It’s happened to all of us – you accidentally spill water or another liquid onto your MacBook. Your first instinct may be to dry it off with a towel, but you’ve probably heard that soaking electronics in rice can help draw out moisture. Is this an effective way to salvage a water-damaged MacBook? Let’s take a closer look.
Why Putting a Wet MacBook in Rice Could Potentially Help
The idea behind soaking a MacBook in rice is that the rice will act as a desiccant – a hygroscopic substance that absorbs moisture. Here’s a quick overview of why this method could potentially work:
- Rice is very absorbent. The hard, chalky kernels have a porous surface that can soak up water.
- Rice is small enough to get into tight spaces. Having lots of individual kernels maximizes surface area for moisture absorption.
- Rice is non-conductive. It won’t transmit electricity that could damage the MacBook’s internal components.
- The starch in rice may have drying properties. Some sources claim the starch helps desiccate water, though this hasn’t been scientifically proven.
By completely surrounding a wet MacBook with dry rice, the rice should be able to draw water away from the laptop’s interior. The more rice, the more desiccant surface area you have to work with.
If you do decide to try the rice method on your water-damaged MacBook, here are the basic steps:
- Shake off any excess water from the MacBook.
- Power off the laptop and disconnect all cables/accessories.
- Remove any removable parts from the MacBook, such as the battery and hard drive.
- Place the MacBook components you want to dry into a sealable plastic bag or container.
- Fill the bag/container completely with uncooked white rice. Make sure all MacBook parts are fully covered.
- Seal the container, forcing out any air bubbles. This prevents condensation.
- Let the MacBook sit buried in rice for 24-48 hours.
- Remove from rice, reassemble, and test.
The key is to fully submerge the MacBook in as much rice as possible. Some other tips:
- Use short-grain white rice, as it’s most absorbent.
- Fill extra spaces with rice-filled socks or tied off pantyhose.
- Place the container near a fan or dehumidifier to speed drying.
- Change out the rice halfway through for fresh, dry rice.
Does It Actually Work?
Now we get to the million dollar question – can soaking your MacBook in rice after water damage actually save it? Here’s a look at some of the evidence:
There are plenty of anecdotal stories online of people claiming the rice technique successfully resurrected their wet phones and laptops. However, these reports should be taken with a grain of salt (pun intended), as people are much more likely to post when something works versus when it doesn’t. There could be a significant selection bias at play.
Controlled scientific testing on the effectiveness of the rice method has found mixed results:
- A study by Gazelle, a device trade-in company, found soaking wet phones in rice offered “zero percent improvement” in functionality compared to drying normally. Rice did not speed up or improve water damage recovery.
- Researchers at the University of Canberra, Australia found that immersing a wet phone in rice minimizes corrosion damage better than air drying, but is not as effective as specialized drying products.
- A study by UltrawideBand found rice to be an ineffective water damage treatment compared to silica gel packets or dedicated drying devices.
So while some lab tests show rice can have a small positive effect, it is minimal compared to more engineered solutions.
Most electronics companies explicitly recommend against drying a wet device in rice:
- Apple states: “Uncooked rice isn’t effective at absorbing moisture from an iPhone. If your device has been exposed to liquids, seek professional assistance.”
- Samsung warns against using rice, as rice dust can get into phone ports and cause damage.
- Phone repair brand iCracked recommends against rice, as it can leave behind starch/residue.
The consensus from manufacturers is using rice is ineffective at best, and possibly damaging at worst.
Risks and Downsides of the Rice Method
Beyond just questionable effectiveness, there are some potential risks to be aware of when soaking electronics in rice:
- Trapped moisture: Rice may absorb surface moisture but water can remain trapped internally.
- Corrosion: Rice does not stop corrosion, which continues damaging components when powered on.
- Residue: Rice dust and starch can gum up ports, slots, and crevices.
- Clogged cooling: Rice particles can block fans and heat sinks, causing overheating.
- Short circuits: Removing water does not fix damaged circuits vulnerable to shorting.
- Growth: Damp rice can develop mold, bacteria, or fungi if left for too long.
These potential issues mean rice may fail to fully dry the device, or even create new problems.
Alternatives to Rice
If using rice seems too risky, what other options do you have for drying out a wet MacBook? Here are some alternatives worth considering:
Silica Gel Packets
The little “do not eat” packets that come in product packaging contain moisture-absorbing silica gel beads. They work similarly to rice but are more effective at desiccation. Bonus – they won’t leave behind rice dust or residue.
You can purchase affordable desiccant drying kits that contain extremely absorbent materials like silica gel or montmorillonite clay. Some kits include a dehumidifying evaporative fan for active drying.
Specialized vacuum drying machines are able to literally suck the moisture out of devices through a vacuum process called lyophilization. However, these industrial machines are expensive and not practical for home use.
Professional Data Recovery Service
For best results, you can have water-damaged electronics professionally repaired by a data recovery service. They have commercial drying and disassembly equipment to thoroughly dry components without causing further damage. This is the most reliable method, but also the priciest.
Based on the shaky evidence and potential risks, dunking your MacBook in rice is generally not recommended. The rice may absorb a little surface moisture, but provides no guarantee of full water damage repair. Instead, you’re better off using a fan and sunlight to actively dry the laptop as much as possible, before turning to more advanced desiccants or professional recovery services if the MacBook remains non-functional. With expensive electronics like laptops, playing it safe is smarter than questionable home remedies.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about drying wet laptops with rice:
How much rice do I need to dry my MacBook?
You’ll want enough rice to completely submerge the entire laptop and all its removed components in at least 2-3 inches of rice. For a 15-inch MacBook Pro, this can take 5-10 pounds of uncooked rice.
Should I use white or brown rice?
White rice is recommended, as the grains are harder and more porous. The bran layer on brown rice makes it absorb less moisture.
Is sticky rice better than regular rice?
No – avoid sticky or jasmine rice varieties. The starch that gives them a gluey texture can leave residue on your device.
How long should I leave my MacBook in rice?
Most recommendations are 24-48 hours. Leaving it longer runs the risk of moisture getting trapped or fungal/bacterial growth.
Can I use rice to dry a wet iPhone?
Yes, the same principle applies. Make sure to bury the phone fully in rice and seal the container air-tight.
What if my MacBook still doesn’t work after the rice treatment?
The rice method is an unproven home remedy, not a guarantee. If drying in rice doesn’t resurrect your MacBook, seek professional repair services.
Here are some key points to remember about using rice to dry out wet electronics like the MacBook:
- Rice can absorb some surface moisture through desiccation.
- However, effectiveness is limited compared to engineered drying solutions.
- Completely submerging devices in rice is recommended for best results.
- Drying times of 24-48 hours are typical.
- Rice has some risks like residue, trapped moisture, and bacterial growth.
- Alternatives like silica gel, fan drying, or professional recovery may be safer bets.
- Rice won’t guarantee a resurrected device – manage your expectations.
While the rice technique is a popular internet fix, understand it is not a miracle solution. Base your decision on the pros, cons, alternatives, and risks. With something as valuable yet vulnerable as a water-damaged MacBook, exercise caution and common sense.
The Bottom Line
So can you soak your MacBook in rice after liquid damage? Technically yes, and it may help draw out some moisture. But it’s no guarantee of functionality. For the best chance of saving your MacBook, go with active drying methods or professional repair. Rice is a last resort with minimal evidence of effectiveness – not the magic revival cure some claim. Don’t put all your hopes into a bowl of rice when your precious MacBook is on the line.