How To Recharge Silica Gel Crystals

How to Recharge Silica Gel

Silica Gel absorbs moisture from the air around your camera equipment. This ensures that the area is not friendly for fungus to grow inside your camera lenses. It can later be recharged by heating it to release the water it contains.

If you leave Silica Gel inside your camera bag for too long it can get saturated with moisture and start to give off some of that moisture over time? This could really mess up your equipment.

Here’s how you can avoid this potentially huge problem, and recharge or reuse Silica Gel sachets or crystals that you use to keep your camera equipment safe from moisture.

How Do I know When Silica Gel is Saturated with Moisture?

Indicating Silica Gel changes color when it is saturated with moisture. Orange Silica Gel turns dark green or black when recharge is required, and Blue Silica Gel turns pink when it needs to be recharged. We recommend Orange Indicating Silica Gel Beads.

Normal Silica Gel is white, so it’s difficult to know when it is saturated with moisture. This is why I prefer to use Indicating Silica Gel. These color-indicating Silica Gel crystals are either blue or orange when fully active, and change color when they are saturated with moisture. The orange type is preferred, as the chemical used to show moisture content may be less toxic.

Quick TIP: You can keep track of how humid any space is, by using a Digital Hygrometer. I highly recommend using one.

How Can I Restore or Recharge Silica Gel that is Saturated?

Silica Gel can be restored to its original state by heating it in an oven to 120 °C (248 °F) for 1–2 hours. Once it is restored, it will return to its original color; either orange or blue depending on its type.

Silica Gel gets saturated with moisture rather quickly when there is a high level of humidity in the air. So, it’s important to check on the crystals/sachets often.

Fully Saturated Silica Gel crystals can begin to give off humidity to the surrounding air when the humidity falls. This means that you need to refresh/recharge the crystals before they get saturated so that they continue to absorb water from the air.

The good news is that you can reuse these Silica Gel Crystals up to 500 times, and the procedure is quite simple. All you need is an oven, an oven-safe dish, maybe some aluminum foil to hold the crystals, and you’re ready to recharge Silica Gel.

8 Steps to Restore and Reuse Silica Gel:

  1. Spread the crystals across the bottom of a bake-safe oven dish (you can use aluminium foil if you prefer to keep it off the dish itself). Spread them evenly and less than an inch deep in the dish.
  2. Place the dish in an oven and heat it to 120° C (248° F) for 1–2 hours until they start changing color. If you want to avoid the risk of making your Silica Gel inactive, you could use a lower temperature and leave the Silica Gel in for a longer period of time. When the Silica Gel has returned to its original color, it is ready to be taken out.
  3. CAUTION: Do not heat Silica Gel to more than 180° C because it will lose its ability to absorb moisture, and destroy the indicating chemicals.
  4. The Silica Gel crystals will release the trapped water from within them, and will revert to their original blue or orange color. Once the color changes fully, the Silica Gel is recharged and restored to its original capacity.
  5. Note that the chemical that actually indicates the there is water in the silica gel crystals is a little more sensitive, and will most likely turn blue before the Silica Gel is fully refreshed. This is why we suggest leaving the crystals in the oven for a while longer, after the crystals turn blue/orange.
  6. Allow the crystals to cool down before you touch them, and then restore them to their perforated containers in your camera bag or cabinet. Remember to use an airtight storage container for long-term storage of your camera equipment so that humidity doesn’t keep coming in and saturating the Silica Gel crystals.
  7. Store Silica Gel in an airtight container for long term storage so that they don’t absorb moisture from the atmosphere when they are not in use.
  8. Remember to recharge your Silica Gel crystals often enough, and your camera equipment should last a very long time.

Some people say that you can use a microwave oven to recharge Silica Gel, however, we recommend against it because there is no way to control the temperature of the crystals, and you risk making them inactive.

How Many Times Can Silica Gel be Reused?

Silica Gel lasts through many hundred reuses and has been shown to be effective even after recharging it up to 500 times (PDF). Although its efficiency decreases after about 100 uses, it is still quite efficient. Just remember not to heat it above 150°C or you may damage the indicating element.

Now That I’ve Recharged my Silica Gel Sachets, How Can I Reuse them?

Glad you asked! Silica Gel is useful around the house and office in more ways than to just keep your Camera Equipment safe.

How You Can Reuse Silica Gel Around the House:

  • Keep some in your camera storage area, as well as your travel camera bags. They’re essential.
  • Keep your paperwork or clothes free of mold in humid regions by putting sachets of Silica Gel in your folders.
  • Quickly dry out electronic equipment if they get splashed. Of course, remember to it off before doing anything else. You can put your phone, or other device into an airtight container full of indicative Silica Gel crystals, or Sachets to get it dry super fast.
  • Put some Silica Gel in with photo albums, when storing them, to prevent photos sticking to the cellophane pouches.
  • Put Silica Gel sachets in your luggage, and especially in your Travel Pouch to keep the insides dry, and prevent your razors from rusting while you travel. This is especially useful when travelling to beaches and tropical climates.
  • Keep some Silica Gel in your toolkit. This will keep the air dry and prevent rust.
  • Every storage container needs a little Silica Gel.
  • You can create art quicker by storing flowers and leaves with Silica Gel. This will dehydrate the flowers quickly, making for artistic subjects for your photography or art projects.

