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Why does a bucket of water left outside in the cold will most likely break (it happened to me; filled a bucket for cleaning intentions, then something happened and I forgot it outside - then the winter came and when I came to retrieve it, the bottom was cracked), but the ice trays in the freezer?

I get that the water expanded in the bucket and somehow broke it (though i'd like to know exactly * why *; in that case, does the water freeze from top to bottom, or bottom to top? Why doesn't the ice expand upwards, why is the bottom broken? Could the sides break as well?) And so, why does the phenomenon not occur with ice trays?

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the bucket made of? $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2020 at 14:23

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Why does a bucket of water left outside in the cold will most likely break (it happened to me; filled a bucket for cleaning intentions, then something happened and I forgot it outside - then the winter came and when I came to retrieve it, the bottom was cracked)

I am not sure how valid it is to say that it will "most likely break" just after some anecdotal evidence, but we can for sure say that in your case it did break.

Why doesn't the ice expand upwards, why is the bottom broken? Could the sides break as well?) And so, why does the phenomenon not occur with ice trays?

The expansion will occur in all directions, so the breakage will just occur wherever the weakest part is. Of course ice trays are designed to freeze water, so they are designed to not break. The plastic is sufficiently strong enough so that the expansion of the ice cubes will not break them. Additionally, many ice cube trays do not have rectilinear shape - they have slanting walls such that the forces of expansion can be relieved by lifting to accommodate the volume expansion.

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