Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is it safe to use silica gel beads to reduce humidity in a wine cellar? The humidity in my cellar is over 85 percent, and I’m concerned about mold developing over time on the cellar walls (the temperature is a stable 55 degrees F, with a professionally installed, ducted wine cellar cooling system).
—Lois, San Rafael, Calif.
Yes, that should be safe. Silica gel is a desiccant, which means it helps remove moisture because water will cling to it. I’ve seen those little packets that say “do not eat” on them in everything from a package of beef jerky to a bottle of vitamins and even in a shoebox. Of course, you really shouldn’t eat them, even thought they’re made from silicon dioxide and essentially harmless.
However, if moisture is a concern in your cellar, I’m wondering if silica is the best way to go. From what I understand, water can adhere to up to 40 percent of the silica’s weight in moisture. I’m not sure how much silica gel you were thinking of investing in, but perhaps a dehumidifier would be a better route? I’ve seen desktop sizes that start at $40 and go up from there, but how big of a dehumidifier you’d need depends on the size of your cellar.
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