Using oxygen absorbers for food storage

Heat Sealer
One gallon mylar bags with oxygen absorbers
Oxygen Absorbers...
Prepping with oxygen absorbers for your food storage

How to use oxygen absorbers.
Using oxygen absorbers is a prepping basic, but if you're new to
prepping you may have questions about how to use them.
Oxygen absorbers remove oxygen from a sealed environment ~
such as a mason jar, a Mylar bag, a can, or a food grade bucket
to help your food last years longer than they would with nothing.

Some of the many reasons to use oxygen absorbers is to:
  • Prevent mold and growth of aerobic pathogens on grains.
  • Keep Vitamin A, C, and E fresh.
  • Delay browning in dried fruits.
  • Inhibit oxidation of oleoresins present in spices, which
    alter the flavors.
  • Deprive pests of oxygen, so they and their eggs and larva
    can't live.

Below is a primer on how to use oxygen absorbers to extend the
life of your food storage for years to come...

The Right Way to Use Oxygen Absorbers
If you're new to prepping, you may be wondering, what's the
magic behind oxygen absorbers (and what's the difference
between oxygen absorbers and desiccants)?

  • Oxygen absorbers remove the oxygen that could spoil your
    food. Made of iron powder and a few other ingredients,
    oxygen absorbers are harmless packets used for long-term
    food storage to keep food fresh and free from oxygen ~
    they're non-toxic and safe for your food. Oxygen absorbers
    keep oxygen under control, which in turn keeps out
    microorganisms like mold, bacteria, and insects. Having
    oxygen absorbers with your food keeps it fresh, but it also
    means that bugs can't hatch or live inside your buckets,
    cans or Mylar bags of food because there is no oxygen for
    them to exist! Oxygen absorbers also can keep out
    moisture, but they are very different from desiccants.

  • Desiccants are the little silica gel packets you may find
    stuffed inside your shoe box or survival gear ~ they help
    keep moisture out of your wares, like leather or metal, but
    they are toxic. Think of them as a tiny moisture control
    product. These little silica gel packs aren't at all effective
    against the micro-organisms. In fact, they are not for food.
    Don't use desiccants in powdered food items such as salt,
    sugar or flour.

Because the desiccants are made of silica, they're great for your
guns and ammunition, and you may even like to stash them
with your silver to prevent rusting. Most desiccants are not safe
for food, although there are some made of clay (diatomaceous
earth) and can be food safe.

Here are some tips on the proper use of oxygen absorbers:
Gather what you need.

  • Mason jar. Do not open your bag of oxygen absorbers until
    you can control the storage by stashing the unused
    absorbers into a lidded mason jar. This will limit the
    oxygen exposure so the oxygen absorbers don't start their
    job until you're ready to use them with your food.

  • Mylar bags and heat sealer. A few oxygen absorbers
    paired with a Mylar bag will keep your bulk food fresh
    inside your buckets of food storage. You'll use a heat
    sealer to seal the Mylar bag with your food and oxygen

  • Outer container. Sometimes you can include oxygen
    absorbers in a food grade bucket without Mylar bag, for
    example in storing rice, or you may seal a dry meal into a a
    mason jar, though it's always better to have the extra
    layer of protection and seal your food in Mylar bags.

  • Gamma seal lids. If you plan on saving money buying bulk,
    you can get gamma seal lids so that you can access your
    bulk food.

Oxygen absorbers defend food against spoiling:
It's the oxygen in the air that causes food to spoil. Oxygen
absorbers extend the life of your food storage in three ways.

  • Microorganisms. With oxygen absorbers in check, you
    won't have to worry about microorganisms destroying your
    food. Without them, oxygen surrounds your food and
    microorganisms can flourish, including some kinds of
    bacteria, as well as mold and yeast, which can make you
    sick if ingested. Oxygen is life to these little destroyers of
    your food and they also enlist the help of enzymes.
    (Enzymes in food also react with oxygen to speed up the
    spoilage process). While some kinds of bacteria can thrive
    without oxygen, most can not. Thankfully, oxygen
    absorbers keep microorganisms and enzymes at bay, so
    your food can stay fresh.

