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Homemade Desiccant Packs You Can Make at Home for Food Storage

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These homemade desiccant packs are a great way to preserve the quality of your bulk dry goods. Using a moisture absorber to keep foods fresh can prevent a tremendous amount of food waste. And these moisture packs? They’re reusable!

Floral print homemade moisture absorber in a pile on a brown background

You know that little white moisture absorber that come in food and supplement packages? That is a desiccant. For years, I didn’t give them a second thought. They were just another bit of packaging that I disposed of. Then my wily two-year-old (who is now an adult) found a packet in a shoe box. And ate it.

Poison control assured me that while it’s probably not something I’d want to add to my daily menu, the silica gel inside the moisture pack was non-toxic. Whew.

Reconsidering that moisture absorber

Many years later, those little moisture packs came into my awareness again. I was lamenting the loss of bulk oats to our humid climate. Even stored in a five-gallon food grade bucket, moisture was causing them to go “off” and eventually mold.

One of my readers–who happens to live on this island and is familiar with the climate–shared her successful storage secret with me: Homemade desiccant packs. It took me an embarrassingly long time to implement her tactics and make some of these moisture packs, but here I am, finally sharing it with you. (Thanks, Flavia!)

Moisture packs

First, you should know that if you don’t sew or just can’t be bothered, regular ole Joe Consumer can buy desiccant packs for food storage. This was news to me.

You can even (I’m told) reuse these moisture absorbers by following the method I outline below. But if you store a lot of food, homemade desiccant packs can be more cost effective, and I suspect they’ll last longer.

Make a homemade moisture absorber

Materials needed: 

  • Cotton fabric
  • Silica gel beads (the ones I used are no longer available — these non-toxic clay beads would be a good substitute)
  • Pinking shears
  • Wooden chopsticks (optional, but helpful)

Instructions: 

Basically what you’ll be doing here is creating little bean bags. Instead of making one bag at a time, though, you can do many at once.

I started with a length of fabric roughly 4″ wide and 24″ long. This made a dozen desiccant packs, about 2″ square. You can use whatever scrap fabric you have at hand, but a long narrow piece will allow you to make many desiccant packs at once as I did.

Close up of sewing machine making homemade desiccant packs

Related: Bulk Food Storage: How to Buy (and Store) Natural Foods

Fold fabric in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Using a basic straight stitch, sew up the long side and across one end. You now have a long, skinny tube with a closed end.

Spoon one tablespoon full of silica gel beads into the tube. Hold the tube upright so the beads fall to the bottom. Use the chopsticks to hold the beads in place, then sew across the tube near the chopsticks. Sew a second seam across the tube about 3/4″ from your first seam.cutting apart black floral fabric to make individual moisture absorber

Remove from the sewing machine, and spoon another tablespoon full of beads into the tube. The two seams you made will keep the beads secure in a new “pocket.” Again, use the chopsticks to hold the beads in place, and sew as above. Continue in this manner, adding beads and double seams, until you reach the end of the tube.

Use pinking shears to cut between each double set of seams. This will create individual desiccant packs.

Trim the final sewed edge with pinking shears to reduce fraying.

How to use homemade desiccant packs

Place your homemade desiccant packs in containers of dry goods to absorb wayward moisture. Items like dry beans, oats, and flour will all benefit from being stored with homemade moisture packs, especially in humid climates.

When you reach the bottom of the barrel (so to speak) simply dust off the fabric and place the desiccant pack in an oven set to low (250 degrees Fahrenheit) for 4-5 hours to dry it out. You could also dry these out in a food dehydrator.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

23 comments… add one
  • Maridy Mar 17, 2017, 5:22 am

    Perfect timing. We just bought a large package of silica and I’m going to be making packets. I love your idea of doing the tube and making them as you go along. So much faster!

  • Colleen Kelly Sep 20, 2017, 12:19 pm

    If you don’t sew because of arthritis or some other reason you can use the seam binding tape to make little bags … done it many times.

  • Mary Dec 1, 2017, 8:05 am

    Will the fabric not melt of catch fire at 250 for 4 to 5 hours? Also, where do you find silica gel?

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 2, 2017, 4:51 pm

      That’s often the lowest temp on an oven, but no, cotton fabric shouldn’t catch fire. A lower temp would be fine, too. Or if you have a dehydrator, you could use that.

