I recently transferred a batch of home-made vanilla extract to a smaller bottle. I shook out the vanilla beans left in the original bottle into a container with white granulated sugar as there was a lot of extract and seeds left on them. The extract is vodka-based and contains about 35% ABV.

The end result is that this container of sugar is completely soggy and wet now, and I'm wondering how I can safely store it. From what I've read, dry sugar has an indefinite shelf-life because it is hygroscopic, creating a dry environment where nothing bad can grow. This is obviously no longer the case here. High sugar content seems to play a role in the shelf life of fruit preserves but the bigger factor there is probably sterilisation before canning.

How can I safely dry out this wet sugar mixture?

Should I toss it if it's been sitting at room temperature (with a fine mesh top) for 24 hours?

Is storing sugar when wet a Really Bad Thing?

Will the alcohol inhibit the growth of anything that might survive the high sugar content?

  • 1
    You could regard jam, or the tasteless, purified types of honey as just very wet sugar, and they keep even once any seal is broken. In fact a strong sugar solution is a preservative.
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 15:26
  • 1
    I had a bag of sugar get wet while it was in my car (bad seal) ... it wasn't quite as bad as yours (I had a lot of large clumps where it got wet. I put it through a colander, and problematic chunks into heavy syrup. From the sounds of it, you're not even watered down that that point yet.
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 16:20

2 Answers 2


You shouldn't have any problem. Bacteria need sufficient water to survive, a few drops wetting the sugar are not sufficient for them. As far as I'm aware, even old-style jam (1 part fruit to 1 part sugar, boil some of the water out) is shelf-stable.

Even if you are close to the limit, it's still not too concerning. The good news is that, when you preserve something with sugar, and get a bit too low on the sugar, it's not bacteria that colonizes it first, it's mold. The mold can be toxic on its own - but it's nicely visible.

So, as long as you don't have a sticky mass and see mold growing on it, the sugar should be safe. It can be hard to work with though - we have an old question on getting lumped-together brown sugar out of the container, if you need it.


Apparently, there is little danger in wet sugar. Sugar producers recommend drying it first and then warming it in low-heat oven for 10-15 to get rid of the lumps. You can shorten the drying time by adding some absorbent to the container with sugar, e.g. a cork or a piece of dry bread.

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