Oxygen Absorbers & Desiccant Packs, Mystery Solved!


~Your questions answered on a sometimes confusing subject with charts for amounts to use~


There appears to be a lot of confusion about oxygen absorbers (O2 absorbers) and desiccant packs (silica gel moisture absorbers). I have updated the article written initially on this subject to clarify and answer further questions. Here you will find the uses, storage, amounts to use, and where to buy.


Oxygen (O2) Absorbers

An oxygen (O2) absorber pulls out oxygen from the sealed food container, creating a vacuum.

An oxygen (O2) absorber pulls out oxygen from the sealed food container, creating a vacuum.

Oxygen absorbers are tiny sachets that contain iron filings, salt, and clay. The clay provides moisture, and works with the salt to activate the iron filings. The process starts as soon as the oxygen absorber packet is exposed to oxygen. The iron filings begin to oxidize, forming rust which then releases nitrogen. Nitrogen helps the food keep fresher longer. The lack of oxygen in the stored food will keep weevils and other insects from living in there. If you vacuum seal your food, there is no need for an oxygen absorber unless you plan to store your foods longer than a year or you are using Mylar bags for storage.

Can you re-use Oxygen Absorbers?

No. Once exposed to air, the pack becomes activated, and once activated is used up. Therefore, oxygen absorbers CANNOT be reused.

How to Use and Store Oxygen Absorbers

When you receive your package of oxygen absorbers, they will be contained together in a vacuum sealed, water-tight package. It is important that they stay in that kind of environment. After you open the initial package, you must be ready to use your oxygen absorbers, putting them into the containers of food you are packaging and then immediately sealing the food. Then you must also have a container at the ready for storing your oxygen absorbers. Allowing them to sit out, exposed to air and moisture, will make them useless.

  • Keep oxygen absorbers in a dry, tightly sealed, impermeable container until you are ready to use it. Open the container, remove the oxygen absorbers, and quickly close the container again.
  • Once you remove the oxygen absorbers from the sealed container, rapidly install the oxygen absorbers in the container of food and close up the container. Do not use the oxygen absorbers if exposed to air for more than a total of 10 minutes.

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Oxygen Absorber Amounts

There is a formula that allows you to figure out exact sizes for containers based on the type of food and the container itself, but I err on the side that too much in this instance is better than not enough. These are the size(s)/amount(s) of oxygen absorbers that I use. My preference is to buy 10 cc and 100 cc sizes and use these in multiples according to container size.

O2 Amounts


Desiccant (Silica Gel) Packets

A desiccant pack pulls out moisture from the sealed food container, creating a dry environment.

A desiccant pack pulls out moisture from the sealed food container, creating a dry environment.

A desiccant is to moisture what an oxygen absorber is to the oxygen. Desiccant packs are filled with silica gel which is made of silicon dioxide, essentially, porous sand. It is used to cut moisture condensation and allows the stored item to stay dry even during humid, damp conditions. You find them in bottles or packages when you buy vitamins, purses, shoes, even computer equipment.

Because silica gel inhibits moisture, it therefore prevents mold growth. Or if there is residual moisture in your dehydrated foods, it will help them to stay dry. However, desiccants cannot make up for food that has not been properly dried. Make sure your foods are thoroughly dried first. Use only food-grade packets for your foods.

Can you re-use Desiccants?

Yes. Desiccant packs CAN be reused as long as the silica gel is not encased in plastic. To reactivate them, just put them in the dehydrator with your next batch, and when the food is done, the packs are recharged.

How to Use and Store Desiccant Packets

When you receive your package of desiccants, they will be contained together in a heavy, water-tight package. It is important that they stay in that kind of environment. After you open the initial package, you must be ready to use your desiccants, putting them into the containers of food you are packaging and then immediately sealing the food. Then you must also have a container at the ready for storing your desiccants. Allowing them to sit out, exposed to air and moisture, will make them useless.

  • Keep desiccants in a dry, tightly sealed, impermeable container until you are ready to use it. Open the container, remove the desiccants, and quickly close the container again.
  • Once you remove the desiccants from the sealed container, rapidly install the desiccants in the container of food and close up the container. Do not use the desiccants if exposed to air for more than a total of 30 minutes.

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Desiccant Packet Amounts

These are the size(s)/amount(s) of oxygen absorbers that I use. My preference is to buy 1 gram and 5 gram sizes and use these in multiples according to container size.

Desiccant Amounts

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Update April 8, 2017: Rechargable Color-Changing Absorbers Now Available!

Although these are a bit more expensive, these are great for knowing exactly when your absorbers are spent and need to be recharged. Here is the link for these new products: 100 Pack of 5gm “Pillow Paks” Orange to Green Indicating Silica Gel Packets Desiccants, NO Cobalt (II) Chloride [1.75″ x 1.5″].

The absence of cobalt chloride is important to be able to rate these as “Food-Safe”.


Please note: Using both oxygen absorbers and desiccants in the same container is not advised because the oxygen absorbers depend on a small amount of moisture to charge the iron and cannot work in an environment where the moisture is fully absorbed by the desiccant packs.


Your Rule of Thumb when deciding what to use should be:

Oxygen Absorbers are best used for long-term storage.
I use these: 50cc Oxygen Absorbers100cc Oxygen Absorbers.

Desiccant Packs are more suited to items opened on a frequent basis.
The only time I use desiccants in long-term storage is when I am storing herbs, spices, and/or powders to help with caking.
I use these: Silica Gel Desiccants Packets – 5gm.


©2016 21st Century Simple Living www.21stcenturysimpleliving.com

2 thoughts on “Oxygen Absorbers & Desiccant Packs, Mystery Solved!

  1. Rose says:

    Here I was thinking both of them were the same. Thanx!!

    1. Admin says:

      These are confusing for a lot of people Rose 🙂

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