Even if you don’t recognize it by its name, silica gel is one of those products that’s practically everywhere. It’s often found in small paper shopping bags or in shoe boxes, for example.
If you don’t know what it’s there for, you might ignore it or just throw it away immediately. Silica gel is the granular and porous form of silicon dioxide that’s been synthetically manufactured from sodium silicate, a water and glass compound.
The purpose of these little packets is to help eliminate excess moisture from forming when something is stored or unused for a long time.
Because of these packets’ porous nature, they help ensure that your products arrive in perfect condition when they otherwise may have been damaged.
But manufacturers recommend that you take them out of the product once it arrives, because the packets are very fragile and can break open easily.
A little history on silica gel…
Silica gel has been around since 1640, and is well known in the scientific community. But while it was used for a variety of things in the past, it was patented by chemistry professor Walter A. Patrick in 1919.
This product has been used in the cruel gas chambers of World War II, where it served to absorb escaped gases and vapors.
Interestingly, also in World War II silica gel was used to keep penicillin stores dry and in good condition. For that reason, you can thank it for helping to save many lives.
What are some other uses for silica gel?
Silica gel is a drying agent that can be used for many other things around the house.
You should know that the gel by itself isn’t toxic, but certain compounds are sometimes added to the packets to enhance its effects, such as cobalt chloride, which can be harmful to your health.
The granules that you receive in those packets usually have a transparent or whitish color, which turns blue or pink when wet. The bag will indicate whether the gel packet is toxic or not. But let’s look at some of the alternative uses for this product:
Imagine you have a perfect flower that you want to keep, either because it’s sentimental or beautiful. You can it in that condition forever by covering it in silica gel. Make sure it’s completely covered, and wait for two to three days until it dries out (never more than five days).
Keep your silver shiny
As you know, silver tends to tarnish in humidity. Avoid this by storing a bag of silica gel inside your silver box.
To protect your old photographs
Old paper photographs can deteriorate over the years. You can avoid this by storing them with a packet of silica gel.
Prevent wet clothes from smelling
When you go to the pool, beach, or gym you might end up putting wet clothing inside your backpack or bag, causing a bad smell. To avoid this, just put some silica gel packets in your bag.
Please read: Tricks for Odorless and Absorbent Towels
To preserve metal parts
Moisture causes metal to oxidize and rust, destroying tools and instruments. Put one of these silica packets in your tool box and keep this from happening.
Seeds can rot when exposed to prolonged moisture, which can be avoided if you store them with silica gel.
Dry out your cellphone
Sometimes your electronic appliances can get wet. In those instances, you might be accustomed to putting them in a bag of rice to dry out, but they are also exposed to rice dust this way. Silica gel beads perform the same function by absorbing any moisture your electronics have been exposed to.
Other uses for silica gel
- To prevent condensation form forming inside the car, store a silica gel packet under the seat.
- Cat litter is manufactured with silica, which makes it so absorbent.
- You can use silica packets to keep food in perfect condition, as long as you’re sure it’s not toxic. Just remember to never eat the gel.
- Silica can protect cameras and lenses from water damage.
These and many other reasons are why you should hang onto these packets and reuse them, because they can even save the day from time to time.