You Can't Eat Silica Gel, But You Can Reuse It

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Silica gel is used as a desiccant, an odorless substance that naturally absorbs moisture to keep our purchases from spoiling, molding or degrading due to humidity. Photo: Flickr/Garrattc

There are lots of ways to reuse to products like plastic bottles, fabric scraps and even old carpet…but did you ever think you could apply this mindset to something so small and seemingly insignificant as silica gel packets?

Silica gel is used as a desiccant, an odorless substance that naturally absorbs moisture to keep our purchases from spoiling, molding or degrading due to humidity.

The gel itself, which looks like tapioca beads, is nontoxic unless combined with certain solvents or chemicals. (If this is the case, it must be disposed of as hazardous waste.)

These packets are truly ubiquitous, found in places like vitamin bottles and new shoes. Delay your reflex to chuck them straight into the garbage with these tips.

Electronics Superhero: Are you a photography junkie? Store some silica gel packets in camera bags and with film to absorb moisture after snapping photos in cold or wet conditions, which will keep your lens from fogging or streaking. (To protect against humidity, you can also keep them with photos by tucking them into the backs of frames.)

You can also use them to dry out items like cell phones and iPods after they have gotten wet. Without turning the device back on, pull out the battery and memory card and leave overnight in a container filled with several gel packets.

Natural air refresher: Make your own potpourri by cutting open the packets and saturating the beads with essential oils. Set in a bowl or baggie.

Paper goods: Protect important personal documents by storing them with bagged silica beads.

Rust banisher: Put a few gel packets in your toolbox or a container holding your razor blades to prevent rusting. Also, slow the effects of tarnishing by using the gel in jewelry boxes and with silverware.

Better than mothballs!: Tuck some packets in the pockets of clothes, especially leather goods such as coats, shoes and handbags, to help preserve the fabrics and materials while they’re waiting to be worn in your closet. This also works with luggage while traveling or in storage.

Gardening: Place with seeds in storage to thwart molding, or use the material to dry flowers.

Pet uses: To avoid those big bags of kibble from getting soggy, store dry food in a bin and tape silica packets to the bottom of the lid.

You can also disperse the beads throughout cat litter (if the brand doesn’t already) to put its absorption properties to the test. This will result in fewer litter changes and so, better bang for your buck.

Defogger Extraordinaire: Safety first! Place some silica gel packets on the dashboard of your car to help maintain a clear windshield in times of high humidity. This works just as well in the corners of your windowsills to dissipate condensation. You can also leave a packet in an eyeglass case.

After the silica gel absorbs water (up to 40 percent of its own weight), it loses its effectiveness. But there is a silver lining to this raincloud: the beads can be reactivated and reused repeatedly.

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