Halloween Fog Machine Ideas: How To Make Low Lying Fog

Step by step instructions for how to make Halloween graveyard fog that stays low to the ground using only an inexpensive fog machine and a few construction supplies.

Every year I decorate my yard for Halloween with lots of outdoor Halloween lighting and a Halloween graveyard. Using fog that stays low to the ground is a big part of creating that spooky Halloween atmosphere, and I’ve finally learned how to make low lying fog that works!

How to make Halloween fog stay low to the ground

Fog always adds atmosphere to your Halloween yard haunt or party (or pretty much any other Halloween scene you are setting).

With the inexpensive fog machines that are readily available, it’s easy to create fog. But the problem is, most of the time it just seems to evaporate into the air.

And that’s definitely not adding the spooky rolling fog effect you want for your Halloween graveyard.

Fortunately it only takes a few inexpensive construction supplies to fix this problem.

Read on to find out how to make low lying fog that will make your Halloween yard haunt a spooky place to be.

What Makes Great Looking Fog?

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Low-lying fog coming out from under bushes in a Halloween graveyard

Before we get to the low-lying fog tutorial, here’s my list of what I want to accomplish with my low lying fog setup.

1.  The fog needs to stay close to the ground and look like it’s rolling around between the gravestones.

2.  The fog needs to spread across the whole yard, rather than being really thick where the machine is, with very little of it everywhere else.

3.  The fog machine should be hidden from view.

Low lying fog along a pathway in a Halloween graveyard

Some cool Halloween lighting doesn’t hurt either 🙂

What You Need to Make Low Lying Fog

  • 4″ plastic landscaping pipe with holes*
  • black spray paint (optional) – this is only necessary if you get a white landscaping pipe and you want to make it less noticeable
  • plastic water bottles – yes, these are the standard water bottles that you can buy anywhere. You can drink the filtered water, and then refill with tap water for this project
  • duct tape
  • a fog machine* (or 2 if you are covering a large area). Try to find one that you can leave on, rather than having to press the button to create fog. Otherwise, someone will have to operate the fog machine all evening to get it to work. If you happen to have one of these manual-operation fog machines and the cord detaches from the back of the unit, you can get a fog machine timer* which will allow for hands-free operation. Or you can tape the button down so that it stays on.
  • fog liquid*: the regular kind will work.  You don’t need to spend extra for the “heavy” fog that is advertised to stay close to the ground.  It tends to be stickier and can gum up your machine.  You can also make your own fog liquid if you prefer…click here to see the instructions.
  • outdoor extension cord (optional)

How to Make Fog That Stays Low To The Ground

Fog swirling around a Halloween grave stone

Now, the big reveal…how to make low lying fog that stays close to the ground.

The secret is the temperature of the fog.

If it’s too warm, it will rise into the air and evaporate.

Since fog machines use heat to create fog from the fog liquid, warm fog is what you get.

Which is why it tends to evaporate as soon as it gets into the air.

So the trick I’ve learned for how to make low lying fog is to cool the fog right after it comes out of the machine…and use tubes to distribute it out over a wide area.

In other words, make a DIY fog chiller.

Fortunately, this is really easy to do!

To Do Ahead Of Time

1.  Fill the plastic water bottles with water and put them in the freezer.

2. If your plastic pipe is white, you may want to spray paint it black to make it less noticeable.

3.  Make sure the plastic pipe is cut to the right length to fit one side of your cemetery (or wherever you plan to put it).

Plastic drainage pipe with duct tape on one end

4.  Tape one end of the pipe closed with the duct tape.

Drainage pipe hidden under bushes

5.  Lay the 4″ plastic conduit along one side of your cemetery with the open end at the location where the fog machine will go. 

Ideally this should be in a less-visible location…along the side of a deck or under some bushes.

To Do Just Before The Fogging Begins

Frozen water bottle in the drainage pipe

1.  Slide the frozen water bottles into the plastic conduit

2.  Fill the fog machine with fog fluid according to the instructions.

3.  Place the fog machine at the open end of the conduit with the end that produces the fog sticking into the tube. You could duct tape it there if you want to make sure it’s secure, but I don’t usually bother.

4.  Plug the fog machine in and turn it on.  Once the machine has warmed up, you should see the fog coming out of the holes in the pipe and rolling along the ground in a delightfully spooky way!

