Smart phone all wet? Resurrection is in the bag.

A lot of things get wet in the GCN Lab. Products that are designed to resist water or even to be waterproof are tested in a giant fish tank or with water blowing over them, propelled by industrial fans. So it’s safe to say that things get drenched from time to time.But what about when you don’t want to get something wet and it still takes a soaking? Rain, spilled soda and even sweat can play havoc with electronics. We even know someone who lost a cell phone in a toilet and another person who dropped a BlackBerry in a swimming pool.

You would think that plopping a non-rugged electronic device into a pool of water (in the case of the toilet we hope it was just water) would kill it forever, but that’s not always the case. Even non-rugged gear can survive underwater for a few seconds, sometimes. And if it’s powered down, the survival rate goes up quite a bit.

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The key is to dry it quickly and thoroughly, and for that you need more than a paper towel or the sleeve of your shirt. And that’s when you could use a Bheestie bag.

The 7-inch-by-9-inch bags are made of a pretty sturdy foil like material and are designed to draw water and moisture out of electronics. Inside are a couple hundred little BB-sized white pellets made up of water-absorbing chemicals.

According to Bheestie & Co., the pellets are 700 times more effective at pulling moisture out of the atmosphere (which consists of the sealed bag for the most part) than dry rice. And the chemicals in the bag work faster than silica gel, which is often used for pulling moisture from the air.

Bheestie (pronounced 'be-ste) in case you were wondering, is a word from India used to describe a servant who carries water.

The pellets themselves are non-toxic, though if you eat them you are advised to immediately drink two glasses of water and contact your doctor just to be on the safe side. You don’t want them drying out your insides. And just as full disclosure, we do usually test every claim a company makes, but took their word on the non-toxic statement. We didn’t eat any.

But for pulling water out of electronics, it just so happened that we were finishing up the rugged roundup review when the Bheestie bags arrived in the lab, so we had lots of wet electronics to test with.

First up was a cell phone that wasn’t actually rugged, but which we dipped in water anyway. Now, if your electronic device is powered when it goes underwater or gets exposed to a lot of moisture, it’s probably going to be destroyed. Unless the water is distilled, it will likely complete a circuit and something will fry. We’ve seen this happen many times in the lab, sometimes to dramatic effect.

But if the device is powered down, there is a good chance that drying it out can actually save it. The problem with a lot of the tiny electronics of today is that you can’t safely take them apart, so there is no way to get hidden water out of them. That’s where the Bheestie bags can come in handy.

We dropped the wet cell phone into the bag and sealed it up, letting it sit overnight. In the morning, we unsealed the bag and removed the phone. It seemed dry, and sure enough, came right to life when powered up. This was after resting for several minutes at the bottom of our test tank filled with water the day before.

The bags cost $20 each, but are reusable. In fact, we tested the same bag with five different soaked devices. It worked every time.

The little pellets are mostly white, but a few are blue. The blue ones turn gray when the absorbency properties of the chemicals are lost, so you can check to see if your Bheestie is still functioning.

The company says you can use the bag for maintenance, putting electronics inside at night to keep them in a totally moisture free zone. Using the bags this way, they are supposed to last a year. Dropping sopping wet electronics inside decreases this time dramatically, but it worked five times in our testing, and there was still a little bit of blue color left in the marker pellets.

We had two minor problems with the bags. First, they only come in one size. It would be nice if there were an iPad or Android Tablet size for larger devices. Even some of the big smart phones are a tight fit in the bag. Secondly, the pellets are very small, which means that they can actually fall inside some electronics. We tested the Bheestie bag with a portable hard drive that had been submerged in water as part of the rugged review testing, and the next day we had to pick several pellets out of the USB ports.

With a tiny price tag and a great track record in our testing, we would highly recommend that anyone who might at some point get exposed to lots moisture or even a splash of water keep a few on hand.

While we don’t really see the value of using the bags for maintenance purposes, having some on hand for emergencies should be a standard tool in every IT department. For $20 and almost no hassle, they might just be able to save expensive gear from a catastrophic failure due to water ingress. Against water, your protection is in the bag.

Bheestie & Co., www.bheestie.com

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 Cowboy Joe

Not that these bags are a bad idea, I saved a cell phone once myself with dry rice, but let's be honest - how often do our electronic toys fall into the water when they're off?

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 earth

The first thing to do when portable electronics get wet is to remove the batteries. Forget powering down, just take them out as fast as possible. The only thing I have bought without removable batteries is a Nook. It fits quite well in a two quart Ziploc bag. Most touch screens do fine in a Ziploc bag. And there are specialty bags for electronics to be taken under water. I have some nice video taken with my cell phone on a reef in an optically clear specialty bag (auto focus gets a bit picky with the constant wave motion so take it down and hold it still about two feet from something and let it adjust). Ziplocs do fine for the quick dip or with sand and mud but there are also specialty double seal bags that are cheap. Keep your fire starters in those if you are going walk about. A frost free refrigerator does relatively well for drying out electronics but it can take a few days. Note that some electronics (fruity types) have moisture indicators inside to let the manufacturer off the warranty if the device is operated in condensing atmospheres so put the device in a Ziploc after taking it out of the refrigerator till it warms up. Microfiber rags make great wicks and will remove water from just about anything. Wing it out and it will soak up more. Put one in the Ziplock against the seal. Without a battery, distilled water can be used to remove salt water from electronics; the MgSO4 in salt water will absorb moisture from the air and wet electronics if not removed.

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 Hank

Just to be fair, were any phones tested immediately after being exposed to see if they worked? I had a cheap phone some years back that was lost in 12" snow, and not found till a week later after the snow melted. It was still turned on and worked perfectly without drying, and still does to this day. Given that, I do agree that drying makes a lot of sense.

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 Mel

Sounds like a good product to store your phones in when at the water parks or beach. A little preventive measure goes a long way . . .

Fri, Mar 23, 2012

Many people talk about using the Silica Gel packets that come in your shoe boxes or other places but if you think about it they are no longer active because they have been used up. The silica just does not work as well.

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