Frozen Shaving Cream

I first heard of the frozen shaving cream prank during my first year at U.C. Santa Barbara. The prank goes like this:

If you freeze a can of shaving cream in liquid nitrogen, then carefully hacksaw the can open, you can pull out a frozen shaving cream cylinder. This frozen foam block will expand at it heats up, making a huge mess! Two frozen shaving cream "bombs" can fill an entire car, so a car with a window rolled down makes the perfect target!

This prank idea is well documented on the internet. It is posted in several places, with some skepticism about the expansion possibilities of a frozen block of cream.

The problem with this joke is the liquid nitrogen. Who has access to it?

I love science. I love chemistry and physics. One time I held both Potassium and Daisy in my very hands, but I've never even seen liquid Nitrogen in person.

Nevertheless, I accepted this prank as possible for many years.

Upon completion of how much is inside shaving cream, I began to have serious doubts about the legitimacy of this story. I witnessed first hand the pitiful patty of shaving cream that lives in those cans.

Then, one day,  I heard that a can of shaving cream could be frozen solid by a household freezer. I decided I'd have to try that some day.

I kept a can of Colgate shaving cream in my freezer for about four days. I wanted to use it as a cool, whipped desert topping, but one night Tony left his car window down a bit and I decided to act.

The steel can was extremely cold to the touch, and felt very solid. I wore an oven mitt to protect my hand from the cold. I also wanted to shield the can from my warm hand.

I wonder how one would grip a can frozen in liquid nitrogen.

I used bolt cutters to snip the bottom seam of the can. A little shaving cream puffed out, so I continued to work quickly.

After a few minutes of work, I was able to remove the bottom of the can with some pliers.

I peeled off the thin steel and extracted the frozen core.

The inside of a wrecked shaving cream can.

I had my prize, an 11-ounce frozen block of shaving cream.

It was already starting to heat up and foam out.

It was a frozen cylinder. There was a little mound on the top, where the cream had reached into the dome of the can.

I placed the cream bomb into a small metal bowl.

In 17 minutes, it was surrounded by a little lake of shaving cream.
The lake grew...
... and grew as the shaving cream thawed.

The shaving cream wasn't holding my attention, so I started watching television instead. Unfortunately, "Blind Date" was the only show on, so I went back to watching the shaving cream.

Two hours after it was released from the can, the shaving cream crested the sides of the bowl.

This was about 8 cups of foam.

After three hours, I fell asleep.

The next morning, I was in a panic.

I had somehow forgotten to study for my Music117 exam! As I rushed to locate my backpack, I found the entire back room overflowing with shaving cream!


Luckily, this was just a dream.

When I actually awoke, the shaving cream had reached the end of it's growth.

The shaving cream had nearly overflowed from the bowl, overfilling it with about 12 cups of foam. It appears that the foam had expanded to about 850% of its frozen volume.

Unfortunately, this isn't very much shaving cream. This could make a real mess, but it certainly isn't enough to fill up a car.

I think the idea behind this joke is brilliant, but I'm skeptical that it could ever work in an impressive way. 

Luckily, opportunities to pull pranks present themselves every day, even for those of us who don't have access to hidden cameras, giant squirrel costumes or liquid nitrogen.

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October 27th, 2003. Terms and Conditions Copyright 2003