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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4 thoughts on “Gadget in the pan? Just add rice

  1. I havent had this mishap occur to me, but I would not try the rice therapy if it did. I doubt it would truly work. The better method I would agree with David Bradley would be place your phone in a kitchen vacuum container and suck out the air then warm the container to about 40C. The water should rapidly evaporate and dissipate from the device in the low pressure environment, and most kitchens would have the equipment. Heating will increase efficiency of the process but too much will cook the device.

  2. I don’t think it does Alan, that’s what I was saying…I think a vacuum dessicator would be better. I cannot imagine how grains of rice around the body of a device would suck out moisture from deep within in preference to simply absorbing water vapour from the air in the sealed container…there’s an equilibrium of course beyond which the humidity within the container will become constant, that might be far enough to the right (i.e. dry phone) but I doubt it. I think people who’ve tried this with success have just been lucky in that the water didn’t penetrate too deeply, didn’t cause a short circuit and didn’t wet the interior of their battery.

  3. Not entirely convinced the rice method would work. I didn’t drop mine down the pan, but I did drop it in a field a couple of years ago. By the time I realised I’d lost it it had got dark, so I delayed searching for it till next morning. During t
    he night there was a heavy dew. However, the phone still seemed OK as it was still switched on. I made the mistake of turning it off and subsequently couldn’t get it to turn on again, despite taking out and drying the battery, and trying to dry the phone out on (successively) a hot, sunny windowsil, over a radiator and in the airing cupboard. I think I did also try rice. As you can tell, my phone didn’t even get ‘totally submerged’

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