  • Insects. When you use oxygen absorbers effectively, you'll
    never notice a little bonus of protein buried with the grain.
    You see, your grain may look weevil free, but weevils in
    particular burrow eggs into the grain and sometimes
    survive the packaging process only to hatch and maybe
    even thrive in your food storage. Beetles, weevils and
    moths need oxygen just like humans. Without oxygen,
    these little critters thankfully won't survive and they also
    won't multiply. Insects love your flour and whole grains,
    beans, pasta, dried fruits and vegetables, nuts, bird seed
    and pet foods ~ and you can help protect these foodstuffs
    with oxygen absorbers to keep insects under control.

  • Moisture. A big secret of oxygen absorbers is that they
    also keep moisture under control! Moisture is present in all
    foods (even dried beans and rice). Oxygen absorbers
    oxidize, which means they cause the iron oxide to rust.
    This is the process absorbs the moisture. Along with the
    iron powder, oxygen absorbers include sodium and
    activated carbon (charcoal). Sodium is the activator, which
    causes iron particles to rust, and this helps the absorption
    process.  The bigger the oxygen absorber in terms of cubic
    centimeters, the more it can absorb moisture. The
    activated carbon adsorbs (not absorbs) gases and organic

Now that you know some benefits of oxygen absorbers, and you
know that hand-warmers are not the same as oxygen absorbers,
you might want to start using oxygen absorbers right away in
your food storage. It's tempting, but before you get started
with oxygen absorbers, get all your food storage ready and
follow the steps below.

Get Started Using Oxygen Absorbers
Before you open the package of oxygen absorbers, get ready,
because there are three important steps to using them properly.

If you have no idea of how to use oxygen absorbers, rest
assured that it's pretty easy; however, you need to plan before
you open the package of oxygen absorbers. There are the three
basic steps...

Three basic steps to using oxygen absorbers:

1. Set aside a canning jar for storage of absorbers.
Have a canning jar ready which will fit the entire package of
oxygen absorbers. The canning jar must have a tight, sealable
lid, so you can immediately place the absorbers you are not
using in it. Set aside this reserved jar, ensuring it is dry and
ready to go.

2. Prepare your food.
Have your dry canning ingredients and their containers clean
and ready before opening the package of absorbers. This means
you must fill all your canning jars or mylar bags with food and
have the lids ready or the sealing equipment at your side. This
ensures you're prepared to plop in the oxygen absorber packets
immediately after opening the package and seal the food
immediately to take on the full power of the absorbers.

Foods that benefit most from oxygen absorbers include:

3. Know exactly how many absorbers you'll need.
Make sure you know how many oxygen absorber packets you'll
need for the task at hand.

This will give you a general idea for your food storage project:
  • Use at least one 100-cc oxygen absorber for a mason jar
  • Use three 100-cc oxygen absorbers per #10 can
  • Use 500 cc's of oxygen absorbers for a five-gallon bucket

Seven Tips for working with oxygen absorbers:

Tip #1: See if the oxygen absorbers are fresh
Look for the pink pill on the bag, which provides a good
indication of effectiveness in the packet. It doesn't guarantee
the oxygen packets are good; however, it does show the
effectiveness of the absorbers in the packaging. Instead: pinch
the bag and you will know it is almost certainly good. The goal
of oxygen absorbers is to lowers oxygen levels to less than
0.01%. The pink pill indicates this. If it's blue, you have an old

Tip #2: Use oxygen absorbers immediately.
Estimate how many oxygen absorbers you need, then purchase
oxygen absorbers in the smallest lot possible for the food
storage prepping you've planned. Plan to use them immediately
as oxygen absorbers start loosing effectiveness within three
months of purchase. That's because they are intended for long
term storage in mason jars, Mylar bags, #10 cans, and food
grade buckets.

Tip #3: Transfer oxygen absorbers to an interim
mason jar
When you're ready to begin working and after determining that
they are worthy of use, open the package of oxygen absorbers
and store them immediately in a glass mason jar (and not a zip
lock plastic bag).  The oxygen absorbers should be air tight. The
minute you open the manufacturer's enclosure, or the minute
there's a puncture in the bag, your oxygen absorbers loose
effectiveness, which is why you need to act quickly.

