Rice Guys Finish Last

We’ve all done it.

A phone in the toilet, a phone in the mixing bowl, or a phone in the pool.

Somehow, we always get our phones wet no matter how hard we try to avoid it.

Yet, no matter what form of liquid death you bestow upon your phone, there’s one method for reviving it that everyone seems to swear by: the so-called “rice method”. Basically, you turn off your phone and place it in a bag of uncooked rice for 24 hours. Truth be told, I have used the rice method before to revive my phone and have had nothing but success. I would even bet that many of my readers have had similar success stories with the rice method too.

So why does this method work so well?

The underlying theory is that uncooked rice is especially good at removing every bit of moisture that might be lurking inside the phone. In other words, the uncooked rice acts as a desiccant, a chemical that readily removes water molecules from its immediate vicinity. You’ve likely encountered desiccants before as they’re commonly used in pill bottles and in shipping containers to keep things dry.

So is there any proof that rice acts as an effective desiccant?

The answer is no. In 2014, Gazelle.com actually ran a series of experiments specifically designed to determine the effectiveness of the rice method. To do so, they tested eight common household items on their ability to absorb water from a wet sponge over a period of 24 hours. The items used were uncooked rice, instant rice, silica gel, cat litter, rolled oats, instant oatmeal, instant couscous,and chia seeds. For comparison, they also left one sponge out to dry on a table. Surprisingly, they found that uncooked rice was the worst desiccant among all the tested items. Shockingly, the clear winner in this experiment was the sponge left out on the table. None of the household items fared any better.

So then why does the rice method still “work” for so many people?

Michael Zelenko of The Verge offers some insight. He believes that the rice method works well because it stops us from doing the worst possible thing to our phones after they get wet, turning them on. Turning a wet phone on is the surest way to kill it. So perhaps the act of simply putting the phone away and out of sight is what actually makes the rice method “effective”.

Okay, then what exactly should you do the next time your phone gets wet? I’ll leave you with the advice given by the writers over at Gazelle.com: 

If you absolutely must save your phone or data, your best bet is probably to open the phone up as soon as possible and leave it in front of a fan. Most phones can be opened with a Philips screwdriver, but the iPhone requires a specialized “pentalobe” screwdriver, which can be purchased on eBay or from iFixit.com. Don’t worry about voiding your warranty by opening the device– it ended the moment water entered your phone and tripped the water damage indicator.

Once you’ve gotten as much water as possible out, silica gel or instant rice may be helpful, but only if you use a large quantity. We’d suggest at least 4 cups, and a container that’s at least 1-2 quarts. Don’t waste your time with conventional white rice. And if you don’t have silica gel or instant rice, don’t worry. Leaving your phone in open air, (perhaps with a fan for better air circulation) works just as well.

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