The jewelry-like silica gel beads are a desiccant, a category of materials used to keep products dry by attracting water to their surface (meaning they adsorb, not absorb, moisture). Their moisture-wicking power makes silica gel packets immensely appealing to manufacturers, preventing water damage in products in transit or sitting on store shelves.
What is silica gel and how is silica gel made
Although silica (silicon dioxide) gel doesn’t grow on trees, the porous mineral does come from the ground. Silica is harvested through a “straightforward” mining process using open pits or dredging, according to Robert Goodin, a mineral commodity specialist with the US Geological Survey’s National Minerals Information Center.
They are made through a process involving sodium silicate and acid. An aqueous solution of sodium silicate is acidified to produce a gelatin mixture. The mixture is washed, then dehydrated to produce colorless silica gel.
How do silica gel packets work?
When placed in a container with an item that needs to be kept dry, the silica gel packets will absorb the moisture in the air, reducing the humidity level and preventing the item from getting damaged by moisture. This is due to the fact that silica gel has a very high surface area, which allows it to attract and retain water molecules through a process called adsorption.
The silica gel packets are made up of small beads of silica gel, which are enclosed in a porous packet material, such as cotton or paper. The packet material allows air to flow through, enabling the silica gel to absorb moisture from the air. The packets come in different sizes and shapes, depending on the type of product they are intended to protect.
Uses for old silica gel packets
Below are various uses for old, discarded silica gel (desiccant) packets.
- Protect important papers (passports, birth certificates, insurance policies).
- Protect paper-based heirlooms such as photo
- Protect film and videotapes
- Protect moisture-sensitive electronics such as cameras and computers.
- Add a few packs to your backpack to keep everything inside dry
- Protect metal tools and razors from rust and tarnish.
- Dry out wet gear such as swimming suits, tents, luggage, and sleeping bags.
- Store with ammo to prevent rusting
- Dry out sweaty sports gear such as shoes and socks (they reduce odor too)
- Protect seasonal clothing and material such as holiday sweaters, winter clothes, blankets
- Protect leather products which are sensitive to moisture and rain
- Store them with seeds to prevent mold
- Protect dehydrated food. Despite their ominous, all-caps warnings about consumption, silica gel packets are generally considered non-toxic. The real concern is the size of the beads—it’s pretty easy for a child to choke on the packet or the beads within it.
- Used as an insecticide, silica works as an insecticide for indoor and outdoor uses in powdered form on “stored grain, other food, feed, and ornamentals; in food handling areas; and on pets and their living/sleeping quarters
Recycling old silica gel packets
Silica gel packets can be regenerated after they have absorbed moisture. Expose them to high heat (about 200 degrees is fine) for a few hours to dry them out. Even laying them out in the hot sun will regenerate a silica gel packet. Once regenerated, store them in airtight Ziploc bags until they are needed.
In-Article Image CreditsWhite non-indicating silica gel desiccant moisture control beads (silica gel packets) via Agm with usage type - Product photo (Fair Use)
Silica gel beads aka silica gel packets or desiccant packets via Amazon with usage type - Product photo (Fair Use)
Featured Image CreditSilica gel beads aka silica gel packets or desiccant packets via Amazon with usage type - Product photo (Fair Use)