    If you can use a Food Saver with a jar sealer, pictured
    right, to store them in, all the better. The less air, the

Tip #4: Inspect the oxygen absorbers.
As you transfer the oxygen absorbers into the mason jar, make
sure each oxygen absorber is soft and powdery inside, not hard
or chunky.

  • Is it too hard? If you find an oxygen absorber that's hard,
    then it's old and useless and you should toss it. Your
    oxygen absorbers should feel as though they are powdery

  • Is it too hot? If you find an oxygen absorber thats too hot,
    it's a good one! When exposed to oxygen, the absorbers
    can get uncomfortably hot to the touch, but if this happens
    know that it's working (provided the contents are still
    powdery). Pinch the bag to see if it's still good: if it's
    HARD, then dump it.

    Now you're ready to begin using your oxygen absorbers.

Tip #5: Don't use oxygen absorbers for some foods.
Know when not to use oxygen absorbers:

  • Do NOT use oxygen absorbers with leavening agents!
    Do not place absorbers with pancake mixes or other
    products with the leavening as the absorber reacts with the
    leavening rendering the product useless. Leavening agents
    to avoid include yeast, bakign soda, and baking powder.

  • Do NOT use oxygen absorbers with salt or sugar either!
    You need to keep salt and sugar dry and pest free, but salt
    simply doesn't need an absorber, and oxygen absorbers will
    harden the sugar (think sugar cubes). Don't waste your
    money and time.

Tip #6: Use oxygen absorbers with food safe,
airtight containers.
Select a long-term food storage container that's a barrier to
both oxygen and moisture. Use mason jars with metal lids that
have gaskets, Mylar bags that you can heat seal, metal cans
withe seamed lids (available for use at Mormon canneries), and
Pete Plastic food buckets with air tight lids, such as gamma
seal lids.

Tip #7: Get the most use of the oxygen absorber.
Go ahead and use a Foodsaver with your oxygen absorber. Your
Foodsaver will get out the air, and the oxygen absorber will
have to work less to get the remaining oxygen. Also, be sure to
put the oxygen absorber on top, where oxygen collects, so it
can do the job of getting to most of the oxygen.

Combine oxygen absorbers with mylar bags and food grade
Food will last upwards of 20-30 years in mylar bags, when
combined with oxygen absorbers and food grade buckets. Mylar
bags filter out the sunlight and provide an additional barrier for
oxygen and moisture. To seal mylar bags, just iron the opening
shut. It's that simple to begin bagging your Costco and Sam's
Club bulk purchases.

Tips for Purchasing Mylar bags
When it comes time to buy a Mylar bags, know that thicker is
~ and a good thickness is .05. Long grain rice may easily
poke through thin mylar, which is important to know if you're
not using the mylar in another container.

Tips for emergency food buckets

  • Don't run to Home Depot and get yourself a white bucket
    as it might not be food grade! Ordinary buckets will leach
    toxic chemicals during storage.

  • Never store foods in a used bucket as it may have
    contained toxic substances as well. How can you be sure
    that bucket you got at the bakery wasn't also used to mop
    the floors. Don't risk it.

  • Remember to use a gamma seal lid and a bucket opener
    (pictured right) to make it easier to open and close your

Oxygen absorbers vs. silica gel packs
What's in the oxygen absorbers?
The active ingredient of oxygen absorbers is iron. Oxygen
absorbers aren't toxic ~ when you think of it many preppers
cook on iron (think
Lodge cast iron). Oxygen absorbers also
include sodium and activated charcoal.

When this charcoal gray iron powder does its job, it rusts. This
rusting creates an iron-oxide compound, which is simply a
combination of iron and oxygen. The oxygen clings to the iron,
leaving the rest of the container with nitrogen, which doesn't
have an effect on your food. (Air is a combination of 21%
oxygen and the rest is mostly nitrogen.)

There is no "dirty little secret" about oxygen absorbers.
Oxygen absorbers are not made the same as handwarmers! It's
true that handwarmers, have an iron powder in them, along with
activated charcoal and sodium chloride, but handwarmers also
include an inedible substance: vermiculite, which may be
harmful. (
Vermiculite is linked to asbestos.)

Not only do handwarmers have vermiculite, which shouldn't be
around your food, but the packets themselves are not
considered food-safe.