Note:  Make sure to clean the fog machine following the manufacturer’s instructions (usually by running a water and vinegar solution through it) before you pack it up.  Leaving fog fluid in it will clog up the works, and your machine may stop working.

To Do While Fogging Is In Progress

Halloween graveyard with orange lights and fog

Generally, I just turn the switch to “on” at the beginning of the night and turn it off when the night is over.

Most fog machines have a cycle time, so they will put out fog for a couple of minutes and then stop putting out fog until the next batch of fog is ready.  This cycle works fine in my Halloween yard haunt (although I usually have 2 fog machines going).

Depending on the size of the liquid container in the fog machine and how long you are running the machine, you may need to re-fill it throughout the evening.

My old fog machines used to produce fog for about 3 hours before running out of liquid, but the newest ones I bought only last for about an hour.

So it seems to vary widely from machine to machine.

What Fog Machine Is Best?

The inexpensive fog machines that are available everywhere around Halloween are good enough to create fog for your cemetery.

If you can, find one that has an on/off switch that stays on by itself (like this one*).

That way you don’t have to keep pushing the button every time you want fog to come out.

However, this kind is getting harder to find.

So if you do end up with one that needs to be operated manually, try to make sure that the button unit is detachable from the back of the machine.

Fog machine timer

Then you can replace it with a fog machine timer* that will turn it into a hands-free unit.

If all else fails, you can try taping the button down to keep it on.

How Much Fog Liquid Do You Need?

A lot of fog machines come with a pint container of fog liquid* which should be good for 4 – 5 hours of fogging for one machine.

The gallon containers will be more than enough if you need the fog machine to run longer than that.

Note:  Make sure to clean the fog machine following the manufacturer’s instructions (usually by running a water and vinegar solution through it) before you pack it up.  Leaving fog fluid in it will clog up the works, and your machine may stop working.

Other Halloween ideas you might like

Comments or questions on how to make low lying fog?  Tell us in the section below.

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Halloween fog machine ideas: How to make fog stay low to the ground

This post was originally published on September 25, 2014 but was updated with new content on November 1, 2023.

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  1. Ginger Fleming says:

    I bought a fog machine , but can’t get it to work

    1. Hi Ginger…I had a little trouble getting them to work when I first got one, too. Here’s what I did that worked:

      1. Fill the machine up with the fog liquid
      2. Put the cap back on and make sure that the tube which goes through the cap is pushed all the way in (it has to be in the fog liquid for the machine to work)
      3. Plug the machine in and wait for about 10 minutes. There should be a light on the fog trigger button that comes on when the machine has warmed up
      4. Press the button for the fog to come on. It may take a few seconds for it to start the first time, and it usually makes fog for about 30 seconds. Then it will stop for about 30 seconds until the machine is ready again.

      After that, if you leave the button pressed down, it should start making fog whenever the machine is ready and stop when it needs to re-charge. Hopefully that works for you, too!

      1. Christopher Cruz says:

        Wanda, one thing that I did to my fog machines that made them that much better was adding more insulation to the casing of the fog machine. It does require taking it apart and stuffing the machine with fiberglass insulation to help it heat up quicker and to produce a longer burst of fog. I did this to both of my fog machines (400 &1000 watt) and it really made a difference!
        While you’re in there you can either make the reservoir bigger or change it out completely or make the reservoir external out of a gallon to make your machines last longer on a fill up.
        When it comes to the chiller, I had a friend who brought fish from Alaska. The fish were put inside of a rectangular Styrofoam cooler approximately 2ft X 4ft X 1ft. I made a hole on one end for the machine to shoot the fog into. On the other end I cut out another hole for the fog to come out of. Inside of the cooler I made somewhat of a chamber for the fog to travel through. I did that by installing small supports throughout the entire cooler that will help hold some chicken wire in place as dry ice or regular ice will be added on top of it. I decided to make the chamber in order to let the fog flow freely without obstructions so I wouldn’t need to add any fans to it. Without creating the chamber, the fog will be obstructed and won’t be as great of a burst. In my honest opinion, if you do it without the chamber, it won’t flow as well and most of the fog will stay trapped inside cooler. I mean, it will still work, I assume, but the result wouldn’t be as great as it could be if you spend a little extra time in the build. Either way it works though!!!

