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The Rice Trick Does Work to Rescue Drowned Devices – Eventually


Along with small children, falls, and impact damage, water damage is one of the leading ways to kill mobile devices. But unlike those other causes of death, water damage is the one event which can sometimes be reversed.

One popular home remedy to dry out a drowned device is rice, but have you ever wondered how well it works?

The short answer is: not very well.

Back in May I had the bad luck to drown my $400 camera in my gear bag. I had decided to carry a water bottle with me, and then foolishly chose a cheap one that leaked.

That water bottle didn’t kill my laptop, or my tablets*, but it did kill my camera. I was in NYC for BEA 2015, and thus limited by accessible resources, time, and transportation. Out of desperation I tried the dried rice home remedy.

Rice is not the only material touted as fix, but it was the only one that I knew I could get my hands on quickly. And it did work after a fashion – just not quite as quickly as we had been lead to believe.

Uncooked rice is not an overnight cure; my compact camera was sitting in a sealed bag with two pounds of rice for a good three days before it was even remotely functional, and it wasn’t fully functional for at least a week after that.

But I can use it, and it is fully functional (aside from the auto focus getting confused). In fact, the video I posted on Friday  was shot with this camera.

So if you have the rice and a lot of time, you can use it to revive a drowned gadget. But you might want to consider using another drying agent. Gazelle, the used gadget dealer, tested all the home remedies last year and they found that rice was actually the least effective.

The most effective was cat litter:

  • Cat litter
  • Couscous (pearl)
  • Classic rolled oatmeal
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Instant rice
  • Silica gel (crystal kitty litter)
  • Uncooked rice

I wish I had known to try oatmeal; I could probably have found that the next aisle over from the rice in Duane Reade (the same goes for cat litter).

P.S. I also secretly wish that the rice had failed; that would have given me a good excuse to get one of Samsung’s Android-powered cameras.  But that is neither here nor there.

image by stevendepolo


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DavidW July 12, 2015 um 10:52 am

I used rice to rescue my Canon T3i Rebel (it is a dSLR) a couple of years ago. I left it for five days. Later I read that the rice has nothing really to do with it. It is not absorbing that minuscule amount of moisture trapped in the camera. It is simply that over the course of a few days the water evaporates and you can use your electronics once again.

Nate Hoffelder July 12, 2015 um 2:46 pm

My camera was sealed in a bag, so the rice must have helped.

TeleRead Links: Drying out your phone, writing on a $19 device, and more – TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics July 13, 2015 um 1:00 pm

[…] Take: Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader (nee Ink, Bits, and Pixels, nee The Digital Reader) dug this article up, but didn’t mention what was, to me, the most interesting part—that Samsung Galaxies turned out […]

Frank July 13, 2015 um 1:06 pm

What does the * mean in the phrase, "That water bottle didn’t kill my laptop, or my tablets*,"?

Why would you want a Samsung Android-powered cameras? They never got good reviews.

Nate Hoffelder July 13, 2015 um 1:20 pm

I forgot to add the postscript that my Fire tablet was drenched but it survived without any impact. It is a rugged device.

Justin September 11, 2015 um 10:31 pm

Interesting, thank you. I will try oatmeal to use oatmeal in the future.. Although, earlier this summer I dropped my BABY (aka the best phone I’ve ever had, my LG G3) in a pool. Or, rather.. I fell in, with it in my pocket. I immediately got out but man it was soaked, inside and out. I took it out to turn it off but it didn’t respond to the power button, instead displaying "SD card removed unexpectedly" and turning itself off, unable to be turned on again. I stuck it in a sealed bag of uncooked rice and after 6 hours, it turned on to an infinite boot loop. After about 20 hours, it turned on normally and has not had any problems since. So I have to assume that rice does work, but, maybe oatmeal could’ve worked quicker? idk. Hope I never have to find out.

How to Rescue a Water-Damaged Book: A Short, Handy Primer (video) | The Digital Reader October 20, 2017 um 11:14 am

[…] all know how to use the rice trick to recover a waterlogged gadget (hint: oatmeal works better), but have you ever had to revive a book from a watery […]

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