What it doesn’t mix with is your soggy smartphone, even though you’ve probably had it beaten into you that the first thing you want to do when you accidentally soak your device is to drop it in a big ol’ bowl of uncooked rice.
As it turns out, the rice does nothing. It’s correlation, not causation. But plenty of people put their soaked devices in rice, let it sit for a day, and praise the dark gods for saving them hundreds of dollars when they find that their device magically works again. The rice! The rice!
A brand-new blog over at iFixit busts everyone’s balloons about this common disaster-saving trick. In it, “water damage and microsoldering expert” Jessa Jones (best title ever) details why rice isn’t quite the end-all, be-all cure for your watery accidents:
“When we put a phone in rice, it is the same thing as doing nothing. It just FEELS like we’re actively trying something. Corrosion is instant when a phone hits water. Sometimes the corrosion hits important components, sometimes not.
If we resist turning the phone on until it dries on the counter, in the rice bag, or anywhere else, sometimes we get lucky. If we had the phone in the rice bag, we think the rice saved the phone. But it didn’t!
Even if the phone seems to be working, it will have oxidized solder joints that are weakened and brittle. Corrosion will continue to spread inside the phone. We have done nothing but experienced temporary luck.”
So what should you do instead? Bust out the hairdryer? Soak your device in rubbing alcohol? Actually ... yes, but only sort of.
If you can, you’re going to want to take your device apart, pop out the battery, and use isopropyl alcohol (at a concentration of 90% or greater) to displace the water before it has a chance to dry on your device’s expensive circuitry.
As iFixit writer (and Lifehacker alum) Kevin Purdy writes, there’s a multi-step process you’ll want to take when your device gets wet.
However, if you can’t do all of these steps—or don’t want to, because opening up your smartphone might ruin any other features the manufacturer devised to keep liquid out—there’s a shorter list of suggestions you can try.
Turn off your device, tilt it so the most liquid possible drains out of wherever it entered your device, and let it air out before you power it back on. This isn’t a cure-all, but it’s the best you can do short of taking your device to a repair shop (which is worth considering, depending on how badly it got soaked).
If you’ve got the skill, or the tools, here’s Purdy’s more comprehensive list of suggestions when you accidentally douse your device:
Minimise exposure to water as much as possible
Power the device off immediately
Drain the device to get as much water out as you can
If you can remove your phone’s battery, and you can see it’s been exposed to water, remove and replace the battery
Remove the logic board and other parts that appear corroded (except the camera and display) and immerse them in 90% isopropyl alcohol.
Scrub the immersed parts, dry the alcohol, and meticulously reassemble.
And, yes, we know we’ve talked up the put-in-rice method several times here at Lifehacker. We will never mention this silly technique ever again.