Bonnie Cha

Rescuing Water-Damaged Devices: Is There a Better Fix Than Rice?

Let’s play a quick game of Jeopardy, shall we? Here’s the clue: An iPhone 5, a water bottle and an energetic 2-year-old. If you answered, “What is a recipe for disaster?” you win!

That’s the situation I found myself in on Thursday night when my best friend’s daughter accidentally spilled some water on my smartphone at the playground. I didn’t realize it until I picked it up later and noticed that back was all wet and my screen was on the fritz. Fortunately, I was able to save it.

As luck would have it, I was testing a couple of methods for drying out water-damaged devices this past week: One being the old bag-of-rice trick, and the other a commercial product called the Bheestie Revive pack. The latter brought my phone back to life. But it’s not a guaranteed solution, as the Bheestie bag and the rice method failed to revive two of my waterlogged iPods.

Now, to be clear, I didn’t plan on sacrificing my iPhone to test these solutions. The idea was to use my old iPods as guinea pigs, but you never know when your expensive mobile device will need rescuing.

We take our cellphones and tablets with us almost everywhere. We bust them out at restaurants to take pictures of our meals. We take them on beach vacations, so we can read ebooks or share photos with friends and family back home. We even take them into the bathroom.

But if your gadget does happen to go for an accidental swim in the pool or toilet bowl, it doesn’t mean that it’s toast. There are steps you can take to save your device. Here are a few tips from Bheestie and WikiHow.

The first thing you’ll want to do is immediately fish your device out of the water. This seems pretty obvious, but it bears repeating, since the longer your gadget stays in the water, the more opportunity there is for water to get into open ports (headphones jacks and charging ports, for example) or gaps in your device, and permanently damage it.

Once you’ve retrieved your gadget, dry the exterior off with a clean towel, a microfiber cloth, or whatever you can grab. Bheestie recommends turning off the device immediately, but try to avoid pushing as many buttons as possible, since doing so can cause water to seep between the cracks. If your device has a removable battery, a microSD card or a SIM card, you’ll also want to remove them and dry them off.

Now, you might be tempted to use a hair dryer to try to accelerate the drying process, but you should definitely avoid this method. The air can push the water further into the device, and the heat can damage the inside circuitry of your device.

Instead, your best bet is to surround your water-damaged product with material that can draw out and absorb the remaining moisture. Using uncooked rice is a common and inexpensive method for doing so. But it doesn’t always work.

For my test, I dropped a second-generation iPod nano into a glass of water for a few seconds, and followed the steps I listed above. Then I placed it into a Ziploc bag full of rice. Ideally, you’ll want to wait between 24 and 72 hours before trying to turn on the device. I waited 48 hours, but unfortunately, the iPod nano showed no signs of life. That said, I’ve had multiple friends tell me they saved their phone using this method.

Next, I tried the $18 Bheestie Revive bag.

Bheestie offers a few different solutions for waterlogged devices. Their product line ranges from the Bheestie Protech, which costs $30 and is designed for larger gadgets like dSLR cameras and laptops, to the $18 Bheestie Sport, which you can use every day to absorb the moisture that devices are exposed to from sporting activities (for example, sweat and humidity).

Inside the bags are two small packets of beads. These beads contain microscopic pores and physically bond with water molecules to remove moisture from the air and from your device. The pores then act as a trap to prevent moisture from reentering the air and your gadgets.

Bheestie said the advantage of using its product is that it draws water seven times faster than rice, and traps water permanently, rather than releasing it back into the bag, where it can creep back into your device.

It also doesn’t leave any type of residue on your gadget, and you can use the same Bheestie bag for up to a year.

I got mixed results with the Bheestie Revive pack. As I already said, it saved my iPhone 5 from an untimely demise. I don’t think a ton of water got into the device. I just noticed it on the back and at the top near my headphone jack. But it was enough to cause the screen to have green streaks running underneath the glass.

It was an hour before I was able to get home and throw it in the Bheestie bag. All the while, I was trying to remain cool, telling myself and my guilt-ridden friend that everything would be okay. But inside I was freaking out. I could not afford to buy a new phone.

I left my iPhone in the bag overnight, and turned it on first thing in the morning (even though there are explicit instructions on the bag to wait 48 to 72 hours for soaked devices). To my relief and pleasant surprise, the screen was back to normal and everything worked just fine.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing happened when I dunked an old iPod touch (apparently, I like to collect iPods) in some water. I let the device sit in water for a bit longer (around 45 seconds), and after spending 72 hours in the Bheestie bag, it wouldn’t turn on. The company does say it cannot guarantee that it can save every device.

Neither of these solutions is foolproof, but they are definitely worth trying. Though the Bheestie Revive costs money, I think it’s worth buying and keeping around for daily moisture removal or in case of emergencies. It could save you hundreds of dollars.

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