Silica packs, whether they are described as gel or not, use silicate as the active ingredient. Because silicate is a mineral that works by absorbing moisture through its many microscopic pores, silica packets are mainly used to keep items free of moisture. Silica gel packs are found in shoe boxes and sometimes with dried food, and they are also handy for rust prevention. The contents are toxic when combined with cobalt chloride, which turns the gel red as it absorbs water.
Silica gel packs can be reused if they have not been saturated with moisture, but cannot be left out and exposed for long if there is humidity in the air. Silica packs should be stored in a plastic bag until they are ready to be used and then be stored with the object to be preserved, in a closed container.
The packs can be used with many different items because their only function is to absorb water in the container. They can help preserve important documents and photographs. While oxygen is the main culprit in degradation, moisture plays a role when it comes to paper, food and metal.
Silica gel is used commercially for rust prevention, and it can just as easily be reused by the owner for protecting coins, tools, or even a can of nails. In addition, you can use silica packs to dry out an electronic device such as a cellular phone or iPod. If the device is wet, do not turn it on; instead place it in a sealed container with several packs overnight.
Hide them in your closet in leather goods such as coats and shoes, and handbags, to help them survive life in storage.
Place a few packs on your dashboard to leave your windshield less foggy.
Minerals such as silicate do not decompose any more than glass or rocks. The silicate can be reused indefinitely simply by warming it on low heat in an oven, below 150 degrees. Low heat is necessary to prevent the plastic wrapper from melting.
The beads can be removed from their packs, but be aware that the blue ones contain cobalt chloride. They should be handled with gloves if removed from their packages and should not be used with food. In spite of the small hazard, blue silica beads can still be reused.
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Cy Tottleben; How to reuse silica gel packs; Mother Nature network; accessed July 29, 2014