Is it safe to use silica gel beads to reduce humidity in a wine cellar?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

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.

Dear Lois,

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.

—Dr. Vinny

Collecting Storage Cellars Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Will ice cubes made from alkaline water change the flavor of white wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how an ice cube can change the taste of wine in …

Jul 19, 2021

What's the proper way to pour wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers pro tips for wine service.

Jul 12, 2021

Where can I find recommendations for inexpensive wines that are ready to drink now?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, says that just because a wine CAN age for …

Jul 6, 2021

What’s the difference between white Bordeaux and white Burgundy?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains which grapes are grown in two of France's most …

Jun 28, 2021

What does it mean to say a wine is “dry”? And which wines are driest?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains a commonly misunderstood wine …

Jun 21, 2021

Is it OK for a guest to take back a bottle of wine they brought to a dinner party if the host didn't open it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers etiquette advice for bringing wine to a dinner …

Jun 14, 2021