The Many Uses of Silica Gel. Photo © Liesl Clark
Silica gel is one of those little-understood materials. Although the little silica gel packets say “Do Not Eat, Throw Away” that doesn’t mean you have to follow this misguided advice and think the little gels are poisonous. You’ve likely unknowingly put some in your mouth already or rubbed it all over your body as it’s used in some toothpastes and also exfoliants. They’re a non-toxic inert desiccant that will dry out anything they sit near. Their uses are many and hence it’s worth thinking twice about throwing them away. I collect them and share them in my local Buy Nothing group every 6-13 months with artists and others who praise their worthiness for reuse.
The Carolina Poison Center has this to say about silica gel:
“The gels are a form of silicic acid, which is similar to sand. Silica gel is non-toxic, meaning that it is not poisonous if eaten. The package says “DO NOT EAT” because (1) it is not food, and (2) it could be a choking hazard.”
The ASPCA also deems it nontoxic, usually producing only mild stomach upset, which typically resolves with minimal to no treatment for your pet.
So, now that we’ve determined it’s not a poison to be avoided, we’d like you to not throw it away because those little packets are useful! Silica gel can be reused over and over again and has some excellent applications in the home and office.
This list will go from the most obscure reuses to the most common:
1) If you have trouble keeping your car windshield from fogging due to moisture trapped in your car, place a couple of silica packets on the dashboard and they’ll go to work for you.
2) Put a silica gel packet inside your halloween pumpkin to stave off the mold.
3) Extend the life of your razor blades by placing silica gel packs in an airtight container with silica gel.
4) Throw in your ice skating bag to help keep the blades from oxidizing.
5) Store a few with your fishing gear, especially dry flies.
6) Fight mold! Stash silica packets in the damp corners of your home.
7) (My favorite.) Use silica gel packets as tiny throw pillows for your doll house. If you cover them with scrap fabric, all the better.
8) Use a little in your kitty litter. Your commercial kitty litter manufacturer does.
9) Put packets of silica gel in with your silverware. It slows down the tarnishing process.
10) Place them inside your camera cases, with lenses, to keep your equipment dry.
11) Put silica gel in with your boxes of stored photos and slides to preserve them longer.
12) Your down jackets and down sleeping bags will benefit from a few packets of silica gel to keep moisture out.
13) Put a few packets in with your garden seeds to keep them dry.
14) Stash a packet or 2 with your jewelry to prevent tarnishing
15) All keepsakes in the attic in boxes can benefit from a few silica packets nearby.
16) Keep a couple packs in the pockets of your luggage to keep your clothes and travel items dry.
17) Silica gel and dried flowers are excellent friends.
18) Store them with your electronics.
19) If you have video tapes, DVDs or old audio cassettes, silica gel would be welcome nearby.
20) If you think your silica gel has been exposed to a lot of moisture, you can put them in a 150 – 200 degree oven for a few minutes to dry them out and restore them to functionality again.
21) If you still have silica gel packets hanging about, pass them on to a receptive neighbor through your local Buy Nothing group. Share them, so no one ever has to actually buy them.
22) Use them with your kids to teach about volume. Here’s how one science teacher writes: “I use them in science class. The students love playing with the silica balls when they swell up with water. We measure how much water they can absorbe by measuring them when they are dry then measuring again after a few hours.”
23) When your cell phone falls in the dink, place several packets in a ziplock bag with your wet phone. Leave for 12-24 hours and check for signs of any remaining condensation on lenses, etc. You may just save your cell phone!
24) Another reader tells us that if you put your hearing aid in a ziploc bag overnight with silica gel it can help to keep the moisture out of the hearing aid.
25) Melita tells us they’re a huge help with dirty diapers: “I tape them to the top of the rubbish bin I put nappies in. It absorbs the smells. Every week I change them over. Works a treat!
Don’t stop at 25!
26) Put them in an airtight container with your leftover nori. It’ll keep your nori crisp, not gummy.
27) If you have trouble with dampness in our under-sink cabinet, causing all sorts of damage or the dishwasher powder box to get damp and clump up. Silica gel to the rescue! Throw some packets in with your dishwasher powder.
If you have more reuses for these little packets, please share them here.