Desiccant in a range box - bad idea?

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Mushtang

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My boss is a BAR and we discuss rocketry from time to time. I sort of got him back into it when he started working at this company a few years back and today he told me that a few months ago he'd gotten himself a range box. It's similar to mine, a tool box with two levels, and he's stuffed it full of lots of motors. He's got Estes, CTI, reloadables, etc. He also dropped in a bag of desiccant pouches because he stores the box in his basement and was worried moisture might harm the motors.

He had a friend to his house last week and they went to his basement so he could show his friend his motors. He said the bottom of the range box had a liquid in the bottom that looked like water but felt oily and has no idea what it was. He said the desiccant looked like it had broken down and he's wondering if the liquid was created when the desiccant failed, or if it failed because of the liquid coming from somewhere else.

Anyone else seen something like this, or has any clues as to where the liquid came from? Is it oil?
 

Mushtang

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I knew what a desiccant was, I just didn't know if somehow it would have a chemical reaction with anything and release the oily liquid. I thought there's a chance that this is a known issue with some rocketeers and someone here could let me know for sure where the liquid came from.

Or it could be that one of his kids poured lemonade in his range box and didn't tell him. Haha.

If anyone has any ideas please speak up!
 

Graduator

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Hazards: Silica gel is non-toxic, non-flammable, and non-reactive and stable with ordinary usage. It will react with hydrogen fluoride, fluorine, oxygen difluoride, chlorine trifluoride, strong acids, strong bases, and oxidizers.

I've often wondered if it was safe, but I've never seen any liquid as described. I do store all my reloads with rather large desiccant packs, sealed inside anti-static zip-lock bags.
 

Cl(VII)

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There are multiple kinds of desiccants, and many of them will keep "desiccating" their way all the way to saturation and past into dissolving into the water. Desiccant packs aren't intended for bulk dehydration, but to keep tiny amounts of moisture out of nearly sealed things. Any range box not of the Pelican style will not reach the level of seal that desiccant packs are intended for. His range box was probably low humidity for a few hours before the packs became saturated. I doubt the liquid was little more than water with a little dissolved shmutz. I wouldn't worry too much that it was a result of reaction with the propellant either unless the propellant was soaked too.

Using the desiccant pack inside a sealed bag as Graduator describes is the way to go.
 

dr wogz

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Before reading all the other bits, I intend to answer about putting desiccant pouches in a range box. My first question is: how sealed up is the range box? otherwise it'll be useless after a few days in a humid basement. the ambient air, the RH will seep into the range box thru the cracks & crannies where the lid joins, screw holes, etc.. Unless it's a good sealing Tupperware, I feel the desiccant is useless..

I had a humidor that would loose it's internal RH every winter. the reason is that eh wood humidor, the wood would shrink as the RH dropped every winter (it get's cold in Canada, real cold sometimes!) so an RH of 20% in the winter isn't uncommon. But for cigars, they like 65-70% RH. so, there was a constant fight to keep the RH in the box that high. Hence why I went with a 'Tupperdor' and things have been hunky dory ever since.

The last place I worked at, we had a device what was sealed. And in order to keep the RH inside the device low, we started to toss in a desiccant packet. The assembler happily tossed in the desiccant pack to each & every item he assembled. I then pulled him aside, and his boss to discuss the practice. it turns out he (the assembler) had about 200 of these packets in a bucket, sealed with a lid (a paint can if I recall). He would open the bucket, grab a packet and toss it into the device. Sometimes he would close the bucket, after the initial grab. Sometimes he left the bucket open for a few minutes, an hour, etc.. sometimes he would leave a few on his desk, and use them up as the day progressed. And sometimes (most time) he would grab one packet, toss it in the device, but gather a few devices to seal up at once at a later date, sometimes days after the packet had been added. And, this is all in a warehouse, no controlled environment (and it gets hot & muggy here in Canada in the summertime) . All this came down to the fact the added desiccant packet it exposed to the ambient air, sometimes for hours or days. So, what then, was the point? The desiccant packet was exposed, and probably saturated by the time the device was sealed up, unable to perform it's intended job.
 

neil_w

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A great thing about keeping silica gel in your range box is that it can double as a tasty snack during long days out at the field! :marshmallow:
 

Rex R

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I've placed desiccant in my ammo can...called black powder motors :)
Rex
 

rcktnut

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The desiccant pack your boss had must have contained calcium chloride. It is used (shouldn't be) in some desiccant packs. It's very good at absorbing moisture, but as it does it gets very oily feeling and does turn into a liquid if too much moisture is involved. Got some of that at home for deicing? Put a few of those little white balls out on a napkin or something on a nice humid day and see what happens to them. Touch what is left of them and you will see that it feels very oily. Bleach on your hands/ fingers feels the same way. It really isn't oily at all, it is just that it starts breaking down your skin as soon as contact with it.

If you do need desiccant in a hurry and you use calcium chloride for ice melting, you could put some in a solid container and it will work.

I would also suggest that your boss store the motors someplace else, too humid if the desiccant pack dissolved.
 
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Mushtang

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The desiccant pack your boss had must have contained calcium chloride. It is used (shouldn't be) in some desiccant packs. It's very good at absorbing moisture, but as it does it gets very oily feeling and does turn into a liquid if too much moisture is involved. Got some of that at home for deicing? Put a few of those little white balls out on a napkin or something on a nice humid day and see what happens to them. Touch what is left of them and you will see that it feels very oily. Bleach on your hands/ fingers feels the same way. It really isn't oily at all, it is just that it starts breaking down your skin as soon as contact with it.

If you do need desiccant in a hurry and you use calcium chloride for ice melting, you could put some in a solid container and it will work.

I would also suggest that your boss store the motors someplace else, too humid if the desiccant pack dissolved.
THIS is the answer I was looking for! Thanks!!!!
 

RocketFeller

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When I was young my mom kept desiccants in the closets of our old house.

They consisted of plastic mesh spheres full of white crystals. There was a reservoir underneath that caught the oily feeling liquid as it dripped out of the mesh ball.
 

jd2cylman

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I've got a few packs that I put in zip lock bags with my starters. The desiccant is in a brown paperish bag that has instructions on how to reactivate it. Put it in oven at 175° for 2 hours or something like that... I can't remember if I've ever done that... Must be about time, eh?
 

prfesser

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The desiccant pack your boss had must have contained calcium chloride. It is used (shouldn't be) in some desiccant packs. It's very good at absorbing moisture, but as it does it gets very oily feeling and does turn into a liquid if too much moisture is involved. Got some of that at home for deicing? Put a few of those little white balls out on a napkin or something on a nice humid day and see what happens to them. Touch what is left of them and you will see that it feels very oily. Bleach on your hands/ fingers feels the same way. It really isn't oily at all, it is just that it starts breaking down your skin as soon as contact with it.

If you do need desiccant in a hurry and you use calcium chloride for ice melting, you could put some in a solid container and it will work.
The oily liquid is probably a solution of calcium chloride in water. CaCl2 absorbs water so readily that it will dissolve in its own absorbed moisture.

Instead of calcium chloride, get "crystal" cat litter --- it's silica gel. There's usually blue indicator that will change color as it's exhausted. It's cheap enough to throw away rather than regenerating (in an oven at 250 F or so).

Best -- Terry
 
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