how to do that boiling water winter trick

boiling water winter trick

Y’all. Winter in Alaska is wild. From what we’ve heard from locals, or at least those who’ve been here a few years, this winter has actually been quite mild. This week, however, all bets are off, and it’s currently -39F outside. Yes, you did read that correctly. It is so cold that the doors are cold to the touch inside, and the kids’ rooms have ice inside the windows. So yes, it’s cold. We’re doing our best to have fun and enjoy it though, which is how we found ourselves doing that boiling water winter trick you might’ve read about – or seen – somewhere. No clue what I’m talking about? Read on.

Why People Throw Boiling Water Into Freezing Air

Consider this your Alaska fact of the day. When you throw boiling water into freezing air, it actually turns immediately into gas on contact. I’d seen videos and photos of it done before, and I obviously wanted to try it myself because, well, when in Alaska, right?

The caveat is that it has to be -14F or below for this fun boiling water winter trick to actually work. That’s not usually a big problem here at Fort Wainwright in the heart of interior Alaska because winter is very long and we reach sub-zero temperatures often. We hit -18F yesterday morning, and it fell throughout the day, so a fellow photographer here in my neighborhood and I decided to give it a go ourselves.

boiling water winter trick

How Boiling Water in Frozen Air Works

Here’s your science lesson for the day, folks. While it might seem like throwing boiling water into freezing air is simply freezing the water immediately, it’s actually not. For that to happen, it would actually have to be at least -42F. Instead, what you see when people throw hot water in frozen air, it’s actually condensing incredibly rapidly into tiny water drops, which turn it into steam. So, basically, it looks like you’re throwing a whole snow arc over your head. And yes, it looks really cool.

How to Throw Boiling Water Into Freezing Air

First and foremost, I want to caveat all this with the fact that you can absolutely hurt yourself doing this if you don’t do it properly or at the correct temperature. And yes, it took me three tries to actually throw the water properly because I was so scared that I’d accidentally hit myself with boiling water before it evaporated.

boiling water winter
edited by K. Devine

boiling water freezing air

In theory though, this is what you must absolutely do before trying it yourself:

  • It absolutely, 100% must be at least -14 degrees Fahrenheit for this to work properly; any warmer, and it won’t freeze, and you’ll just burn yourself
  • Do not do this on a windy day; the wind may blow the boiling water on you before it turns to a gas
  • Throw the water out first and then immediately up and back to create that “arc” that people share online
  • The water must be boiling for this to work; if it’s just warm, it will literally just rain hot water on you, and you’ll regret it
  • Don’t be a hero and don’t rush it

Ultimately, this was so much fun to try but, you absolutely have to think about how you do it before you try it…and maybe do your own research first before you try it.

Curious about what it looks like in action? I posted this video of the boiling water trick on my instagram. I’m definitely keen to try it again even colder!