We’ve all seen them, and we’ve never really thought twice about them. But those little packets we see in our shoe boxes and shipments from Amazon are called silica gel packets. They’re full of small grains of silicon dioxide. The water can move through the packaging, which is usually paper. What’s their purpose? To keep moisture, and thus mold, mildew, damage, smell, and staining, away from sensitive items. And that’s why we find them in closed packages.
But those little packets actually have lots of uses other than just sitting in a box and collecting dust. For example, they can be used in cat litter and even as an anti-caking agent in food. So let’s see what else these nifty little packages are good for.
My suggestion: start saving those little packets and save them for a rainy day (or use them every day).
Dry Out Your Phone
Problem: You drop your phone in the sink (or worse, the toilet!)
Solution: Put your phone in a Ziploc bag with silica gel packets inside and make sure there are enough to cover the phone n both sides. Seal the bag and let it sit for at least 24 hours.
Listen, it happens to the best of us. Our phones drop in the toilet (ew), and we have to not only pluck it out as fast as humanly possible, but we also have to find a way to rid the device of all the moisture it just got enveloped in. And since silica gel sucks up moisture, it does the job well.
Keep Jewelry Sparkly and Shiny
Problem: You’re sick of wearing old-looking and tarnished rings and necklaces.
Solution: Keep some silica gel packets in your jewelry box to keep moisture away and prevent them from oxidizing and turning black or green.
Moisture causes tarnish, making your jewelry look less shiny and clean. Placing those gel packets in your jewelry box will keep all the moisture that naturally enters out. This is especially useful for plush-lined boxes because it will keep the fabric moisture-free as well.
Keep Your Gym Bag Odorless
Problem: Your gym bag gets really smelly really fast.
Solution: Put silica gel packets in your gym bag and let them do their magic. They’ll pull the moisture out and leave your items a lot fresher.
That bag you take to the gym gets pretty funky, right? It’s all those damp and sweaty towels and clothes and even shoes that you jam in there and don’t always take out when you get home. The smells come from bacteria that thrive on moisture. So if you rid the moisture, you rid the smell! Oh, and these are good for gym lockers, too.
Keep Food Dry and Crispy
Problem: Your dry food items are getting soggy too quickly.
Solution: Tape a silica gel packet on the lid of the food package to keep that crunch in those dry foods.
It’s important to note that silica gel is inedible, so don’t think that it can be digested in any way! But it can help keep foods like herbs, bread crumbs, crackers, and any other food that’s meant to be dry and crispy from getting soggy. If you don’t want to put the packet inside the package or container, you tape it to the lid, where it works just as well. But make sure the gel packets aren’t open.
Protect Important Documents
Problem: You have a folder (or folders) with important documents that simply cannot get ruined.
Solution: Add silica gel packets to your file organizers and boxes.
Moisture builds up in most cases naturally, and it can cause major damage to paper, such as important documents. So if you want to keep your files and memories safe, putting gel packets into folders and boxes will keep moisture out. And this is especially important for those that you put in storage for a long time. It’s also great for audio and video cassette tapes (for those of you who can’t bear to throw them out).
Keep Pet Food From Getting Stale
Problem: You buy dog food and treats in bulk, and you don’t want it to go stale too soon.
Solution: Put some of the silica gel packets in your dog’s food container.
Just as they work for human food, those packets do wonders for pet food, too. They help keep dry treats and pet food from getting soggy and stale. This is perfect for those of us who like to buy pet food in bulk to save money. You can tape the packets to the inside of a box, bag, or whatever container you use. And again, make sure the packets are unopened.
Protect Your Pills and Vitamins
Problem: You’re traveling to a hot country, and you want to bring your bottle of pain, reliever pills, and vitamins, but there’s no cotton in the bottle.
Solution: Put a silica gel packet in the pill bottle to keep the pills dry like they’re supposed to be.
While most pill bottles already come with a cotton wad inside with the same purpose as gel packets, not all of them do. Sometimes you purchase a bottle with no water protection whatsoever. In that case, gel packets can do the job. It’s a great solution for when you’re traveling; especially if to a hot country.
Freshen Up Your Home
Problem: Your home isn’t smelling as fresh as you would like it to.
Solution: Tear open a silica gel packet and pour the beads into a small bowl. Add some drops of your favorite essential oil for instant potpourri.
