How to Make Fake Snow That Feels Cold

Easy Artificial Snow Instructions

Fake snow
Polymer snow looks a lot like real snow, except you don't need mittens or a coat. Olha Klein / Getty Images

You can make fake snow using a common polymer. The fake snow is non-toxic, feels cool to the touch, lasts for days, and looks similar to the real thing.

Key Takeaways: Make Fake Snow

  • One of the easiest ways to make realistic fake snow is to mix sodium polyacrylate and water.
  • The resulting snow is white, wet, fluffy, and cool to the touch. It is also non-toxic and reuseable.
  • Sodium polyacrylate is a polymer used in disposable diapers, growing toys, sanitary napkins, and gel water sources.

Fake Snow Materials

You only need two simple materials for this project:

What You Do

  1. There are a couple of ways to get the ingredient necessary to make fake polymer snow. You can purchase the fake snow or you can harvest sodium polyacrylate from common household sources. You can find sodium polyacrylate inside disposable diapers or as crystals in a garden center, used to help keep soil moist.
  2. All you need to do to make this type of fake snow is add water to the sodium polyacrylate. Add some water, mix the gel. Add more water until you have the desired amount of wetness. The gel will not dissolve. It's just a matter of how slushy you want your snow.
  3. Sodium polyacrylate snow feels cool to the touch because it is mainly water. If you want to add more realism to the fake snow, you can refrigerate or freeze it. The gel will not melt. If it dries out, you can rehydrate it by adding water.

Helpful Tips

  1. Fake snow is non-toxic, as you would expect from a material used in disposable diapers. However, don't purposely eat it. Remember, "non-toxic" is not the same as "edible."
  2. When you are done playing with fake snow, it's safe to throw it away. Alternatively, you can dry it out to save and re-use.
  3. If you want yellow snow (or some other color), you can mix food coloring into the fake snow.
  4. If you want drier snow, you can reduce the amount of water the polymer can absorb by adding a small amount of salt.
  5. Skin contact with the artificial snow could potentially cause a irritation or a rash. This is because leftover acrylic acid could remain as a by-product of sodium polyacrylate production. The level of acrylic acid is regulated for disposable diapers to be less than 300 PPM. If you choose another source for the chemical that isn't intended for human skin contact, the resulting snow could be itchy.

About Sodium Polyacrylate

Sodium polyacrylate is also known by the common name "waterlock." The polymer is a sodium salt of acrylic acid with the chemical formula [−CH2−CH(CO2Na)−]n. The material is superabsorbent, with the capacity to absorb 100 to 1000 times its weight in water. While the sodium form of the polymer is most common, similar materials exist substituting potassium, lithium, or ammonium for sodium. While sodium-neutralized polymers are most common in diapers and feminine napkins, the potassium-neutralized polymer is more common in soil amendment products.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the material in the early 1960s. Researchers sought a material to improve water retention in soils. Originally, the scientists developed a hydrolyzed product made from a starch-acrylonitrile co-polymer. This polymer, known as "Super Slurper," absorbed over 400 times its weight in water, but did not release the water back again.

Many chemical companies worldwide joined the race to develop a super absorbent polymer. These included Dow Chemical, General Mills, Sanyo Chemical, Kao, Nihon Sarch, Dupont, and Sumitomo Chemical. The first commercial products resulting from the research were released in the early 1970s. However, the first applications were for adult incontinence products and feminine sanitary napkins, not soil amendments. The first use of a super absorbent polymer in a baby diaper was in 1982.

Sources of Sodium Polyacrylate for Fake Snow

Disposable diapers and garden crystals aren't the only sources of sodium polyacrylate for fake snow. You can harvest it from the following products. If the particle size is too big for "snowflakes," pulse the wet gel in a blender to reach the desired consistency.

  • Pet pad
  • Drown-free insect and bird feeders
  • Sanitary napkin
  • Anti-flood bag
  • Gel hot or cold pack
  • Growing toys
  • Inside waterbeds
  • Water blocker for wire and cables