We’re sure that you have come across these small packets, often found in a box of new shoes. Most of us throw them away, but have you ever wondered if they are safe, biodegradable or even reusable?
What Does it Do?
The substances contained in these little bags are referred to as desiccants. Cambridge Dictionary defines a desiccant as: a substance used to remove moisture. And that’s pretty much exactly what they do.
There are various different types of desiccant, however silica gel is common because it can absorb a lot of moisture, often up to 40% of its weight. It is effective at a wide range of temperatures, up to around 100 degrees celsius. It can also absorb many different compounds, not just water, including ammonia, alcohols, aromatics as well as various other substances commonly used in manufacturing.
Is it Safe?
What we typically call ‘silica gel’, is a form of silicon dioxide, which has the chemical formula Si02. It is formed from the elements silicon and oxygen.
Do not eat it. Packets of silica gel will normally have DO NOT EAT, printed clearly on the packet. Silicon dioxide itself is not necessarily harmful to humans in small quantities. However, it could present a choking hazard. Also, because it can also absorb a variety other compounds, there is a risk that it could have absorbed some other harmful unknown substances.
Do not inhale it. Inhaling silicon dioxide as a dust can be extremely toxic to humans.
Remember that silica gel could be harmful if ingested and especially harmful if inhaled, so be extremely careful not to leave the little packets in places where young children might be able to get hold of them.
Is it Biodegradable?
Silicon dioxide is found naturally on earth and is a major part of sand in many parts of the world. It is generally considered safe to throw away. However, the packets themselves may or may not be biodegradable depending on what they are made from.
What Can We Reuse it For?
So, silica gel is clearly very useful and guess what? It can also be reused many times without losing its ability to absorb! Once it has absorbed water to its capacity, it can be heated to evaporate the water. What a shame to just throw it away! Here’s a list of ways to reuse these useful little packets in everyday situations. They can help to keep many everyday items fresh and free from unwanted damp and moisture by including a few packets in bags and boxes.
Dry a wet smartphone – leave it to dry out it in a box or bag of silica gel packets.
Reusable fruit and veg bags – help to prevent mould and keep them fresh.
Prevent rust on razor blades – help to make your razors last longer.
Electrical equipment: cameras, laptops, hard drives – help to avoid moisture damage.
Storing sheets and clothing – help to keep them fresh and dry.
Storing shoes – help to keep them fresh and dry and avoid bacterial and fungal growth.
Gym bags – help to keep them fresh and dry.
Make up bags – help to keep them fresh and dry.
Jewellery boxes – help to keep precious metals shiny.
Steamed up car windscreen – leave a few packets on the dash to help prevent it steaming up.
Storing important documents and old photographs – help prevent damage .
Toolboxes – help to prevent rust.
Seeds – help to prevent early sprouting or mould.
These are just a few ideas, let us know about your own!