This time, you’re actually going to need to open the gel packets. And depending on the size of the room you’re trying to make smell better; you can decide how many packets to use. Be aware that silica gel beads can cause minor skin infections if they’re handled too much. So try not to touch them more than you need to. And keep the beads away from children and animals.
Freshen Up Your Drawers
Problem: Your drawers get musty, and your clothes have a slight smell from being in a drawer too long.
Solution: Put silica gel packets in your clothes drawers.
The gel packets, when placed in a drawer, can fight musty odors that sometimes happen, especially in those drawers that are full of seasonal clothing that go unworn for half of the year. Slip a gel packet between layers of clothing or linens, or even in the back of a drawer, to keep moisture at bay.
Keep Seasonal Items Fresh
Problem: Your holiday and vacation stuff is getting water damage in their storage boxes.
Solution: Put the silica gel packets in your holiday storage boxes.
There are many items that we don’t use for most of the year, such as holiday decorations and luggage. And since we pack them away for most of the year, they are susceptible to moisture damage and smells. A gel packet can be easily dropped into those boxes of your holiday things. It’s especially important for electronic items.
Prevent Photos From Water Damage
Problem: You find your stored photos with water damage.
Solution: Add silica packets to albums or envelopes with photos to keep them safe and free from moisture.
I recently pulled out an old family album and noticed that some of the pages, along with the photos, were wet. And I was bummed out. Photos are precious and water damage can’t be undone. But you CAN prevent it. If you also have valuable photo albums or boxes with photos that you want to keep dry, put some silica gel packets in between the two pieces of card stock in each sheet protector.
Keep Your Collectibles in Mint Condition
Problem: You collect things like baseball cards, and they need to remain in pristine condition.
Solution: Keep silica gel packets in whatever you use to store the items.
Many of us like to collect stuff, whether it’s baseball cards, coins, stamps, or other sentimental items. But the thing about collecting is that they need to be kept in mint condition. If there’s any water damage whatsoever, the value will decline if not vanish completely. So you need to put silica gel packs in the book, box, or whatever it is you keep your collectibles in.
Get Rid of the Musty Smell From Old Books
Problem: You love old books, but you hate the way they smell.
Solution: Place a musty book in a bag with several gel packs for a few days to get rid of that stuffy smell.
Maybe you have a library in your home with lots and lots of books, or maybe you like to buy vintage books. I personally love books, old and new, but what I don’t love is the smell. Sure, some will say that musty smell is part of the whole feel, but I think it’s unnecessary and if it can be removed, then why not? Put those musty books in a bag with some gel packets, and a few days later, they should be smelling a lot fresher.
Reuse the Gel Packets When They Get Full of Moisture
Problem: You’ve been using these gel hacks, and your gel packets are not working well anymore.
Solution: Put the packets in the oven to give them a restart.
If you notice that the packets just aren’t doing their job anymore, don’t rush to order something online just to get more of them. You can always reuse them! Silica gel packets collect moisture and will quit working eventually. So what you can do is put them in the oven at 200 degrees and then store them in an airtight Ziploc bag until you use them again.
Gardening For the Next Year
Problem: You want to save seeds for next year’s planting and keep them in proper condition.
Solution: Store the seeds with silica gel packets to prevent mold from forming.
If you love gardening, you’re going to love this. You can save your own seeds for when you want to plant next year. But the key is preventing mold from forming. Add a gel packet to your container and make sure it’s airtight. You can keep the different seeds in small envelopes and put them all in an airtight container together with the gel packet inside. You only need one packet for each shoebox-sized container.
Keep Your Laundry Hamper From Smelling
Problem: Your dirty clothes hamper stinks.
Solution: Place a few gel packets in the bottom of dirty clothes hamper to get rid of the smell of dirty clothes.
Another common place that gets its share of moisture in the laundry hamper. Damp clothes can sit in there and not only do the clothes pile up, but so does the smell. So if it’s not yet laundry day, but the bin is starting to smell, you can keep a gel packet at the bottom of the hamper.
Keep Your Hearing Aid or Headphones Dry
Problem: Your headphones or hearing aid is getting moist, or you’re in a hot and humid area.
Solution: Store them when not in use with gel packets to remove any moisture from the inside.
You might be traveling to a hot country, or maybe you live in a humid area. The last thing you want for your earpieces and hearing aids is for them to be destroyed by getting too much moisture inside. So store them somewhere that also has a silica gel packet.
