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!
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!)
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.
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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
- 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)
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.
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.
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.
Checked the links to purchase but the link doesn’t go anywhere. Do u have a recent link?
Whoops, sorry about that! I’ll update.
the silicone beads are available on amazon
Good to know, thanks!
To keep brown sugar usably soft, just put a marshmallow or two in a tightly closed container with the brown sugar. Remove the marshmallow when using the brown sugar and put the marshmallow back into the container when re-closing it. I’ve used the same marshmallows for over 3 years now.
Could they be tied into nylon stockings?
I’m not sure how the nylon would handle the heat? Or if I’d want that in my food?
Referring to homemade moisture absorber Do you have to sew them or can you just tie it off?
You could certainly tie them off.
Aloha Kris, Morning. I’ve read several of your emails this morning, I have a tendency to wait and read my mail at al later date, You have so much information that it makes me dizzy. That’s okay with me because I need all that you send me for my learning experience. I will tell you that, although I also go to other sites for similar info, your ideas and recipes are Awesome! I cannot express how much all this means to me, being a newbie to all of this.
Thanks again. Aloha, and hope your weekend was a great one.
I’m so glad you’re finding inspiration here!
Good article and information. Thanks!
Thank you, Kim!
I was just wondering if you could use those iron closed tea bags…? Would be a lot easier.
Would the silica gel be the beads or flakes I put in the home made cooling wraps. They absorb the moisture. I believe they can be used with soil also.
They swell up when wet and then dry flat.
I’m new to dehydrating and am curious, since these packets can be re-dried, could they potentially last forever? Or do you imagine they would lose their usefulness & need to be thrown away after a certain amount of time/uses?
I think they can potentially last a long time. 🙂
As long as you “recharge” them every once in a while, they’ll last forever. As Kris said above, you can put them in the oven, but you can also use a microwave set at the lowest power setting for 1 – 2 minutes.
I know we use rice & beans in salt Shakers to absorbers moisture. Would these work? Also could glue gun your seams, cut &empty to dry, then glue gun again until it was too little to use anymore.
I haven’t tried the rice/beans in this.
Rice and beans in salt shakers doesn’t work as well as a silicon pack.
You can also use old pantyhose and tie them off. Non sewing method. Of course i don’t think regenerating in oven would work. Would have to take out of pantyhose first.
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!
Just FYI: there is no link for the silica beads. (like these)
Could you add it in? Thanks!
I was hoping so get a link of what beads to use too. Everyone that has asked has not been answered.
I’ve been unable to locate the ones I used and originally linked to. These could be a good alternative: https://amzn.to/2IASAAb
I used the search phrase, “bulk white desiccant” in Amazon, and it pulled up a good number of hits.
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!)
Interesting thought on the activated charcoal! Thanks.
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.
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?
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.
Some silica beads have been specifically approved as “food grade” but silica itself is considered non-toxic.
Hey Kris, instead of the needs. Could you use rice? Just wondering, hope to hear from you soon.
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.
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?
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.
great idea, I started saving the ones in supplements etc to reuse , this is much better
Can these be used for brown sugar?
Sure, but generally you *want brown sugar to be moist, right?
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.
Could these be used for brown sugar?
Will the fabric not melt of catch fire at 250 for 4 to 5 hours? Also, where do you find silica gel?
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.
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.
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!