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

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There are lots of ways to reuse to products like plastic bottles, wine corks, and even old CDs and DVDs … but did you ever think you could reuse silica gel packets?

An odorless substance that naturally absorbs moisture, silica gel is used as a desiccant to keep products from spoiling, molding, or degrading due to humidity. The gel, which looks like tapioca beads or white crystals, is a form of silicon dioxide, which is found in nature as quartz and in sand. Nontoxic on its own, it may be combined with certain solvents or chemicals that make it toxic. (In that case, it must be disposed of as hazardous waste.)

Packets of silica gel seem to be ubiquitous. You’ll find them in products ranging from bottles of vitamins to shoes to new electronics. Before you chuck them straight into the garbage, check out these reuse tips.

Electronics Superhero

Are you a photography junkie? Store some silica gel packets in camera bags to absorb moisture after snapping photos in cold or wet conditions. The silica will help keep your lens from fogging or streaking. If you still use film, store it with silica for moisture protection. And if you have framed photos, tuck silica packets in the backs of frames to protect against humidity.

You can also use silica to dry out electronics like cell phones and iPods after they have gotten wet. Without turning the device back on, pull out the battery and memory card and put the device in an airtight container filled with silica gel packets for at least 48 hours. Note: The longer you let it dry before trying to turn it on, the better the chance it will work when you do.

Natural Air Refresher

Make your own potpourri by cutting open the packets and saturating the silica gel with essential oils. You can also use the silica gel to dry flowers to make your potpourri more decorative.

Paper Protector

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

Rust and Tarnish Banisher

Put a few gel packets in your toolbox, tackle box, or a container storing your razor blades to prevent rusting. Also, slow the effects of tarnishing by placing a few silica gel packets in jewelry boxes and with silverware.

Mothball Companion

Tuck some packets in the pockets of clothes, especially leather goods such as coats, shoes, and handbags. The silica won’t keep away moths, but it will 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.

Seed Protector

Place packets of silica with seeds in storage to thwart molding.

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. Note: Carefully inspect the packets first and don’t use any that are torn or have holes — you don’t want to feed silica to your pet.

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

Defogger Extraordinaire

Silica gel to the rescue! Place some silica gel packets on the dashboard of your car to help maintain a clear windshield in times of high humidity. The silica also works well in the corners of your windowsills to reduce condensation. You can also leave a packet in eyeglass cases.

Reactivate and Reuse!

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

Do you have suggestions for reusing silica gel packets? Share them with the community in the Earthling Forum.

Feature image courtesy of sharyn morrow. Originally published on August 6, 2010, this article was updated in January 2020.

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Comments

  1. Great article, really interesting! I never even knew why silica gel was used.
    Can’t wait to try all these ideas out 🙂

  2. I love the reusing idea, but have to question the drying out part in the link at the end. Is baking these crystals for five hours really better than disposing of them? That’s quite a lot of gas/electricity to use.

    Just a thought….

  3. Great article! I use store bought silica for drying flowers and I’m pretty sure that you can re-activate the crystals in the sun on a hot bright day in low humidity locations of course.

  4. I never knew silica gel could be used for various purposes apart from absorbing moisture in shoes and drugs.
    And the best part is that it can be recovered and reused.
    I’m off to scout for packs of silica gel.

  5. I’d be very reluctant to add crystals of silica gel to my cat’s little pan. I’d be concerned that at some point – after leaving the pan – she would lick her paws and ingest crystals, which would stick to her oral cavity and digestive pathways, causing her distress. I might consider adding closed packets of silica,…

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