How Can I Store Recharged Silica Gel?

You can store recharged Silica Gel in an airtight container for later use. An airtight bag or container is a must, so that no humidity is allowed in contact with the beads. If it is left out in the open, it will immediately start absorbing moisture from the air around it and will not be usable.

Frequently Asked Questions about Silica Gel for Photographers

1. What Type of Silica Gel Should I Buy?

Different types of Silica Gel
Different types of Silica Gel

You should buy indicative or reactive Silica Gel. Silica Gel comes in a few different forms. Typically they’re sold loose, as crystals, tiny spheres, or in porous plastic sachets that allow air through. I prefer to get the loose spheres or crystals because it’s not easy to see when the crystals are saturated when in sachets. More specifically, I prefer to buy indicative Silica Gel. This is also called reactive Silica Gel.

The sachets are very convenient for some non-photographic uses.

2. Is Silica Gel Toxic?

No, Silica Gel is not toxic. However, you should not try to ingest it or mix it with edible items. Also keep it away from children, eyes, etc.

Here is some additional information: The Cobalt Chloride used in blue>pink indicative Silica Gel has been classified as hazardous if inhaled or ingested, so if you’re using indicative Silica Gel, don’t inhale the dust from the crystals. The Orange > Green Silica Gel is considered safe for use.

3. Where Can I get Indicating Silica Gel? – BUY HERE!

Personally, I use 2Kgs of orange beads of Silica Gel.

4. What Precautions Should I take When Using Silica Gel?

Silica Gel itself is safe to handle and use, but here are a few precautions that you can take when using, storing, recharging, and handling silica gel.

  • Silica Gel should not be handled by children, placed near eyes, or ingested. If ingested, Silica Gel is not toxic and will pass through the system.
  • Do not inhale any dust that comes off Silica Gel. It could cause irritation to the nose and lungs, and may cause discomfort if it touches the eyes.
  • When recharging Silica Gel in an oven, it may remain hot for quite a while. You can allow it to cool down in the oven until it is safe to handle and then transfer it to an airtight sealed container for long term storage.
  • Orange Silica Gel – Comprehensive Safety Information.

Additional Reading

Thanks for reading right through to the end. Follow this link if you want more information about how to take care of your cameras when it’s raining, or if you live in a humid area.

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Published: August 27, 2016 | Last Updated: August 24, 2021

12 thoughts on “How To Recharge Silica Gel Crystals”

  1. Hi Susheel, recently acquired a new dry cabinet wth digital indicator outside ,but has a manual setting inside the cabinet ,which is set for RH of say 43 %.Is such type of dry cabi.is any way less efficient than the one called ‘digital’,which has controls outside the cabinet?I wl have to ,anyway,open the cabi.to get my gear out ,right?So whats a big deal of having control outside?
    Pls xplain d diff.I am confused..I already invested in a ‘manual’ Dehumidifier.Regards.Dr.Mhatre

    1. Hello Dr. Mhatre,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. From what I understand, the efficiency of the dehumidifying mechanism would not vary much based on digital or manual controls and / or their placement. Usually, digital controls do offer more fine-grained control over the RH that is maintained, turning the mechanism off and on more frequently than analog controls. PS: these cabinets do not need to have their settings changed once set. They’re essentially set-and-forget. 40% seems like a good place to keep the RH. I don’t think you should ever need to change it. So based on that, you could decide to get the one with the controls inside the cabinet, or outside. Do let us know what you decide to do. Your insight could prove valuable to others. Thanks 😀

  2. good day for all,
    i would like to ask about the optimum way to use silica gel blue(2-4 mm) as a dryer, what is the required quantity to the suitable area, humidity, ….
    thanks

    1. Hi Ahmed,

      While there are some research papers that talk about how much silica gel to use per x volume of air for long term storage, these papers are directed towards use for museum showcases, and for the preservation of manuscripts and other fragile items. I’d suggest that you should decide the relative humidity level that you want to maintain, then get a hygrometer to check the actual humidity of the space. Experiment so that you’re able to maintain a humidity level that you’re comfortable at. I personally put about 100 grams of the orange balls into a perforated plastic container to get the humidity out of a 2x4ft box. I change the silica gel beads every week or two. I think that it has worked for me so far.

      Hope that helps.

      Susheel

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  4. i agree with this article. Working with Sorbead India in this industry have opened my eyes as to how vital are those silica gel packets.

  5. Adam R Hagedorn

    I was just curious if anyone has ever tried using an air fryer to recharge desiccant?
    Or if you think that may be a suitable methods?

    1. Hi Adam, Not having used an air fryer I couldn’t really tell you for sure. A quick search shows me that Air Fryers typically operate at 200 Degrees Centigrade. This is too hot for Silica Gel, which needs about 100 Degrees Centigrade. If yours has a variable temperature that goes down to 100 Deg Celcius, you can definitely give it a try. Let us know what happens. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

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  7. i am using white silica gel. but i am confused when to recharge it. does it turn in any color when it needs to recharge or is there any other way to get to know…?

    1. Only Indicating Silica Gel changes colour when it is saturated. This is usually coloured orange/yellow or blue. If you have white, colourless Silica Gel, then there’s a chance that you will saturate it without knowing so. I’d suggest buying some Indicating Silica Gel as soon as you can.

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