When it comes to Halloween decorating, even the scariest haunted house or front yard cemetery isn't the same without the spooky billowing of fog in the air. You can purchase or rent a fog machine, but it's actually quite easy to make one yourself to create professional-looking fog that would make any ghost proud. All you need is a plastic bucket and some basic materials, plus dry ice and hot water. And after Halloween, you can continue to use the fog machine for special effects at theatrical performances, school dances or any occasion you might need fake fog or smoke.
Things You'll Need
- Plastic bucket with lid, between 3-5 gallon capacity
- Plastic duct hose
- Utility knife
- Hot glue gun
- Small battery-operated fan
- Duct tape
- Hot water
- Dry ice
Cut a Hole in the Bucket
The plastic bucket will need a hole to fit a plastic hose, which will direct the fog out of the bucket. With a marker, trace the circumference of your hose near the top of the bucket. I used a vacuum hose, but you can use any plastic duct hose you might have around the house, or find some at a hardware store.
Plastic buckets can be pretty thick and difficult to cut. I used a kitty litter bucket, which is actually softer than standard buckets that are available at hardware stores. To make cutting the plastic even easier, drill holes first around the circle you've drawn.
Cut the opening in the bucket with a utility knife using the pre-drilled holes as a guide. Keep expanding the opening, testing the size with the hose to make sure it fits snugly.
Cut the Hose
Trim the hose to between 6 and 12 inches with the utility knife. If the hose is thin enough, you can even use scissors. A shorter hose will disperse the fog in a fixed direction. A longer hose will allow you to bend it to change the fog's direction.
Attach the Hose
Insert the hose in the opening of the bucket. The hose should be flexible enough for you to squeeze it through. Expand the opening with the utility knife if necessary.
Apply hot glue where the hose and the bucket meet to secure the hose and seal the opening.
Cut an Opening in the Lid
We'll be using a small battery-operated fan to push the fog through the hose. To install the fan, trace the fan on the lid with a marker, but making the tracing marks a little smaller than the fan on all sides.
As with the main part of the bucket, drill holes around the markings to make it easier to cut the opening in the lid.
Finish cutting the opening with the utility knife. Notice that it wasn't necessary to drill completely around the markings first. Even a few holes just to get the utility knife started was enough.
Attach the Fan to the Lid
Place the fan face down on the hole to check if there are any gaps between the fan and the lid. Apply duct tape to the perimeter of the lid opening to cover up any gaps.
Hot glue the fan face down onto the lid.
To reinforce the fan's attachment and further eliminate any gaps, completely seal the sides of the fan with duct tape.
Flip open the lid and seal any gaps on the other side with duct tape. Now the fog machine is ready to use.
Add Hot Water to the Bucket
Pour hot water into the bucket up to about two inches below the hose opening. Do not let the water reach the hole, and be sure to account for the volume of the dry ice that will be added later. You can use cold water, but hot water creates the thickest smoke. For safety purposes, use hot water from the tap, but test the water to make sure it does not burn.
If you intend to boil the water, be sure to cool it down until it's cool enough to touch. You do not want anyone to get scalded with boiling water.
Add the Dry Ice
Dry ice is available in many grocery stores and liquor stores, and are usually sold in 10-pound bags. Wearing gloves, carefully place a small chunk of the dry ice in the hot water and shut the lid. Don't put all the dry ice in the bucket at one time. You can replenish it as necessary.
When handling dry ice, always wear protective gloves because touching the dry ice with your bare fingers will cause burns.
Turn on the Fan
Turn on the battery-operated fan, and the air will push the fog down the bucket and through the hose. Some fog will escape through the back of the fan, but the amount will be minimal. Add small pieces of dry ice every five to ten minutes. You may also want to replace the water as it cools with hot water for heavier fog. A 10-pound bag will create about 30 minutes of fog.
Jonathan Fong is the author of three books: "Walls that Wow," "Flowers that Wow," and "Parties that Wow." He currently hosts the web series "Style With A Smile."