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I am separating a larger container of sodium polyacrylate crystals into smaller containers for student experiments. Commonly known as "Deco Cubes" and used by florists in decorations and centerpieces, they are about 1/8" cubed. They are sticky which makes them hard to handle. Is there a water resistant powder that I can coat these with, to facilitate handling, that can be washed off just before hydrating?

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    $\begingroup$ They are not crystals. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 15:35

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It's hard to know what would be best without knowing what state they are in initially and how you are going to use them.

Assuming they are dried to begin with then they are likely sticky due to absorption of humidity from the air. Try drying them in an oven or vacuum desiccator (if you have one) and then storing with silica gel in a sealed container (the little packets you find in electronics boxes) to keep them dry.

If that doesn't work, try coating with a very fine water-soluble powder that won't ruin your future experiment. Icing sugar might be a good idea but be warned that the resulting gels may end up being the perfect place for bacteria to grow due to the wet, sugary environment so this might be a bad idea depending on how long you plan to use them for.

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  • $\begingroup$ I called the manufacturer and like you said, the product is absorbing moisture from the environment and becoming sticky. However, they had nothing to add for handling. They just deal with it. I tried adding corn starch, but after 3 days, the results were iffy. Looked like the moisture seeped into the corn starch and bacterial growth could become an issue. I have access to a vacuum chamber so I will try that next. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 2:53

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