Everyone likes getting a new package. There’s a shiny new item inside. Maybe it’s something you’ve been looking forward to getting for a long time, a little treat you’ve allowed yourself.
A little less fun than what’s in the package? The packaging itself!
There’s the box itself, and there’s also all the material designed to keep whatever’s inside safe in transit. If you’re lucky, it’s easily recyclable paper or plastic. If you’re very unlucky, it’s those horrible Styrofoam peanuts that stick to everything.
But there’s something else is in the packaging, too. They usually come in the form of tiny packets, like a sugar packet but smaller, and definitely not edible — it says “DO NOT EAT” right on the paper. These are silica gel packets, and they’re most commonly found in shoe boxes, as well as in packaging with anything that needs moisture kept away. Typically, they’re tossed out once the package is opened.
But like everything from toothpaste to coffee filters, those packets can actually do a lot more than you might think.
The next time you get a new pair of shoes or something in the mail, hang on to those packets, especially if excess moisture is something you have to deal with in your home.
What Do Those Little Packets Do Anyway?
Silica gel packets are full of small grains of silicon dioxide in solid form. The technical name for it is silica xerogel, but most people just call it silica gel.
It’s a desiccant, which means water molecules are drawn to it and out of whatever is surrounding the packet. The water can move through the packaging, which is usually paper.
That means they’re used to keep moisture, and thus mold, mildew, damage, odors, and staining, away from sensitive items. It’s also why you find them in so many packages.
Silica gel is also used in cat litter, water filtration, and as an anti-caking agent in some foods.
But you can also use it around the house!
Use #1: Dry Out Your Phone
Getting your phone wet is a major hassle, but it happens.
To dry out the small openings and components quickly and thoroughly, drop your phone into a Ziploc bag with enough gel packets to cover it on both sides.
Seal the bag and let sit for 24 hours. (Yes, you can make it 24 hours without your phone!)
You can also use this if you’re going to be in a damp environment and want to keep moisture away from your phone — but this is not a waterproofing technique!
Use #2: Keep Jewelry Bright And Shiny
Keep a silica gel packet in your jewelry box to keep moisture away from your jewelry.
Moisture causes tarnish, which not only makes jewelry look less attractive, but also means you have to spend time polishing it.
Place some gel packets in the bottom of the jewelry box to keep the moisture out. This is especially good with plush-lined boxes, as it will keep the fabric moisture-free, too.
Use #3: Banish Odors From Your Gym Bag
Gym bags can get pretty funky after a while with all the damp, sweaty clothing we shove into them.
The smells come from bacteria that live on the moisture, so if you remove the moisture, you remove the smell.
Drop a packet or two into your bag and forget them. They’ll quietly pull the moisture away and leave your items fresh. They work in lockers, too.
Use #4: Keep Dry Goods Dry
Silica gel is inedible, but it can help keep foods like dried herbs, bread crumbs, crackers, and anything else that should be kept as crispy as possible from getting soggy.
If you don’t want to drop the packet right in with the food (which is actually fine, so long as it remains unopened), you can tape a packet to the lid, where it will work just as well.
Use #5: Prevent Damage To Important Documents
Moisture can wreak havoc on paper and damage important documents and photos.
Keep your files and memories safe by putting gel packets into folders and boxes, especially ones that will be shut away in storage for a long time.
They also work to protect audio and video cassette tapes.
Use #6: Get More Life Out Of Pet Food
Just like they work for human food, silica gel packets work for pet food, keeping dry treats and kibble from getting soggy and stale.
This is a great idea for pet owners who buy in bulk to save money — but don’t want the food to go stale in the meantime.
Also just like human food, make sure the packets are unopened. You can tape them to the inside of a box, bag, or jar for added security.
Use #7: Protect Your Pills
A lot of pill bottles c0me with cotton wadding inside to protect the pills from moisture, but not all.
Protect your pills from water damage with a gel packet. It also works great if you’re traveling.
Use #8: Freshen Your Home
For this, you’ll actually need to open the packet!
Tear open a silica gel packet or two (or more, depending on the size of the place you’re trying to scent) and pour the beads into a small bowl or container.
Add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil for instant potpourri.
Be advised, though: Silica gel beads can cause minor skin infections if handled too much, so try not to touch them more than absolutely necessary.
Also, make sure you keep the beads far from the reach of children and animals.
Use #9: Freshen Stale Drawers
A gel packet in a drawer can combat the musty odor that sometimes appears, especially in drawers full of seasonal clothing that goes unused half the year.
Simply slip a packet between layers of clothing, or in the back of a drawer, and it will keep moisture away from your clothing and linens.
Use #10: Keep Seasonal Items Fresh
Items that we don’t use very often, like holiday decorations and luggage, are the most susceptible to odors and moisture damage, so keep them safe while they’re packed away.
A gel packet can be easily dropped into boxes of holiday items, and are especially good for keeping electronics like lights safe. They can also be tossed right into luggage.
Remember, keep the packets away from small children (they do look an awful lot like sugar packets!) and make sure they’re completely intact and sealed before putting them with food items.
By LAURA CASELEY