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Gadget in the pan? Just add rice

While the Gates Foundation is looking to reward new toilet designs, there is a “first-world” problem that afflicts many of us from time to time. The dreaded dropping the phone, iPod, Kindle in the toilet bowl. The whole hygiene and pathogen dissemination issue of using electronic gadgets on the toilet aside, how do you best dry a sodden device?

Numerous sites talk about quickly retrieving said device and gently towelling it dry without switching it on, removing the battery and then burying the gadget in uncooked rice in a sealed container (or better still putting it in a sealed container with a few packets of silica gel (the kind often found in the original packaging in which the device was delivered). The idea has most recently appeared on the UK CNet site, for instance.

I did a straw poll on Twitter to see whether the rice solution had worked for anyone and got mixed messages. Many said it did nothing useful and the gadget was bricked, while one or two said it had dried it out (it might have dried out without the rice of course). Rice – mostly carbohydrate – is hygroscopic (it can absorb water spontaneously from its surroundings), so maybe if a device is not too deeply wet, if it’s in a sealed container the rice will absorb water vapour from within the container, and so indirectly pull any moisture from within the device. It’s a long shot, but maybe worth a try. Companies selling device-drying systems refer to the “rice myth”, but then they would, wouldn’t they? There are also coming soon, if not already available, sealing services that will waterproof your gadget. But, why don’t manufacturers make them watertight by design?

I wonder though whether, under supervision, a much more radical and effective approach would be to blast the device with a jet of carbon dioxide from fire extinguisher. I’m not recommending the idea, just putting it out there as a possible approach.

Has anyone rescued a gadget from total submersion in water? I failed when an old mp3 player went through a wash cycle in my pocket. What trick did you use?

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