Oxygen Absorber vs Silica Gel
Find out more about the difference between oxygen absorbers and silica gel. A common question is frequently asked, especially from the food industry, for bulk packing food items for long-term storage. There has been confusion between oxygen absorbers with the little packets founds in the new shoe boxes and purses saying “do not eat.”
Oxygen Absorbers and Silica Gel: A Comparison
We will discuss more on oxygen absorbers and silica gel and what characteristics make them different.
Oxygen absorbers are mini sachets containing iron fillings, clay, and salt. The clay element produces moisture, and the combination of salt will activate the iron fillings to absorb oxygen. This process begins as soon as the oxygen absorber packet is exposed.
Upon exposure, the iron fillings start to oxidize straightaway, which forms rust and starts releasing nitrogen. It is this nitrogen that helps in keeping food fresher for a more extended period. The lack of oxygen in the packaging will help keep weevils and insects from infesting the food item.
Most of the oxygen absorber packets contain a little pink pill that changes colour and turns blue if the oxygen absorber has expired or is no longer useful.
Some other characteristics of oxygen absorber are:
- Salt and sugar do not need oxygen for long-term storage as both of them will turn rock solid.
- Once the packaging is exposed, take out what is required and store the rest in an airtight jar.
- Keep the exposure of the oxygen absorbers to the minimum; otherwise, frequent exposure will get them all activated.
- For oxygen absorbers to be effective, use the right amount of oxygen absorbers for the food packaging.
- Oxygen absorbers are not reusable.
Absorbers come in various sizes and determine how much quantity is required in the container for preservation and storage—oxygen absorbers measured by cc. Osorb absorbers come in a variety of kinds, from 20 cc to 500 cc, etc. For a five to six gallon of storage bucket, the recommendation would be to use two 500 cc oxygen absorber agents.
Advantages of Oxygen Absorbers
They are non-toxic and safe to use. Use oxygen absorbers in food packages to prevent colour change and infestation. They also prevent oils from going rancid and help to restrain the growth of any microorganisms or fungi.
Oxygen absorbers effectively reduce the aerobic environment down to 0.01 per cent oxygen by absorbing most oxygen in the packaging.
Silica Gel is essentially a composition of silicon dioxide or porous sand. It is beneficial for reducing condensation and allows any stored items to remain dry even during extreme damp and humid conditions.
The most common use of silica gel often found in the packaging of bags, vitamins, shoes, and other computer equipment. Silica gel’s ability to inhibit moisture gives it a unique characteristic to prevent mould growth in the packaging.
An example advised would be to use 10 grams of desiccants for a five-gallon basket size packaging for storage.
Use the desiccant to pack dried food items for retention of the crispness and hardness. They are also useful to store food items such as fish, meats, poultry, vegetables and fruits, blankets and sheets, and absorbent pads.
Some of the other items where silica gel can come in handy for packaging are:
- Camera and video equipment
- Gun cases and ammunition cans
- Non-prescription and prescription medicines
- Seed packets
- Important documents
- Luggage, etc
Unlike oxygen absorbers, silica gel is reusable.
Advantages of Silica Gel
On its own, silica gel is not flammable, non-toxic, and chemically un-reactive. The absorbers are commonly packed with dry food packaging to absorb humidity that may spoil the food within. Reuse the silica gel by heating as it will stave off any prior absorption.
The desiccant can be used for conventional packing and is available in various sizes for different applications. Silica gel can absorb approximately 40 per cent of humidity or oxygen of its weight. The shelf life of silica gel is indefinite if stored in the right conditions. It is also helpful in eliminating odour.
Using Silica Gel and Oxygen Absorber Together
It is advisable not to use both Silica gel and Oxygen absorber together. The reason is the conflict in their nature because oxygen absorbers will require moisture to activate and work.
On the other hand, silica gel has the sole purpose of absorbing moisture, which means it will render the oxygen absorber useless by halting the activation process due to lack of oxygen.
Oxygen absorbers only absorb oxygen and not moisture or air, but silica gel does absorb moisture. Therefore, to maintain the humidity level in the packaging, it is recommended to use an oxygen absorber. It will ensure extended freshness with the right packaging.
On the other hand, silica gel reduces the humidity level in the food or other packaging, aiding the enhancement of the life span of food products.