Silica gel packets aren’t difficult to find; you’ll see them in beef jerky packets, vitamin bottles, and in just about any place where a manufacturer needs to limit moisture. Silica gel is a desiccant, which means that it sucks up water vapor — which, in turn, limits mold growth and spoilage.
So, what is silica, anyway? Put simply (or as simply as we can put it without getting into some serious chemistry), silica is silicon dioxide, a porous material that can absorb up to 40 percent of its own weight in water. It’s sort of like sand — something you’ve probably figured out on your own if you’ve ever curiously opened up a silica packet.
To be clear, you probably shouldn’t pry open silica packets, and you definitely shouldn’t eat silica gel (we’re not sure why you would, but we’re just saying). A bag of silica can pose a health risk if ingested, which is why manufacturers write “DO NOT EAT – THROW AWAY” on every sack. The first part of that advice is solid, but we certainly wouldn’t throw away an extraordinarily effective desiccant.
Here are a few things you can do with silica gel to freshen up your home, car, and…save your cell phone? Keep your dogs happy? Change the world?
There’s a lot of stuff you can do with silica, folks.
1. Drying Your Cell Phone With Silica
Moisture isn’t great for electronics (we know, that’s not exactly breaking news). If your phone gets wet and it doesn’t have any sort of water resistance, your best course of action is to turn it off — don’t try to reboot it, even to “see if it still works.” That sends electricity through a bunch of sensitive components, and any damage will probably be permanent.
After powering the phone off, you’ll want to surround it with some sort of desiccant to suck out the water. Silica packets work better than just about everything else — yes, even rice.
Place your phone in a plastic bag with enough silica packets to cover both sides. Seal it up and let it sit for at least 24 hours (the longer, the better, as the desiccant needs time to do its thing).
2. Use Silica To Keep Your Gym Bag Smelling Fresh
Gym bags just naturally get funky over time. That smell is the result of sweat and moisture building up in the bag (especially when we go to the gym, because we put in work. A body like this doesn’t just happen).
You’ve got the idea by now: Put some silica packets in the bag to suck up the moisture and inhibit bacterial growth. Silica also works well in gym lockers, and we’ve used them to keep our yoga mats fresh. However, you’ll still need to occasionally clean your stuff — silica inhibits growth by removing water, but it doesn’t kill any bacteria that already made its way onto your sweaty, sweaty stuff.
While you can find dozens of options for cleaning gross gym stuff, we keep it simple: A little bit of vinegar and water will get rid of most unwanted odors.
3. Prevent Important Documents From Getting Damaged With…Silica
At this point in the list, we’re just reiterating the obvious. Silica is good for getting rid of moisture — use it to get rid of moisture. Look, this isn’t rocket science, or brain surgery, or rocket surgery.
With that said, if you have paperwork that you need to keep (old tax returns, for example), a silica pouch can prevent the paperwork from accruing moisture. Get a file folder and place a silica packet in with the paperwork. This is also a great trick for keeping old books safe in humid environments, though we’re not exactly librarians — if you have an especially old book that you’re trying to protect, we’d invest in an appropriate case and get advice from a curios dealer (we also think it’d be awesome to, y’know, talk to a curios dealer).
4. Keep Dry Foods Dry With Silica
To reiterate, you really can’t eat silica gel. Don’t eat it. DON’T EAT IT.
But you also don’t need to throw away the packets, particularly if you’ve got a well-stocked pantry. Things like bread crumbs, dried herbs, and crackers can be ruined by moisture, and silica absorbs that moisture.
While you can store the silica gel directly in the food (with the exception of cereals, since, you know, you can’t eat silica and why would you risk that), we just set silica gel packets around our pantry. This is also a great way to keep pet food fresh, particularly if you’ve got one of those big plastic containers that you never clean.
Be honest. You’ve never cleaned your dog food container, have you? Shame on you.
5. Protect Your Pills and Medication with Silica, The Perfect Substance
Some bottles pills come with a pellet of desiccant inside to keep down moisture and prevent the pills from deteriorating. Don’t toss that desiccant. Once the bottle is open, it’s even more important to keep the drying agent in there, as moisture is more likely to get in the bottle.
On a related note, storing your pills in a bathroom medicine cabinet is actually not a great idea. Bathrooms tend to have an excessive amount of moisture in the air. It’s a better idea to store them in a cool, dry place.
6. Keeping Stale Drawers Fresh with Silica, Our New God
Let us all hail at the throne of silica, the Most Perfect, the Most High.
…Sorry, we got carried away there. Look, throw some silica packets in your dresser. Your clothes will stay fresh. While you’re at it, throw some silica packets on the dashboard of your car to stop the windshield from fogging up.
Just fill your home with silica packets. Make sure that every step you take, you’re walking on silica. Quit your job and spend all of your money on silica. Sleep in a giant silica gel packet. Marry silica.
Look, just don’t eat it, okay?