Guide to Using Container Desiccants: Keeping Cargo Safe and Dry

Guide to Using Container Desiccants: Keeping Cargo Safe and Dry
Published On:October 12, 2018 Revised On:July 21, 2023

Shipping goods across long distances is common in today’s globalized world. However, one of this process’s most significant challenges is protecting cargo from moisture-related damage. High humidity levels inside shipping containers can lead to condensation, causing mould, mildew, rust, and corrosion, damaging sensitive goods like electronics, textiles, food, and pharmaceuticals.

Fortunately, container desiccants offer an effective moisture-absorbing solution to combat this problem and ensure cargo safety. In this blog, we’ll explore what container desiccants are and provide a comprehensive guide on using them effectively.

Understanding Container Desiccants

Container desiccants are moisture-absorbing agents designed to maintain low humidity inside shipping containers. They come in various forms, including bags, packets, strips, and canisters, and are filled with moisture-absorbing substances like silica gel, clay, or calcium chloride. These desiccants work by adsorbing moisture from the air, trapping it within their structure, and preventing it from re-entering the container environment.

Benefits of Using Container Desiccants

  1. Cargo Protection:  The primary purpose of using container desiccants is to protect cargo from moisture-related damage, such as rust, corrosion, mould, and mildew. This is particularly important for sensitive or high-value goods easily compromised by moisture.
  2. Cost-Effective:  The cost of using container desiccants is relatively low compared to the potential losses from damaged cargo. Investing in these desiccants can save significant money in the long run.
  3. Easy to Use:  Container desiccants are user-friendly and require no special training or equipment for application. They are designed to be easily placed or hung inside the shipping container.
  4. Versatility:  Container desiccants can be used for various types of cargo, including electronics, textiles, leather goods, machinery, food products, and more.

Types of Container Desiccants

Shipping container desiccants come in various forms, each designed to tackle specific moisture challenges during shipping. Understanding the different types will help select the most suitable solution for cargo. Here are the common types of container desiccants:

  • Clay Desiccants: Clay-based container desiccants are natural and environmentally friendly moisture absorbers. They are suitable for absorbing moderate humidity levels and are commonly used for safeguarding items like footwear, furniture, and ceramics.
  • Calcium Chloride Desiccants: These desiccants are highly effective in absorbing large amounts of moisture. They are well-suited for shipping in high-humidity environments or during extremely long journeys. Calcium chloride desiccants are often used to protect goods like steel, machinery, and food.
  • Container Desiccant Bags and Strips: These are convenient container desiccants in pre-packaged bags or strips. They are easy to handle and can be hung or placed near the cargo.

Guide to Using Container Desiccants

  1. Select the Right Type: Various types of container desiccants are available in the market. Consider the nature of the cargo and the shipping conditions to choose the most suitable desiccant. Silica gel desiccants are commonly used and ideal for general cargo protection, while calcium chloride desiccants perform exceptionally well in extremely high humidity conditions.
  2. Calculate the Required Amount: The quantity of desiccant required depends on the cargo’s volume, the length of the journey, and the expected humidity levels. Most desiccant manufacturers provide guidelines on the amount of desiccant needed based on container size.
  3. Ensure Proper Placement: Place the container desiccants strategically inside the container. It is essential to distribute them evenly to achieve optimal moisture absorption. Hang or secure the desiccant bags or canisters away from direct contact with the cargo, but ensure they are accessible for easy removal upon arrival.
  4. Seal the Container Properly: Inspect the container for any gaps or holes that might allow moisture to enter before loading the cargo. Ensure the container is adequately sealed to prevent external humidity from affecting the cargo.
  5. Monitor and Replace Desiccants: During transit, monitoring the container’s humidity levels regularly is crucial. If the desiccants become saturated, replace them with fresh ones to maintain effective moisture control.
  6. Consider Other Precautions: While container desiccants are highly effective, they are not a standalone solution. Packaging goods properly, using vapour barriers, and choosing the right container type can further enhance cargo protection.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What are container desiccants, and why are they necessary for shipping?

    Container desiccants are moisture-absorbing agents that maintain low humidity levels inside shipping containers. They are necessary to prevent moisture-related damage to cargo during transit, including rust, mould, and corrosion.

  2. Which type of container desiccant should I use for my cargo?

    The choice of container desiccant depends on the cargo type, shipping conditions, and expected humidity levels. Silica gel desiccants are versatile and suitable for general cargo, while calcium chloride desiccants are ideal for high-humidity environments.

  3. How do I calculate the amount of desiccant needed for my container?

    The desiccant required is based on the cargo volume, container size, and expected journey duration. Manufacturers provide guidelines to help determine the appropriate quantity.

  4. Where should I place the container desiccants inside the container?

    Distribute the desiccants evenly throughout the container without direct contact with the cargo. Ensure they are easily accessible for removal upon arrival.

  5. How long do container desiccants last during transit?

    The longevity of container desiccants varies depending on the type, cargo, and humidity levels. Some desiccants can last for the entire journey, while others might require replacement if they become saturated.

  6. Can I reuse container desiccants?

    Some container desiccants are reusable and can be regenerated for multiple applications. Check the product specifications to determine if the desiccant is reusable.

  1. Can container desiccants be used with any cargo?

    Yes, container desiccants are versatile and can be used with various types of cargo, including electronics, textiles, food products, machinery, and more.

  2. Are container desiccants safe to use with food and pharmaceutical products?

    Yes, most container desiccants are safe for food and pharmaceutical products. However, it’s essential to use desiccants that comply with relevant industry standards and regulations.

  3. Do container desiccants have any environmental impact?

    Many container desiccants are eco-friendly and use materials like silica gel or clay. Additionally, some desiccants are biodegradable and safe for the environment.

  4. Can I use container desiccants in conjunction with other moisture control methods?

    To enhance cargo protection, container desiccants can be combined with other moisture control methods, such as vapour barriers and proper packaging.

Remember to follow the desiccant manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when using container desiccants to ensure their effectiveness and to keep cargo safe from moisture damage during shipping.


Using container desiccants is a wise investment to safeguard valuable cargo from moisture-related damages during long shipping journeys. Choosing the right type, calculating the required amount, and properly placing the desiccants can ensure goods arrive at their destination in pristine condition.

Remember that effective cargo protection combines proper packaging, container selection, and moisture control, so take a holistic approach to secure shipments and maintain the business’s reputation for reliability and quality.