Any woman who’s ever bought a new bag, new shoes, or even a bottle of Advil knows about those little silica gel packets that sternly order us to throw them away and not eat them. We’ve all tossed them (and, presumably, not eaten them), but it’s a safe bet that few of us know why they’re lurking inside all our new stuff.
Silica gel is a desiccant, which means it absorbs and holds water. The gel packs suck up water vapor from the air and keep our new products dry and fresh. They’re frequently found packaged with leather products and other items that don’t react well with moisture.
Although we’re told to throw the silica packs away, there are actually a pretty decent amount of surprising—and smart—uses for the little guys. We suggest keeping a few tucked away, especially now that you know what they actually do. Below, 10 times you can put those pesky little packs to good use.
Dry Your Swimsuit While Traveling
There’s nothing more annoying (and gross) than having to travel with wet clothes. Don’t have time to let your swimsuit air dry? Silica gel packs can fix this, as My Thirsty Spot points out. Throw your suit in a large zip-top bag filled with silica gel packs—the more the better. Seal the bag tightly and let the silica wick away all the moisture from your bikini.
Save a Water-Logged Phone
We’ve all been there: One second your iphone is in your hands, the next it’s deep in the toilet (or a cocktail—no judgement.) While this is a death sentence for most devices, all hope isn’t lost if you have some silica gel packs saved up! Fill a plastic baggie with the packs and slip your phone it. Seal the bag and let the gel suck all the moisture from your phone. Be careful though” Make Life Lovely warns not to be overly eager and turn your phone on too quickly, as this could cause an electrical short and ruin your phone: Be sure to wait a full day or even two.
Protect Silver From Tarnishing
When your silver jewelry or flatware starts to look dirty or less vibrant, it’s most likely tarnished. Tarnish is caused by a chemical reaction between elements in the air coming into contact with the silver. Humidity can expedite this process. A cure for humidity? Yup, silica gel packs. The Daily Mail suggests keeping a few silica gel packs in your jewelry box or silverware drawer in order to keep humidity in check.
Preserve Razor Blades
Do you find that your expensive razor blades are oxidizing more quickly than you’d like? Wonder How To has a simple solution—instead of storing your razors in the open air, exposed to moisture that causes oxidization, keep them in a jar filled with silica gel packs instead. After you’re done showering and shaving, throw the wet blade into the jar and the silica will extract the excess water, nixing bacteria preventing oxidization.
Defog a Windshield
Foggy windshields are not only a nuisance and sometimes difficult to clear, they can also be seriously dangerous. Fog on windshields is condensation caused by humidity or a difference in temperature between the outside of your car and the inside of your car. An easy fix, as suggested by My Thirsty Spot, is to keep a few gel packs in your ride, specifically on the windshield. The packs should absorb some of the excess moisture caused by humidity and keep your windshields less foggy.
Freshen a Gym Bag
Stinky gym bags are the absolute worst—but they’re also hard to avoid. You throw your sweaty workout clothes and sneakers in there, zip it up, and go about your day. If you keep a few silica gel packs in the bag, they’ll help to wick away some of the moisture (read: sweat) that gives gym bags a bad rap. Also, as Wonder How To points out, less moisture means less bacteria, which is something everyone wants. This seems like a no-brainer.
Keep Photos Looking New Longer
Although printing photos may seem like a thing of the past, when it comes to special occasions, nothing beats real, tangible photos that you can hold in your hand. Chances are, if you go through the effort to print a photo, you want that print to last. Store your photos and photo albums in sealed plastic boxes, and line those boxes with silica gel packs. Removing the moisture from the containers will keep the photos from curling and bending due to water exposure.
Dry Flowers Faster
Dried flowers can serve as a memento of a special occasion, or can just look really cool in a vase. The problem? Letting them dry out can take a long time, and can cause a mess. If you place a bouquet in a plastic bag with silica gel packs, you can speed up the drying process—that’s important because, if the dying process takes to long, the flowers can begin to die before they’re totally dried. The Daily Mail suggests throwing a few more packs of silica gel into the plastic bag than you think you need, just to be safe.
Stop Camera Condensation
Fashion bloggers out there, you’ll love this one. Nothing’s more frustrating than a foggy camera lens caused by condensation, especially when going from the cold back inside. My Thirsty Spot, a blogger herself, suggests removing your battery, memory card, and lens and placing them into a bowl of silica gel packs to suck up all that excess moisture. Voila—a crystal-clear #OOTD.