulated bags or coolers can help maintain its frozen state longer.

How to Prevent Ice Cubes From Sticking Together

Ice cubes can stick together when they begin to melt slightly and refreeze. 

To prevent this, store ice cubes in an airtight container or plastic freezer bag, separating them with parchment paper if possible. 

Additionally, ensure your freezer maintains a consistent temperature.

Does Distilled Water Freeze More Quickly than Tap Water?

Distilled water may freeze more quickly than tap water due to its lack of impurities, which can lower the freezing point of water.

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I’m Jueria and I am a regular contributor on In my articles, I share time-saving techniques, appliance wizardry, and health-friendly recipes to bring taste and wellness to your table. So raise a glass (or a spatula) with me, to good health and good food, made easy!