Liquid Damage & Electronics

Just throw it in rice, right?

Rice Treatment

What’s the first thing you hear your friends say when you drop your phone in the pool? “Throw it in a bag of rice!” Almost everyone will tell you that it has worked for them at some point. So what’s wrong with putting your drenched electronics in rice?

Salt-water damage to a PCB
Salt-water damage to a PCB

Most people think that water, or liquid, is the threat to electronics. This is somewhat true because¬†while the device is on or has power from a battery, it can cause short circuits. However, it’s not the actual water that permanently damages your device. It’s the minerals and other contaminants in the water. So, when you use rice to dry up your cell phone, you’re actually leaving behind concentrated areas of minerals that begin to eat away at the circuitry in your phone. This is especially true with salt water. Dropping your phone in the ocean and then using rice to fix it is far more damaging than beneficial. It may work temporarily afterward, but don’t expect it to last long.

Ultrasonic cleaner
Ultrasonic cleaner

The best thing you can do for a device that has fallen into water is to first remove the battery if possible. If not, turn the device off. The next thing to do is either get it to a repair shop or if you’re comfortable working on electronics, begin to disassemble it. Here at our shop, we use an ultrasonic bath to remove any corrosive minerals and make the PCBs look like new. At home, one of the best cleaners is 97% isopropyl and a toothbrush. Just be sure not to tear any ribbon cables and keep the alcohol away from any microphones. After the device has been cleaned, either let it sit for an hour or two to dry or use a heat gun on very low heat to evaporate the alcohol. If your device works at this point, good job. Most likely it will continue to work well for the near future. Minerals can be sneaky and hide under IC chips and other components, which is why we use an ultrasonic cleaner, but if you’re lucky you may be able to remove all of the corrosion on your own!

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