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Water damage and the rice myth

Posted: Thu Aug 29, 2019 12:38 pm
by superphool
There is a common internet myth that if your phone gets wet, you can put it in a bag of dry rice and that will prevent it being damaged.

That is totally and categorically false

If your non-waterproof phone (or other electronic device) gets wet, leaving it in a bag of rice is almost as bad as leaving it in the water.

The facts:
If any parts of a circuit connected to an electrical supply (eg. to a battery) gets wet, the water and the impurities in that start to be broken down by electrolysis.
Hydrogen and oxygen are released which react with metals and other compounds in the electronic components and circuit board that the item of electronics is based on.

The result is something like "reverse electroplating" with metals and various other substances reacting and being converted from solid metal to chemical salts.

This is irreversible.

The only way to stop the damage progressing is to remove power from the device - physically disconnect the battery.
(Software based switching does not completely disconnect it and damage still continues in such as a phone or tablet which has been turned off by a screen command or button).

If the device does not have a easily removable battery, it should immediately be taken to an appropriate repairer for them to dismantle it and disconnect the battery. Hours count - the longer power is connected, the more damage is done.

Once the battery is disconnected, the device needs fully disassembling and properly cleaning, usually using isopropyl alcohol and deionised water.

It must then be fully dried before reassembly and reconnecting the battery. Proper drying can take several days in a warm, well ventilated location.

Dry rice in itself is a reasonably effective desiccant - but neither that, silica gel or anything else can remove all the moisture trapped inside a water-contaminated phone or tablet, it just dries the air in the bag.

A warm and well ventilated place is simply more effective than any desiccant such as these - but still not adequate on its own to prevent long term damage.

The only chance of a genuine solution to water contamination is full disassembly and professional cleaning.