        I hope this info helps someone here make their display that much better! Have a great day and Happy Halloween! Be safe out there!

        1. Wanda Simone says:

          Thanks for the suggestions, Chris!

  2. elizaduckie says:

    You may want to check the link for the fog machine and recommend a different one. I only see a used one of this type now on Amazon. You have great ideas! Thanks for sharing them.

    1. Thanks for letting me know…I have updated the link 🙂

  3. Claudia Bell says:

    I’ve tried so many ways of doing this with my 400 watt fog machine, frozen bottles inside the tube but I’m wondering if the tube I’ve used is not helping as hardly any fog come out the end, then it will time out, iguessing the tube I’m using is maybe to small? Not allowing the fog to pass through? I thought it was the machine? Not being powerful enough to push through the fog, or that the tube I’ve used (soft plastic tumble dryer tube) isn’t helping with keeping the fog cool? I’m desperate to get this to work but I don’t know what I’m doin wrong, it trickles out at the end of the tube where as when I take the tube away, the fog is blasting out of the machine??? Help. Xxx

    1. Hi Claudia…I think the dryer tube should be big enough (as long as you can slide the frozen water bottles in it easily, it should work fine). Does the tube you are using have holes in it? To get mine to work, I taped over the free end (so the fog gets backed up in the tube) and then it escapes through the holes in the sides of the tube.

      1. I have a large tub with holes cut at each end. The fog machine points into one hole and a small fan in the tub points out the other hole. I put a bunch of ice in the tub, turn on the fan, close the lid and drape a cloth over it with some decorations on top. You can tape your tube to the outlet, and the fan will force fog through.

        1. Wanda Simone says:

          Thanks for the suggestion, Brent! That sounds like it works well 🙂

  4. Stephanie says:

    How many water bottles do you put inside the tube? Do you need more bottles the longer the tube is? Thanks!

    1. Hi Stephanie…it does depend on how long your tube is. My tube is about 5 feet long and I use 5 water bottles, so it’s about 1 bottle per foot.

  5. Justin Fisher says:

    Hi Stephanie. I was wondering how big the holes are in the tube and how far apart they are to each other?? I got the tube that hasn’t any premade holes?. Also are the holes pointing downward to the ground or does it not matter? Thank you for the great idea. I’ve been fighting my fog machine for about four years now and I think this just might work!!!?

    1. Hi Justin…the holes in my tube are about 1 inch across and about 6 inches apart. I don’t think it matters which way they point…on my tube they are on all sides. Good luck with it!

  6. That sounds like a good approach. I have a pretty high output theatrical fog machine and made a chiller from a styrofoam cooler using a small fan to move air. Fog goes in the top on one end, goes through and across ice (or dry ice) and exits the far end on the bottom. This gives a lot of output for our smaller courtyard-filling effect, but your idea with the perf tube and water bottles is great! That would evenly cover a larger area much better than the single exit strategy.
    Cool stuff Wanda..!

    1. Thanks, Jay! Your chiller sounds a lot more sophisticated than mine is 🙂 I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time I need a centralized fog effect.

  7. So what if I did everything you said but instead of putting duct tape over one end simply place a fog machine on either end of the tube? I plan on using 25-50′ of pipe so I thought this might help push it through the pipe if it was coming from either end?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Jennifer…I think that would work, too. If you end up using the 50′ length, I would definitely test it first to make sure the fog machines are strong enough to push the fog out that far (you might need to add another machine or two in the middle).

  8. Love it, just wondering though: since most fog machines are made for indoor use only, do you bring yours in at night or have it covered to avoid weather damage?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Jenn…I have it in a sheltered location so if there’s no rain in the forecast, I leave it out. If it is supposed to rain, then I bring it in.

  9. Have you ever tried this indoors? I have two fog machines and the fog would disperse so much, it would set off the fire alarm in my school. 🙂

    I would love to use them again for our upcoming haunted house, but I’m afraid that even with the fog rolling on the ground, it will still disperse in the air. Does this technique keep it on the ground and allow it to disperse there?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Liz…I haven’t tried it indoors. But I suspect the fog will still end up setting off the smoke detectors. Since it’s in an enclosed space, it doesn’t dissipate very quickly. So I think it will warm up and start rising before it has a chance to dissolve. Maybe some strong fans would help?