Are handwarmers the same as oxygen absorbers?
Now you know: they are made similarly, but they are not the
same. You should never use handwarmers in place of oxygen
absorbers, since they perform different functions. Because
vermiculite sometimes can become contaminated with asbestos,
it's not suitable for food use.

Why risk your health and why risk your valuable food storage by
being cheap on your oxygen absorbers? Don't skimp! Oxygen
absorbers are food-safe, vermiculite free, and ideal for food
storage. These hard working little oxygen absorber packets keep
oxygen in check to lock-in freshness and lock-out
microorganisms, insects and even moisture.
Do you know the difference between a desiccant,
and an oxygen absorber
A desiccant removes the moisture and an oxygen absorbs
removes the oxygen! Use a desiccant for your firearms storage
e.g., in a gun safe); and use an oxygen absorber for your food
storage. It's that simple. Now you know.

What's the difference between deoxidizers, oxygen absorbers,
silica gel packets and deoxidizers?

  • Deoxidizers: The purpose of deoxidizers is to remove
    oxygen during manufacturing, but preppers often
    mistakenly believe they are for stabilization during
    storage. They are useless by the time you get them. Do
    not re-use.

  • Oxygen absorbers: Non-toxic powdered iron in food-safe
    packets. Oxy-Sorb helps retain fresh-roasted flavor of
    coffee and nuts, as well as prevents oxidation of spice
    oleoresins present in spices themselves and in seasoned
    foods. Ideal for nuts because it prevents oxidation of
    vitamins a, c and e and significantly improves keeping
    qualities of polyunsaturated fats and oils. Use with gas
    flushing/vacuum packaging to absorb virtually all oxygen
    and absorb any oxygen that may permeate the package.
    When used with proper packaging and sealing, Oxy-Sorb
    reduces oxygen in the packaging to extend shelf life by
    preventing growth of aerobic pathogens and spoilage
    organisms, including molds.

  • Silica gel packets: Silica gel has many prepper uses. Silica
    gel, clay, molecular sieve and activated carbon desiccants
    remove moisture of various products at manufacturing.
    They are useless by the time you get them. Do not re-use
    them unless you reheat them. (We suggest you just get
    new ones.) Yes, you can use silica gel packets for certain
    meats; however never re-use oxygen absorbers or silica gel
    packets for food. Oxygen absorbers have a limited shelf
    life, and silica gel packets are not free from contamination
    if they have been used previously. While it's true you can
    re-use silica gel packets, please do not re-use them for
    food. Some silica gel packets are toxic, including the ones
    that start of blue and end up pinkish.

Is it okay to re-use Silica Gels?
No! Do not re-use Silica Gels because they break easily. Beware
of microscopic leaks or infusion as silica gels are toxic and
carcinogenic. Silica gels are not intended for food. Silica gel is
irritating to the respiratory tract and may cause irritation of the
digestive tract. Also, dust from the beads may cause irritation
to the skin and eyes.

Finally, do not confuse oxygen absorber packets with
silica gel
packets, though sometimes they may be used similarly.

No doubt oxygen absorbers are a prepper favorite; however, too
many prepper articles advise re-using the silica gel packets
enclosed with new merchandise. The first reason is they are
vastly different. Oxygen absorbers reduce oxygen and silica gel
packets remove moisture. Also, silica gel packets included with
shoes and other products were not created for  stabilization
during storage, but rather for moisture removal during
manufacture. By the time you get the merchandise, the silica
packet has long lost its effectiveness.

Why risk your valuable food storage by being cheap on your
oxygen absorbers? Don't skimp!

Also remember, before you open the package of oxygen
  1. Set aside a canning jar for storage of absorbers.
  2. Prepare your food.
  3. Know exactly how many absorbers you'll need.

Happy endings...
Oxygen absorbers are incredibly important for preppers. As a
prepper you'll want to get started using oxygen absorbers
because they will help you save food in the pantry for 30-years
or more! You can buy food in bulk to save money and then store
your food both for everyday use and for emergencies.

While they are not easy to find in your local stores, they are
available online. Now that you know how to use oxygen
absorbers for food storage, start using them! Be sure also to
learn about silica gel packs.

Related articles...

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