Prevent Your Car Window From Fogging Up
Problem: Your car window fogs up too fast, and it’s a hassle to remove.
Solution: Place a few gel packets in between your dashboard and windshield to keep it from fogging up too much.
A foggy window isn’t as easy to minimize as some dirt on the outside of the windshield that can easily be removed by turning on your wipers. Fog takes a little bit more skill as well as patience. And it can even be dangerous if it obstructs your vision. So here’s another way in which the gel packets can make your life that much better.
Maintain Your Flowers’ Colors When Drying Them
Problem: You want to dry your flowers but are afraid they’ll lose their color.
Solution: Put some packets over the flowers in a small bowl to maintain their color when drying.
If you love to act of drying flowers, or you want to try for the first time but are afraid that the flowers will lose their color potency, this can help speed up the process and keep the vibrant colors. Put the flowers in a bowl and see how the petals stay colorful.
Prevent Camera Condensation
Problem: You have a camera bag with expensive equipment, and you want to prevent any water damage.
Solution: Add the gel packets to your camera bag with lenses and other camera equipment.
If you are a camera hobbyist or a professional photographer, you know that camera equipment can get pricey. And the last thing you want is for it to get damaged by some unnecessary water damage. And if you happen to be out taking photos in a cold place with snow, condensation can happen easily and quickly. What you can do is remove the battery, memory card, and lens and place them in a bowl of silica gel to suck up the moisture. Or just put a few packs in your camera bag.
Keep Your Camping Gear Dry
Problem: You’re going camping, and your gear tends to get full of moisture.
Solution: Add a few gel packs to your camping gear to prevent smell and mold.
I grew up camping with my family every summer. So I know how easy it is for tents and camping gear to gain moisture. While there’s not much that can be done when the tent is up and being used, you can keep it from getting too wet when you’re packing everything up. Throw a gel packet in each tent and other gear when you’re rolling them up and putting them in the car.
Speed Up the Drying Process of Wet Shoes
Problem: You washed your shoes, or they got wet in the rain, and you need to put them in the closet or pack them up and go.
Solution: Add a few silica gel packets inside of them before putting them away.
Sometimes you put your canvas shoes in the laundry but can’t wait the 24 plus hours for them to dry. Or perhaps you came home from a rainy day, and your shoes are all wet. And there’s also the chance that your shoes got wet on vacation and you need to pack up before they have the time to dry. Silica gel packs will do the trick. Put one in each shoe, and it’ll speed up the process.
Extend the Life of Razor Blades
Problem: Your razor blades are dulling or turning green prematurely.
Solution: Store your razors in a sealed container with some silica gel packets.
Oxidation and moisture are the reasons why razor blades dull before their time. If you want to extend the life of razors as much as possible, keep them in a closeable container with a few gel packets. This way your razors will last longer, and you won’t have to buy as many. Yay for saving money!
Keep That Medicine Cabinet Nice and Dry
Problem: Your medicine cabinet is in your washroom and moisture builds up.
Solution: Put some packets in your cabinet to prevent the buildup of moisture from steam.
Similar to how you can put a gel packet in your vitamin or pill bottle, you can also keep them in your medicine cabinet. And since most people have medicine cabinets in their bathrooms that double up as mirrors, they can get a lot of moisture from the humidity that results from all the steam. So place some packets on the shelves in the cabinet to keep the moisture at a minimum.
Prevent Water Damage to Your Silverware
Problem: You have antique or valuable silverware that you want to keep crystal clean.
Solution: Place the packets in the box with the silverware to prevent them from tarnishing.
Whether you have valuable silverware or you got some of your grandma’s fancy antique spoons, you’re probably going to want to keep them in good condition. To keep them from tarnishing, put some packets in the box. Preferably a closed box.
Protect Your Computer
Problem: Your computer is placed in a humid environment.
Solution: Keep dampness from harming your computer by storing some gel packs inside the computer case.
If you live in a humid environment or if you have a humidifier in your room, you should think about protecting your computer. Electrical equipment and moisture don’t go well together. So your computer should be kept dry. Put some gel packets in the computer case to keep it as dry as possible.
Prevent Your Tools From Rusting
Problem: Your tools are getting rusty and preventing you from using them properly.
Solution: Store the gel packets in your toolbox to keep them from rusting.
