Often, rice is in salt dispensers to prevent moisture from making the salt become clumpy and possibly get stuck in a shaker.

What else can be used to get the same effect?

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    Rice works very well for this. That's why we see it so often. Being larger than grains of salt it does not fall on your plate. Do you have a rice allergy, therefore not wanting to use rice? I don't see how this is a hack request. Mar 8, 2015 at 18:44
  • Well no I don't, but the rice does fall out of our dispensers. Mar 8, 2015 at 18:46
  • This happens occasionally because rice is reused or breaks over time. When replacing salt in the shaker the rice should always be replaced, too. Old rice fragments and turns to powder. Maybe we can reword this into a better hack request. Mar 8, 2015 at 18:47
  • Yes it does but ours are some homemade ones we bought and we'd really like to keep them. And as I didn't really want a discussion about rice but rather what alternatives there are to it I put the question that way ;) Mar 8, 2015 at 18:49
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    I vote for those little bags of silica gel. Sure, there'll be a few deaths here and there, but think of the savings! Mar 25, 2015 at 22:43

15 Answers 15


I don't know if the mechanism (for either rice or anything else) is actually a desiccant or mechanical action for breaking the clumps after they form, but I have seen movie theaters (where they are obviously in abundant supply) using popcorn kernels for this purpose.

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    for a few seconds there, I thought you were making a joke about the salt content of movie popcorn... good answer either way. Aug 26, 2015 at 19:49

You can use coffee beans instead of rice grains, it works the same but they are bigger.

And no, it won't pick up the coffee flavor. It's a very common thing in Argentinean restaurants. I've never felt, after using salt from the table, that my food tastes like coffee.

  • 1
    I'd imagine the salt may pick up the coffee flavor to some extent. Can you confirm one way or the other?
    – Mooseman
    Mar 13, 2015 at 1:42
  • no, i won't pick up the coffee flavor. is a very common thing in argentinean restaurants, i never feel, after using salt from the table, that my food taste like coffe.
    – gfa
    Mar 13, 2015 at 6:42
  • That's good to know. I've added it to your answer and given you an upvote. :)
    – Mooseman
    Mar 13, 2015 at 11:10

Crackers (or pieces thereof) can serve as an alternative desiccant. I've used saltine's with success.

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    I see one problem with this. Saltines break very easily, so couldn't pieces of cracker come out with the salt?
    – michaelpri
    Mar 9, 2015 at 2:46
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    Unless you apply the salt particularly vigorously this shouldn't be a problem. At least in my experience the cracker pieces don't deteriorate appreciably. I suppose if you used salted crackers, you might actually gain some salt.
    – Minnow
    Mar 9, 2015 at 16:05
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    If you use crackers, make sure you warn everyone who uses that salt that it contains gluten.
    – user4520
    Mar 16, 2015 at 0:23
  • Crackers works great! I've been using them for many years.
    – RHaguiuda
    Jul 10, 2015 at 19:07
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    @user4520 And here I thought "gluten free salt" was just a marketing gimmick!
    – Michael
    Jul 20, 2015 at 21:48

You can use dried parsley leaves to prevent moisture. Fill up 1/4 of the shaker and then put in the salt. You can also put in toothpicks, which will have the same effect. I prefer broken ones, but they have to be cleanly broken. One last method I know of is to use dry beans. I've done it with black beans, but I believe other types will work too.

  • I'd like to try the beans strategy!
    – Minnow
    Mar 9, 2015 at 16:07

Growing up my Mom had a salt shaker that came with a glass "cap" kind of that had some kind of purple granules in it. Have no idea what they are but it works. I have them now but don't use them. The salt is still dry as a bone.

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    do you think you could post a picture of the glass cap with purple granules? That might help improve this answer.
    – Adam
    Feb 28, 2016 at 22:16
  • Welcome to the site Hope! It's nice to meet you! Those purple granules sound interesting, and I've never heard of them before. Since you still have them, might you be able to post a picture showing us that part of the cap? If not, maybe you could look for a brand name somewhere on the bottle and share a link to it. Feel free to let us know if you need help with anything about the site or how to use it! Feb 28, 2016 at 22:16
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    @Adam It looks like we posted comments at the same time. I didn't mean to repeat what you said! Feb 28, 2016 at 22:19
  • Upvoted because it's so deliciously vague and intriguing. I'm hoping eventually this answer becomes popular enough that some intrepid Ponce de Leon tilts at this windmill and devotes their entire life to finding the Purple Granules of Lore. Aug 24, 2016 at 20:07

I've used a couple of dried beans (pinto, black, white) with good results. They're hygroscopic, just like uncooked rice. I get no clumps.

I doubt those will fall through your shaker! :)


We use orzo. It's a kind of pasta which is shaped like a slightly flattened grain of rice. It is a little longer than long-grain rice, and more importantly it is notably wider than a grain of rice, so it should not come out of your salt shaker accidentally. It is cheap, lasts forever, and available in multi-color which can be decorative if you have a clear salt shaker.


I suggest getting large-grain rice that is big enough not to fall through the holes in the shaker. I did a Google search for "large grain rice" and found many entries. This may be slightly more expensive, but purchasing a bag of it should last a long time.


Sometimes you get little packages of silica gel when you get some new electrical toy tool, I do believe this can be used to keep salt dry. Haven't tried it myself though.

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    I don't think that'd be too healthy to be honest :/ Mar 15, 2015 at 8:11
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    Even though the small packets are marked "Do no eat", it is allowed as a food additive, see wikipedia and GRAS Notice
    – holroy
    Mar 15, 2015 at 8:59

Now included with many medication containers of tablets that might attract moisture is a small hard silica plastic like barrel about 1/2 inch (~1cm) long, in the container. It is a desiccant and is safe and does not breakdown. This could be used in the salt container.


My first salt grinder, a Peugeot, clogged up just a few weeks after purchase. It still had the salt that came with the grinder.

I placed it in a narrow cup-like plastic container, not much wider than the grinder itself and inside the container I placed a couple of unopened sachets of silica gel. It seems to have cleared out the clogging to a large extent.

I suppose you could also fill such a narrow container with some rice and store the mill in it. The rice/silica gel gets to do its work effectively because it's right next to the grinder mechanism and there's no chance of getting any in your food.


Salt absorbs moisture so at humid times this problem can occur. Alternatives to rice could be millet or quinoa or other grains large enough to not fall through the holes for the salt.

A study on water absorption characteristics of the selected cereal grains was conducted. It was found that well dried maize, sorghum and millet grains take about 96, 48 and 24 h, respectively, to reach their water absorption capacities (water absorption saturations). Millet had the highest rate of water absorption as well as the total water absorbed. The rate of water absorption in sorghum was higher than in maize but maize grains imbibed more water than sorghum.


I usually use wild rice because of the longer grain size. I have also used uncooked spaghetti noodles when out of rice. Just break a couple of noodles into pieces 1/2 to 1 inch on size and add to salt shaker.


This question has an answer that's totally different, but I find it works quite well: place salt and other clumping spices in a sealed box or bag with a cheap calcium chloride dehumidifier packed/box. You can't use silica, because it reaches equilibrium and stops doing anything, while calcium chloride will work for a while even after it has totally liquified. The effect is strong enough that it will restore a salt shaker that has already clumped. The obvious disadvantage is that it's annoying to store your salt in a sealed container, but you could probably get away with keeping the salt in there two days out of each week.


Putting in some cloves in salt container prevents the salt from dampening and becoming clumpy


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