iPad water damage
October 31, 2014 7:06 AM   Subscribe

After my water bottle spilled in my bag two days ago, my iPad was functioning normally, but had water spots on the screen. So I spared you folks and asked Google what to do. It's been sitting in a bag of rice for almost 24 hours. Now, the screen turns on (via both the power and home buttons) but doesn't respond to touch. And there's rice lodged in the headphone jack. I don't have any warranty or insurance on it. What do I do now?!
posted by i_am_a_fiesta to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When this happened to my phone, I left it in a bag of rice for 2 weeks and never turned it on during that time period. It also had water behind the screen and the touchscreen was not responsive, but after the 2 weeks it worked normally. I would give it more time.

Also, you might be able to get the rice out of the headphone jack using a can of compressed air.
posted by Librarypt at 7:13 AM on October 31, 2014

Vacuum attachment for the rice in the headphone jack. Time for the water.
posted by 724A at 7:20 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, 24h isn't enough some times. Give it a bit longer in the rice.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:29 AM on October 31, 2014

Thanks for the answers.

I'm mostly concerned because for the 24 hours after the spill, it was working completely normally (except for the spots under the screen) and now the screen is no longer responsive.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 7:33 AM on October 31, 2014

An iPad is almost watertight. So it's going to take a while for all of the water to evaporate out of the tablet so that it can be absorbed by the rice.

If it turns out that the touchscreen is permanently dead, the good news is that there are shops where they'll replace it for you for not too much money (a fraction of the cost of a new iPad, anyway).
posted by pipeski at 7:42 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pull the battery
On an iPad? You'd have to remove the screen to remove the battery.

If you are concerned about rice or rice dust getting into the other crevices again, you can try to cover the iPad with some knitted fabric like a t-shirt. That should help keep the large particles out while still letting water out and air in. Wrap it in a shirt and then put the whole thing in the rice. Also, there are other materials like Damp Rid that may work faster than rice.
posted by soelo at 7:56 AM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Rice is an old-wives-tale. It is really no more absorbent than putting your phone on marbles, restaurant receipts, or the table top. I've met lots of people who've claimed it helped, but none of them have ever done a side-by-side test with ordinary airdrying.

If rice worked, a giant trash-container full of rice would make a power-free dehumidifier.

For a similar reason, those little paper bags of dehydrating powder only work in small, sealed environments, and only for a very few minutes to hours after opening their original packaging. They can be "recharged", but it takes several hours to days in an oven well over 212 deg F. And if the bag isn't sized large enough for the amount of water contained in the chamber it's meant to work in, it's effectively worthless even straight out of the package.

Here's what works: anything that encourages normal drying, instead of voodoo materials.

For most objects, that would include wind - blowing a fan across something is a remarkably powerful way to dry things out - but since the wind won't get inside the phone, this won't help you.

Then be sure to tell your friends that it was the rice that did it, not the time + air currents + warmth.

Next we turn to heat - which some of the electronics in the phone, notably the battery and screen, are sensitive to. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you put the phone in an environment as hot as an oven turned on low (typically 170-190 F). But if you happen to have a gas oven with a constant flame (rarer these days), warm enough to rest bread dough in, that's perfect.

Another fairly safe source of heat is the windowsill, if it's sunny out, or right underneath a bright, incandescent lamp - NOT touching the bulb, more like a few inches away, and you'll want to check the phone's surface temp every 15 minutes for an hour or so to make sure it's no more than somewhat warm to the touch.

I've been known to dry computer keyboards by putting them on the dashboard of my car. It heats up in the least sunlight, and the keyboard "steams" dry. Again, phones are more fragile than keyboards, but unless your car regularly gets up to sauna-level heat this time of year, fairly safe. Additionally, outside air is very dry when it's cold out, aiding the process.

The last variable is time. Even for something as un-airtight as a keyboard, it can take multiple days to dry out thoroughly. For a phone? Geesh. At least a week.

Finally, make sure you open up the phone as much as possible. If there's a SIM card or memory card or removable anything, remove it in the hopes that it might free up an escape route for the water vapor.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:20 AM on October 31, 2014

I always thought the rice idea was to place the electronics in a sealed bag full of rice. I would think a sealed bag of desiccant would be even better. You are effectively creating a controlled, "dry" local environment for the electronics.

Moving air is great only if the relative humidity is right and the air has the ability to flow past the impacted areas. I could imagine many situations where a closed bag of rice might provide a better sink for evaporating liquid than the ambient air...moving air on a humid day is certainly worse than rice - moving air in a desert is certainly better...

To the original question, make sure you have completely turned off your ipad and let it sit for at least another 24 hours. Electronics in the off state + water typically isn't a major problem. Electronics in the on state + water can be a problem - especially if you have any salt in the water...
posted by NoDef at 1:48 PM on November 1, 2014

Nope, still wrong, NoDef. A closed bag of rice will be in stasis with the humidity in the air when it was sealed. It will only be useful if the humidity is going to rise, and then only incrementally for the difference between those two states.

Removing water requires energy transferral: evaporation of the liquid water.

Now, if you bake the rice overnight in a hot oven to drop its internal moisture levels drastically, then IMMEDIATELY bag it in an airtight container, and put the cellphone as soon as it has cooled, immediately resealing afterwards... you'll probably agree it would have been easier to just put it on the windowsill in the first place.

Energy transfer doesn't happen because a magical bag of rice is nearby. Something has to supply those 539 calories per gram. The slow method is to wait for air molecules to supply it with heat transferral (letting it sit). A faster method is to move more of those air molecules past (fan), and faster yet is to raise the temperature of the phone (imparting some of that energy needed). Rice kernels nearby that have been sitting in the same air as the cellphone don't provide any extra energy.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:12 AM on November 4, 2014

Update: the iPad stayed in rice for a week. The touch screen functionality returned but water spots remained under the screen. I was going away for the weekend and decided to take it with me. It worked perfectly all day Friday, and by Saturday morning, it was dead dead dead. I've been unable to turn it on since. Appointment with the Apple folks this afternoon, but I'm not optimistic.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 12:31 PM on November 10, 2014

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