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Myth Debunked: Uncooked Rice Isn’t the Best Way to Save Your Water-Damaged Phone

If you drop your smartphone in water, take it apart as much as you can and place it in rice. It’s been the most recommended method of cell phone rescue since the days of clamshells. In fact, it’s usually the only thing recommended when searching for “how to save your wet phone.” Turns out, we’ve been wrong all along.

Gazelle, the company best known for buying people’s used electronic devices, performed a series of tests to determine the best ways to prevent damage to phones dropped in water.

The Sponge Test

Pre-weighed sponges soaked with water (and then weighed again) were used in this experiment. Gazelle placed them into sealed plastic containers with 100 grams each of six different drying agents. There was also a wet sponge left out in open air, and one sealed in a container by itself.


Each sponge was placed on top of wax paper, to prevent direct contact with the drying agents, since in a smartphone, there is normally no direct contact with the drying agent.

Uncooked White Rice Ain’t Cutting It

After 24 hours, the sponges were weighed again to see how much weight had been lost. And would you believe it—according to the results, uncooked white rice placed dead last in effectiveness as a drying agent. Here’s the list, from best to worst.

  • Open-air sponge – 7.6 mL lost
  • Silica gel – 6.1 mL lost
  • Cat litter – 5.5 mL lost
  • Instant couscous – 5.0 mL lost
  • Instant rice – 5.0 mL lost
  • Instant oatmeal – 5.0 mL lost
  • Uncooked white rice – 4.0 mL lost
  • Sealed-container sponge – 0.7 mL lost

Cat litter, instant couscous, instant rice, and instant oatmeal all performed better than uncooked white rice—everyone’s favorite damn drying agent.

The Cell Phone Test

The second experiment they performed was similar, using a few iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S3 devices. Using the same drying agents as above, it was also shown that uncooked white rice was the biggest loser.

The results of Gazelle’s test with phones submerged in water and “dried” with household items.

Instant Couscous/Rice Is More Pourous

So why did drying agents such as instant couscous and instant rice perform better than uncooked white rice?

On Twitter, Gazelle explained that both of these instant products are steamed, which cracked starch. Starch, already known for its absorbent nature, becomes more porous thus taking in more water than usual.

Rice on the other hand is a grain, which has not been ground up, so it still has its layers from being a seed. As a seed, it can only absorb a limited amount of water for it to grow into a plant. If it absorbed as much as something like pasta (which contains lots of starch), it would dissolve and become useless as a seed.

Silica Gel vs. Open Air

While instant couscous and instant rice work better than uncooked white rice, silica gel works the best out of all drying agents that Gazelle tested.

But while silica gel performed well, the sponge left out in the open (71°F; relative humidity of 40%) lost the most amount of water in the tests. With this information, should you leave your phone out in the open or place it in silica gel?

Since there is a wide range in performance for each drying agent, choosing one or the other could have a direct impact on the recovery of your smartphone, whether it be


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