  • Ann Jan 8, 2018, 8:55 am

    Could these be used for brown sugar?

  • Ann Jan 8, 2018, 8:56 am

    Can these be used for brown sugar?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 9, 2018, 4:42 pm

      Sure, but generally you *want brown sugar to be moist, right?

      • LBrunner Mar 29, 2019, 4:19 am

        In theory you still can, but it would be a reverse use. You could place a “used” packet into the brown sugar rather than placing that packet into the oven or the dehydrator to evaporate the moisture out of it. In theory it might just work. It would be an interesting experiment to try. I don’t know how often you should rotate the packets.

  • Marta Feb 21, 2018, 9:42 am

    great idea, I started saving the ones in supplements etc to reuse , this is much better

  • Zoe Mogensen Mar 7, 2018, 3:50 am

    Hello Kris! Great idea; its going on my list of stuff to sew 🙂 Question though, how do you know when you need to replace the bags with new ones? Does it say on the silica bag (never purchased before) how long it lasts?

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 7, 2018, 7:23 am

      There are some you can buy that have a color “bar” that indicates when they need to be refreshed. Obviously, these don’t have that. 😉 I generally dry them when I get to the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. When the oat bin is empty, I’ll dry the pack that was in there.

  • Kim Oct 12, 2018, 9:52 am

    Hey Kris, instead of the needs. Could you use rice? Just wondering, hope to hear from you soon.

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 17, 2018, 9:29 am

      Well, it couldn’t hurt to TRY (I’m a fan of experimenting), but I’ve not done so. I imagine they’d be less reusable this way, though.

  • Holly Summers Oct 23, 2018, 7:06 pm

    Are these silica beads food grade or are they all the same? I have a freeze dryer and those tiny packets get expensive, AND I had No Idea they are re-usable ! I could potentially save a lot of money with these homemade ones. Thank you for a super idea,and your Help.

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 3, 2018, 8:33 am

      Some silica beads have been specifically approved as “food grade” but silica itself is considered non-toxic.

  • Karen Oct 29, 2018, 9:23 pm

    Just an idea from someone who makes the microwave heat packs. Instead of sewing a tube, adding beads, sewing off that pack, etc, there’s an easier way. I leave one long end open, then sew the channels. I fill mine with dried corn, then sew off the top of each channel. This way I can mark them off before filling them and they’re uniform.

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 2, 2018, 1:46 pm

      I’m all for an easier method, but I can’t envision this. How do you sew the long length closed without corn flying out everywhere?

  • Nancy Lucas Jan 1, 2019, 3:44 pm

    Aloha, Using activated charcoal as a dessicant also works. Charcoal in and of itself is an air purifier and can be dried out in the oven too. You can sew it into small packets also. There is food grade activated charcoal available in bulk if people don’t want to use silica beads. Also there are special canning jar lids that are reusable that can vacumn out the air–this keeps things from molding. Glass canning jars(pint to one gallon size) and lids are easily reused.

    Also, as a side note–there are zucchini seeds, and other vegetable seeds developed especially for tropical areas–look for seeds from south Florida, Caribbean, Central America, south east Asia and you will be able to grow zucchini and other squash–even pumpkins. Raised beds help too with drainage. And I used large dark lava rocks around my raised herb beds against a west facing wall–it works if you want Mediterranean herbs (I am landlocked on the mainland for now, but my life is still in storage on the Big Island–two and half more years of school and I am coming home!)

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 5, 2019, 4:38 pm

      Interesting thought on the activated charcoal! Thanks.

  • Carol L Jan 30, 2019, 4:20 pm

    Just FYI: there is no link for the silica beads. (like these)
    Could you add it in? Thanks!

    • Elle Freeman Mar 5, 2020, 12:36 pm

      I was hoping so get a link of what beads to use too. Everyone that has asked has not been answered.

      • Kris Bordessa Mar 10, 2020, 6:19 pm

        I’ve been unable to locate the ones I used and originally linked to. These could be a good alternative: https://amzn.to/2IASAAb

  • Berry May 15, 2020, 1:20 pm

    Thank you for the pattern! I found some silica beads on Amazon (they’re in stock as of this writing) and am excited to get these made. THANK YOU so much!

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