You’ll find little packets of silica gel in everything from shoeboxes to bags of beef jerky.
They are often labeled with the words “Do Not Eat, Throw Away”. But if you have delicate items that you are storing away, the tiny silica gel packs you find in countless consumer items can go a long way towards keeping your stuff in tip top condition.
Before we talk about how you can reuse silica gel packets around the home, let’s take a moment to learn about what exactly silica gel is and how it works.
What is Silica Gel?
Simply put, silica gel is a material that absorbs excess moisture in the air. It is created from silicon dioxide, which you might know better as sand. Silicon dioxide is a compound found in quartz, and is the primary component of beach sand. The unique properties of silica gel make it an excellent drying agent, and its commonly used to prevent damage to items caused by excess moisture.
How is Silica Gel Made
Through a basic chemical reaction, silicon dioxide is turned into the substance called sodium silicate. Sodium silicate is combined with an acid in a process developed by John Hopkins University professor Walter Patrick in 1919. When allowed to dry the substance becomes what is known as a xerogel, which is a gel that has dried into a solid form.
How Does Silica Gel Work?
Silica gel beads are a powerful desiccant, which is a type of substance that absorbs moisture from the air to maintain a dry environment. On a microscopic level, silica gel is extraordinarily porous. This porous structure allows silica gel to attract and hold water molecules through a process known as adsorption. Adsorption simply means the water molecules are retained as a thin film that covers the silica gel’s surface area.
What is Silica Gel Used For?
Now that we know what silica gel is and how it works, let’s find out how it can be used. You’ll often find silica gel packets in consumer products such as snacks, shoes, electronics, and many other items. That’s because silica gel helps maintain a moisture-free environment, preventing potential spoilage or damage caused by humidity or condensation.
When it comes to keep your own personal items safe and secure, you can reuse silica packs from products you purchase or buy new ones. When placed in air tight container, silica gel can prevent your items from rusting, tarnishing, or attracting mildew and mold.
Another good thing to know is that silica gel can be reactivated once it reaches its moisture holding capacity. By baking in an oven at 200 degree for about 15 minutes the moisture is evaporated and the little packets can be used again and again.
Use Silica Gel Packets When Storing Your Stuff
If you are stashing away some of your valuables in a self-storage unit, or even around your house, using silica gel packets is a smart way to help your items stay in their pristine condition.
Even a small amount of moisture caused by high humidity or condensation can cause irreversible damage to certain items. To protect your items in self-storage, we generally recommend opting for a climate-controlled units. Adding a silica gel packet or two to your boxes and totes can provide another layer of protection for a wide array of items such as:
- Important documents
- Family photos
- Jewelry box
Also you should know that silica gel is harmless and non-toxic. The warning label is primarily due to the packets posing a choking hazard to small children. Also, some types of silica gel beads having an additive known as cobalt chloride. Cobalt chloride causes the silica gel to change color from blue to pink when it it is fully wet. That substance is toxic if ingested. Otherwise, there isn’t much to worry about when it comes to handling silica gel.
As you can see there are plenty of good uses for silica desiccant packs. Moisture damage can wreak havoc on your personal items. By using a little silica gel when storing your items, you will help ensure that your stored items are safe and secure for months and years to come.