Tech Tips: Hang on to Silica Gel Packets

You know those little packets that you throw away whenever you buy a new pair of shoes or a bottle of vitamins? Yeah, keep those (out of reach of children, of course). They can come in handy in a few different ways to keep your cell phone or camera dry and in tip-top shape. Silica gel is a dessicant — which is a fancy word that means it will effectively absorb nearby moisture and create a state of dryness around it when used in a well-sealed container. That's why you'll find beads of it packaged with stay-dry goods like leather shoes or beef jerky.

If you hang on to silica bead packets, you can can use their magic moisture-sucking superpowers to keep water and moisture away from your tech gear, too. Here are some ways they can come in handy:

Rescue a drowned cell phone. After your cell phone takes an unexpected dip into the washer or a tub full of bathwater, you can rescue it by leaving it overnight in an airtight container with a drying agent. Rice works in a pinch, but several silica gel packets work even better.

Eliminate condensation inside your camera lens or cell phone screen. Humid weather or a quick change in temperature can sometimes cause little beads of water to build up inside your phone's screen or camera lens — and you can't exactly wipe it off. Instead, stash your phone or camera away in a ziplock with a packet of silica gel like blogger Darian Cabot did to zap away the condensation.

Prevent streaks or fog from forming on your camera lens. This tip, courtesy of Yumi Sakugawa, suggests that you can drop one or two silica gel packets inside your camera bag or case to prevent fog and streaks from forming on your camera lens. Similarly, if you have an underwater camera casing, stash a packet of silica gel inside with your camera to keep stray moisture, fog, and condensation at bay.

Create a dry travel bag. Popular Mechanics suggests putting your travel tech in a large ziplock with a few spare silica packets when you travel to prevent accidental luggage spills from damaging your gear. You can also take your dry bag with you to the beach or on a cruise.

Of course, if you don't want to become a silica packet hoarder, you can also use each of these tips with moisture-absorbing silica gel cat litter; just check the label to see if a brand uses silica.

And if your silica gel seems to be wearing down, you can "recharge" it! Put the packets on a tray in a warm oven, about 175 to 200 degrees, for about 15 minutes, to reactivate the silica.

(Images: Shutterstock, Darian Cabot)

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