Desiccant: A Better Solution

Gun Safe Desiccant Packet

This gun safe desiccant packet was fully saturated, turning the indicators pink. Was it ever blue, though? I don’t remember.

This post may seem pretty pedestrian, but keeping your documents and weaspons dry is vitally important!  Nobody wants to pull an important document out of a fireproof safe to find that it’s moldy, or find out that a valuable weapon has rusted!

Recently I had an issue with moisture in a safe where I keep important documents.  This was quite the surprise, because the safe is in a fairly dry place and hasn’t been exposed to anything unusual lately.  The safe has an airtight seal on it, too, so any moisture appearing in the safe must have come from inside.  I considered some of the other items as sources, but that doesn’t make sense.  I had placed some gun safe desiccant packets inside, and they had been overwhelmed by the moisture, turning the indicators pink.  The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if these had been pink, already, when I bought them.  I believe that the safe, itself, was the source of the moisture.  Being a fireproof unit, I’ve read that these use the boil-off of moisture in the lining — absorbing energy to protect the contents.  If you store anything sensitive to moisture in a fireproof (technically, they call it a “fire resistant”) safe, beware!

Desiccant Beads

I found this quart-sized container of color-indicating desiccant beads on Amazon for $16.  Note that I saturated a bead with water and taped it to the front of the container for reference.

I pulled some packets out of my gun safe, too, finding that they were always pink.  I cooked the desiccant packets in my oven at 200°F in order to dry them out.  This turned them all blue, and I have a funny feeling that this is the first time that I’ve seen them this color.  Could they have been saturated, already, when I bought them?  I don’t even remember when/where I bought them.  I decided, though, that I needed a better way to absorb more moisture.  As I considered options, I placed one of these “recharged” packets in my gun safe and saw it turn pink in just a couple days.  Yikes!

Cheap Walmart Containers

These containers, roughly 1/2 cup in size, were found on Walmart in a six-pack for $1.84.

So, more silica gel is better than less, right?  When I looked on Amazon, I found a gallon-sized container of silica gel beads for $20.  These weren’t treated to change colors based on water saturation, so how would I know when it was time to change them or dry them back out?  Then, I found quart-sized container of color-indicating desiccant beads on Amazon and it was Prime-eligible, and ordered it so that it would be here by this weekend, and it was.  Here’s where I found it: Advanced Tool Design Model ATD-7886 1 Quart Jar of Replacement Desiccant. While a one-quart jar for $16 sounds pretty expensive compared to a whole gallon (4x the volume) for $20, I really needed a visual indication of water saturation and realized that this amount of silica gel could probably fill a hundred of those little packets.

I read some online how-to documents about making bean-bags out of muslin, but then I wouldn’t be able to see the condition of the beads inside.  The only important aspect of these containers is that water vapor can reach the beads to be adsorbed (actually, this is the right term, rather than “absorb,” for what silica gel actually does).  It’s obvious that the solution didn’t need to be very complex.

Drill Bit & Desiccant Container

I drilled dozens of 3/32″ holes in these cups and filled them with desiccant beads.

I went to Walmart and found a stack of six of these small containers for $1.84.  I threw out the packaging too quickly, but in my judgement they each have an internal volume of about 1/2 cup.  They are probably used to pack salad dressing or other condiments in lunch sacks.  They were very cheap, so if the experiment failed I wouldn’t care.  I took them home, drilled dozens of holes in them that are smaller than the beads and filled them up with the silica gel.  I placed these in my safes, and we’ll see how that works.

–This appears to be a very cost-effective way of providing desiccant for the storage of papers and weapons!

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