  10. Sarah Scarola says:

    My yard doesn’t have any bushes or other features to hide the tubing. Any suggestions on how mask it effectively?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Sarah…If you get black tubing, you should be able to run it behind some gravestones or props and it won’t be too noticeable at night. Or you could get a couple of straw bales and create a tunnel at the bottom of them that’s big enough for your tube to fit through. Make sure there’s not too much straw covering it at the front so the fog can still get out.

  11. How many water bottle do I need to put into the tube probably 10 feet long

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Travis…I use about one per foot, so ten would be good. You can get away with fewer of them, but your fog won’t stay on the ground as long.

  12. Jennifer Beaury says:

    Can you use dry ice instead of water bottles?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Jennifer…I think dry ice would work, but I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure.

  13. Thomas a daly says:

    There is a much more effective way to do this, instead of frozen water bottles. You buy a styrofoam beer cooler, 1 inch diameter piece of pvc, about a foot long, attach one end to your machine, the other to the hole in the side you create. buy a wire mesh and roll in a tube shape, wrap around the pvc, add another piece of pvc for the exit to the black tube, now fill the bottom with dry ice pieces, then a 20 lb bag of ice to pile on top, seal it. The hot air from your fog is super-chilled, shoots straight through the cooler via your pvc and wire mesh tube and comes out of the other side of the cooler. Much more effective way to chill your fog. Thanks for the posts

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Thanks, Thomas! I have heard of using the beer cooler & dry ice method, but haven’t tried it because it seems like a lot more work 🙂 Good to know it’s effective!

  14. I’ve been struggling with this setup due to the weather. I live in Houston and it’s been warm and windy. No matter how much I cool the fog the wind picks it up and the ambient temperature evaporates it very quickly (been around 80°). I even built a huge chiller out of an old big plastic trash can and filled it with ice around tubing with bottles inside. Still the wind took it away before it had time to spread out. Any advice?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Yes, wind definitely causes problems with the fog. Is there any way you can put up a wind block around the area where you are making the fog? Large potted shrubs would work well, but if you don’t have those a few pallets stood up on end or some branches stuck in large pots should help. (Just make sure they are well anchored so they won’t get blown over).

  15. How big should I make the holes and how far apart should they be? I have a 4″ X 10′ pipe. Thanks so much, I love this design, so much easier & cheaper than others I’ve seen

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Nicole…the holes in my pipe are about 1/2″ wide and about 1 foot apart. I don’t think it matters too much if yours are exactly that distance. I would drill 2 or 3 rows of them on the side that you want the fog to come out of, and it should work great. Happy Halloween!

  16. Hello- This is a great idea and think I’ll try it out this year. Question though. How did you attach the hose to your fog machine?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Jon…most of the time I don’t attach it…just push the hose right up against the fog machine so it’s covering the end where the fog comes out and it works pretty well. The couple of times I did attach it, I used duct tape.

  17. Thank you Wanda from another Halloween loving kindred spirit. I bought a fog machine yesterday and was wondering about keeping the fog on the ground, and voila! here you are with the answer!

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Glad I could help, James 🙂 Happy Halloween!

  18. Kiddies just remember that dry ice is dangerous without supervision. So if anyone is helping remember to warn them the “ice” will burn on contact with unprotected skin. Have fun, be safe.

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Fog machines don’t use dry ice so that’s not an issue in this case. However, they can get hot after they have been on for a while, so it’s still a good idea to be careful.

  19. How many water bottles did you use and how did you distribute them in the tube?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Jed…I use 6 water bottles, but how many you need will depend on how long your tube is. About 1 bottle per foot of tube is what I do. I don’t do anything special to try to distribute them equally…just throw them down the tube. At 1/foot, they pretty much fill up the tube, so there isn’t much room for them to spread out.

  20. How many bottles of frozen water do you put in the pipe?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Willie…It depends on how long your tube is. I use about 1 bottle per foot of length.

  21. Mary Clorite says:

    This is very helpful!

  22. Have you ever tried adjusting the liquid intake so that the machine takes it out of the original/larger juice container? Most of the machines hold only 250ml, and I’m hoping to leave it out longer and not have to constantly refill it. Would be nice to just have it come straight from a gallon bottle.

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Matt…I haven’t tried that. But it seems like it should work, as long as the tube that sucks up the liquid can reach all the way into container. Not having to refill it would definitely be a bonus!