Freezer full of frozen water. Please advise.
March 23, 2012 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Definitive answer please. Why does ice smell?

I bought a bag of ice from Waitrose that has a resealable fastening that appears airtight. Nevertheless, two thirds of the way down the bag, it has that distinctive smell, not unpleasant. What is that? None of the answers I've read anywhere seem compelling. The smell is more chemical than biological. Perhaps I mean inorganic rather than organic. Let me know.
posted by tigrefacile to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Plastic.
posted by empath at 1:18 PM on March 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Ice has no smell; you're not smelling ice, you're smelling what odor it has absorbed.
posted by Specklet at 1:25 PM on March 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

I agree. Ice can also take on yuck flavors from your freezer or the trays they are stored in.
posted by amanda at 1:34 PM on March 23, 2012

The built-in ice maker in my parents' fridge produces funny smelling ice, too. I always attributed it (in total ignorance) to something funky in the pipes or something. It smells like a penny tastes.
posted by bluejayway at 1:42 PM on March 23, 2012

Response by poster: Could it be plastic? Why would the smell develop? It doesn't smell like that when you first open the bag. And it doesn't smell like the rest of the freezer. It does smell a bit like the smell when you defrost the freezer, which again, isn't a food smell but a chemical smell. I thought it might have something to do with latency and the change of states.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:11 PM on March 23, 2012

Biological processes may create chemicals that you would identify as chemical. One example, some phenolic compounds produced by Brettanomyces smell like plastic or band aids.

Definitive answer unavailable, begin secondary answer generation process in 3...2...1...
posted by bdc34 at 2:24 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: most plastic products will out-gas volitile (read: smelly aromatic hydrocarbons) for a while after they are produced...generally, the cheaper the plastic (like grocery/food bags) the more outgassing. the longer the ice sits in the bag (and at time of purchase it may have only been in there a few days) the more it absorbs the smell. these chemicals, while not particularly good for you, are also not unreasonably bad for you (in fact, there's been some research lately to show that common, everyday exposure to varied toxic compounds actually strengthens the immune system, but thats another story altogether...)
posted by sexyrobot at 2:26 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by sexyrobot at 2:26 PM on March 23, 2012

If you keep plastic cold (like by filling it with ice and sticking it in a freezer) volatile compounds you'd normally not notice in your dealings with plastic bags and so forth (because they'd have otherwise long since evaporated) get to stick around longer.

Also, a lot of times things that really smell very much NOT LIKE FOOD are actually just one or more components of a more complex food smell that has been isolated somehow. I brought this up before, here.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:14 PM on March 23, 2012

As for why only part of the bag smells, my guess is that the smell is from heavier chemicals that settled towards the bottom of the bag. Or that the bag is actually comprised of two batches of ice, one of which was smellier than the other.
posted by ErikaB at 7:22 PM on March 23, 2012

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