I was today years old when I found out that the famous Rice Trick for drying liquid damaged devices actually doesn’t work.
My stupid ass believed in it for almost two decades I think, ever since my Sony Ericsson T68i unexpectedly ended up in the toilet bowl and I managed to “revive it” by listening to my old man and placing it in a bowl of basmati rice, believing that the white seed will magically suck out all moisture out of the device, and help me resurrect one of my favorite phones of that year.
Boy was I wrong.
To my surprise, the whole thing was a viral TV “tech hack” from the 90’s that doesn’t work and needs to die off, and I think it’s better for us gamers if the trend dies sooner than later. This is why I’m writing this guide on liquid damaged devices.
Oh Come On, “They” Must Be Lying!
My first reaction once I’ve heard about this from my technician friend was “but but but I managed to save my Nokia 3310 and my SE T68i and my iPod Shuffle so you must be pulling my leg here”.
It’s not like all the technicians of this generation are unionizing and want to revolt against the rice industry, happily waiting that Vice or Buzzfeed launch another random article blaming millennials for the downfall of the rice industry.
No, it’s just that the rice trick doesn’t work, here’s why.
The Truth Behind Liquid Damaged Devices
If you’re like me and you managed to “save” a device by placing it in to a rice bowl and drying it out for three days, the chance that the water originally touched the motherboard or display is very, very small. So, instead of thinking that the water didn’t damage the device, you’re thinking that the rice trick saved the day.
The truth is; whatever caused the situation, be it water, Cola, pancake dough or flavored bathtub water from your favorite streamer, once the liquid touches the materials on the board, the board is damaged. No amount of silica gel, rice, cat litter or granola bars can help you.
If you managed to recover a device by “using the rice trick” the chance is that the device wasn’t critically damaged in the first place.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Grains, Seeds or Anything Else With Particles in It
It’s really simple; they can enter the device, mingle around with the water and make the repair even worse. It all depends on the device at hand of course. A Steam Deck has more vents and nooks, as well as the Nintendo Switch, while iPhones and similar waterproof devices have less. But, with the help of the liquid already in or around the device, the small dust particles can spread through the buttons and holes, under the display, through the motherboard and bam, as a repair specialist you have more work to do then you first bargained for.
From my own example, my stupid cat that I love and adore managed to dunk my Girlfriends Nintendo Switch Lite from the table down in to her bowl of water. Being the boomer that I am I instantly dried off the device and placed it in to a bowl of plain rice, waiting for three days patiently and being all smart about it…
It didn’t fix it.
Now, I don’t know how much you’re familiar with Nintendo’s support, but they do not touch liquid damaged devices at all, so you need to find a third party repair specialist. Luckily, we have one on the team and he happily obliged to help.
Once Filip, our repair specialist, got the device, he already saw that it was placed in to a bowl of rice by just looking at the white corners of the display which got a generous line of rice dust. The same particles also went in to the vents and ports, so instead of just dealing with the water damage, he had to brush off and clean up the rice remains as well.
Which brings me to my next point.
Silica Gel Is the Best Alternative to the Rice Trick
The industry standard for keeping out moisture out of phones, gadgets, shoes and… almost everything really, is Silica Gel. You know those little sachets that usually come with some prepacked foods and leather goods, those which our mums told us not to eat, yet Bobby from the second grade tried it once and you never saw him again? Yep, that’s silica gel.
Luckily it’s not something expensive or reserved solely for the big corporations, you can actually get a 2 lbs container over at Amazon for almost nothing, and I would definitely recommend to have one at home for emergencies. The best thing about silica gel is that it’s also reusable, you just place them in to a cake tray and pop them in to the oven to dry them off, after that pack them back up, seal them shut tight and they are ready for your next accident.
If you have a serious setup at home and you’re constantly surrounded by water bottles and cups, I would definitely recommend to have at least 2 lbs of it.
What About Cat Litter, I Can Use That, No?
Not just any, it has to be a specific kind. If you own a cat and want to get a cheaper alternative to regular silica gel, you can opt for crystal cat litter. It will act almost the same as Silica Gel plus it’s a bit cheaper, you can get 4 lbs of crystal cat litter for the same price you would get 2 lbs of Silica Gel.
Should I Open the Device, Disassemble the Parts and Clean Them?
I am aware that we are not in the era of Nokia 3310 where you could just pull up a few buttons and disassemble the whole device, so this really depends on your level of skill. If you’re knowledgeable and you already did it before, then I would definitely recommend to do it.
You don’t need a lot of tech, just a toothbrush, two cheap devices and enough 70% isopropyl alcohol to submerge the board, our repair specialist Filip actually made a really good article on it over at GadgetHeadlines.com, you can check it our here: Best Way to Clean a Circuit Board.
Conclusion? Help Your Repair Specialist, Spread the Word
The more people are aware of this, the less idiotic articles will there be on the internet and more people will actually make the life of their repair specialist easier. The most recent article on this I’ve read was from Gazelle where they are suggesting to place your phone in to a bowl of granola… Should I also add a cup of milk to top it off? Blah, anyhow, the conclusion is:
- Get some silica gel for your household, 2 lbs can be found for as little as $20
- If the device is damaged, dry it up, place it in to a bowl of silica gel, close the bowl.
- If you think that a major component got hit, bring to a repair specialist for a clean-up.
- Spread the word to your friends, the less people use the rice trick the quicker will the repair specialist save it.