Can I keep my things safe and dry in a coffee can?
September 1, 2011 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Is is safe to store flash media and other electronics in a tin?

I once had some metal parts rust out after being stored in an Altoid tin. My father informed me that yes, it's a bad idea to store metal items in a tin.
Will some flash media, headphones, and an MP3 player suffer the same fate if stored in a Nescafe tin with a seal similar to an (American) paint can? I'm traveling through desert, mountains, and jungle very soon and I'd like to keep the few electronics I'm taking with me safe, dry, and crushproof.
posted by piedmont to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Only one thing can really go wrong in a tin - if it gets cold, condensation can form inside and potentially get your electronics wet.

This is very simple to mitigate. Get some dessicant - the little packets that come in a shoebox - and toss them in the tin. Any moisture that gets in the tin will be picked up by the dessicant and your electronics will remain safe and dry.

BTW, this is the same thing you should do with any container of electronics, plastic or metal. I also highly recommend throwing a set of ziploc bags in there, so you can potentially ford streams or other wet situations with zero worry.
posted by fake at 7:27 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

How about placing your items in a resealable plastic bag, and then placing the bag in the tin?
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 7:29 AM on September 1, 2011

Or put some dessicant packs in there with the drives?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:30 AM on September 1, 2011

I don't know about any sort of electronics-on-metal problems, but I do know that the constant jangling noise of something rattling inside of a can would drive me absolutely bonkers. I would use a tupperware container (you can buy single pieces for <$5 at a Target/WalMart type store) or a purposed waterproof electronics container (if you're feeling fancy) instead.
posted by phunniemee at 7:32 AM on September 1, 2011

uncooked rice works as a dessicant. growing up, during the most humid part of the summer, we'd put some rice in the salt shakers to keep the salt flowing.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:37 AM on September 1, 2011

rice in salt shakers isn't there to absorb water, it's there to add agitation to break up the salt. It also tends to break really easily and all of a sudden you have tiny bits of rice or rice dust everywhere.
posted by royalsong at 7:40 AM on September 1, 2011

You can buy large amounts of silica gel desiccant very cheaply in the form of "crystal" cat litter. Activate it by sprinkling it on an oven tray and baking it at 110°C (230°F) for twenty minutes, then dumping it in a heat-resistant sealed container to cool.
posted by flabdablet at 7:53 AM on September 1, 2011

I kept a pair of clippers at the barn in a coffee can (Folgers, I believe) and the can did, in fact, rust. It was out there for years (order of 10 years) and our barn isn't terribly sealed, but it also wasn't exposed directly to rain or anything like that. How well will your can fare if you get it really soaking? I'm not sure, but I would go with one of the other options which will be sturdier and probably less awkward.
posted by anaelith at 8:13 AM on September 1, 2011

If you're keeping sensitive metallic objects in a metal tin, you may also have problems with galvanic corrosion if there is any moisture present. My crude understanding is that when two different metals are in contact in the presence of moisture, this may cause corrosion that wouldn't otherwise be a problem. I don't know whether or not this would occur with the metals used in stuff like flash card contacts... Watertight, crush-resistant plastic containers (Pelican cases etc.) are pretty affordable compared to the value of what you're storing.
posted by mindsound at 9:15 AM on September 1, 2011

I came in to suggest an Otterbox. Here's a larger one that might fit your headphones.
posted by chazlarson at 9:34 AM on September 1, 2011

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