If you want to extend the life of your nails, screws, screwdrivers, and other tools use some silica gel packets to keep the moisture away. When tools get rusty, it damages their usability, making it harder to get the job done. And considering tools are quite expensive, the less rusty they are, the better.
Powder Laundry Detergent
Problem: Your powder laundry detergent gets clumpy.
Solution: Add a couple of silica gel packets to remove moisture and prevent clumping.
Not all of us choose to buy the heavy bottles of laundry detergent. For those who prefer to buy detergent in powder form, the problem is moisture can get in, and the powder can clump up. It only makes it harder to use. So the gel packets in the box will keep the clumps away.
Too Much Water?
Problem: You watered the plants and poured too much water on some potted plants.
Solution: Place the plant out in the sun with a few gel packets on top of the soil to pull the excess water.
I’m guilty of doing this one too many times. I water the plants and end up drowning them. And that’s not the way to take care of plants! So if you happen to pour too much, it’s not the end of the plant’s life. Some sun and silica will save the day.
Keep Your Coin Collection Shiny
Problem: Your coin collection is too precious for any moisture to ruin it!
Solution: Keep a few silica gel packets in the box where you store your coins.
This is the same logic as the silica gel packs in the silverware box. Coins are a very popular collectible and the people that collect them try their best to keep them in pristine condition. And that means no water damage!
Keep Your Makeup and Travel Bag Dry
Problem: You live in a humid place (or are traveling), and you want to keep your makeup bag dry.
Solution: Place some gel packets in your make up drawer (or bag).
If you live in a humid place, drop a few silica packets in your makeup drawer or bag. And especially if you’re traveling to a warm and humid place, you want your travel bags to stay dry and clean. Those toiletry bags can get especially damp and yucky. These packets will help.
Problem: It’s Halloween. You’re in the carving mood. You don’t want your pumpkin getting moldy.
Solution: Put some silica beads inside the pumpkin to prevent mold.
Who doesn’t love carving a really cool pumpkin for Halloween? If you don’t want the thing to rot prematurely and get moldy, you can first remove the top of the pumpkin. Take a silica bead or two and put it into the interior of the pumpkin.
Save Your Luggage
Problem: You’re on the way home from a trip, and your luggage is going to get smelly and gross.
Solution: Put some gel packets in your luggage during your trip.
Luggage can really take a beating during and after a trip. The worst is the way home when you stuff all of your things into one tight bag – clean and dirty clothes together. The problem is it can smell. Prevent moisture damage and odors by adding a few silica packets to each bag for the duration of your vacation and especially on the way home.
Problem: You have an underwater camera, but you want to keep it working as long as possible.
Solution: Put some packets in the camera’s casing when you store it.
Underwater cameras are meant to get wet, of course. But you still don’t want them to be too wet when they’re not being used. A build up in condensation can leave fog marks on your lens and obstruct a nice clean shot. Two packets of silica gel can absorb all the leftover water.
Your Gun Case
Problem: You don’t want your gun ammunition to rust.
Solution: Put some gel packets in your gun case or safe to prevent the ammo from rusting.
If you have guns and shooting is your thing, you’ll know how easily guns and their ammunition can rust. So if you want to preserve your ammo for as long as possible, store your hunting equipment with a few packets of silica gel to stop this from happening.
The History of Silica Gel
Silica gel was used way back when, as early as the 1640s, as a scientific curiosity. It was reportedly used in World War I to adsorb vapors and gases in gas mask canisters. Are wondering who’s the face behind this miracle substance?
Silica gel was patented by chemistry professor Walter A. Patrick at Johns Hopkins University in 1918. But after seeing how silica gel proved itself useful in World War I, it was then used in the next world war.
Silica Gel in World War II
In World War II, silica gel was used in the war effort for the purpose of keeping penicillin dry, protecting military equipment from water damage, as a fluid cracking substance for the production of high octane gasoline.
It was also useful when it was used as catalyst support for the production of butadiene from ethanol (feedstock for synthetic rubber production). But other than its use in the major world wars, silica gel has other non-household purposes.
Silica gel can be used to keep the relative humidity inside a high-frequency radio or satellite transmission system waveguide to a minimum. Excessive moisture in a waveguide can cause damage and ruin the power amplifier feeding it.
Silica gel is also used to dry the air in industrial air conditioning systems. The air from the compressor flows through a bed of silica gel beads, which adsorb moisture from the air and prevent damage at the point of use.