Silica Gel

  1. Tiny gift bag of chemicals left by manufacturers of clothing and electronics
  2. Bossy, absorbent and possibly delicious substance that people are constantly warned not to eat

Usage Example: “I’d normally eat any item packaged with new electronics. It’s a good thing they warned me not to eat this silica gel.”


Figure 1: Silica gel packet containing Abraham Lincoln quote

Background: Silica gel is a desiccant. A desiccant is a forbidden and possibly delicious substance that absorbs moisture to keep products dry.

Silica gel is unique for its stern and bossy warnings to consumers (see Figure 1). On most packages of silica gel, we are told that the bag does in fact contain silica gel, and are given two instructions:

  2. “DO NOT EAT”

Few products ask consumers to immediately throw them away. This warning leaves the impression that silica gel is a dangerous substance. After seeing this warning, most people are intrigued, and ready to eat the “packet of mystery” to see how dangerous it really is. Fortunately, silica gel packets also warn customers not to eat them. On many silica gel packets, the “DO NOT EAT” command is in quotes, for some reason. Some attribute the “DO NOT EAT” command to Abraham Lincoln, who was known for his staunch opposition to eating any substance contained in small mystery bags.

After reading these two warnings, most consumers are quick to throw away the silica gel, assuming it to be a highly toxic and possibly radioactive substance. However, it is interesting to note that silica gel is non-toxic. And, not only is it non-toxic, but it is sometimes used as a food additive. This fact makes the stern “DO NOT EAT” command seem even more bossy and unnecessary.

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