Why Does Ice Stick to Your Fingers?

Have you ever dropped and ice cube and bent down to pick it up, only to stand back up with it stuck to your hand? It’s a phenomenon that doesn’t make a lot of sense at first, since our body temperatures run a lot warmer than ice cubes. However, there’s some serious science behind why this happens with some ice cubes and not others. First, there’s the temperature of the ice cube. Water freezes at 32º F, but ice can actually achieve temperatures much colder than that. So, the colder the ice cube is, the more likely it is to stick to skin upon contact. The other variable is the moisture level of the skin. Even if you haven’t just washed your hands, your skin likely features a tiny bit of natural moisture, in the form of sweat. So, when the cold ice comes into contact with your skin, it causes the moisture to freeze, thus sticking to the skin. Basically, the oxygen and hydrogen atoms in the water molecules of the ice cube want to bind to the oxygen and hydrogen atoms in the sweat on your hand — and hydrogen atoms form strong bonds. Don’t panic! It’s not nearly as unfortunate a situation as the old tongue-stuck-to-the-telephone-pole conundrum. Most of the time, the ice will fall right off after a second or two, because the natural body temperature will cause it to melt. If the cube is being extra sticky and stubborn, however, simply run some warm water over it and you'll quickly enjoy sweet freedom.