Man I Love Chemistry and Those Teachable Moments.



If you are like me and pretty much what seems like ALL of my high schools students, then you probably have a mobile device near you and you are also aware of the effect water has on turning that most precious piece of  “I can’t live without it” into a paperweight. 

            As many people were enjoying the fireworks celebrating the Fourth of July, I was unfortunately; get this, without my phone! Earlier, I had placed my phone into the pool bag to protect it from all the splashing and cannonballs at the neighborhood pool and didn’t realize my kid’s water bottles had leaked into the bottom of the bag.  When I went to grab my phone… you guessed it…DEAD!  NADA! NOTHING! AUGHHHH!

            I have had many students share with me that when faced with a similar dilemma, they have just submerged it in rice and hoped for the best.  The rice absorbs all the water and the phone is hopefully back to normal.  So, I submerged it in the Ziploc bag of rice and waited what seemed like an eternity.  After 12 hours, nothing had changed. No matter what buttons were pushed in, what sequence, or for however long, nothing!  So what next?  Without hesitation, I jumped on the computer and searched YouTube (You tube search: phone water damage).  That’s when I was introduced to a product called DampRid.  You can watch the video from the product label.  

The YouTube video describing the use of the DampRid mentions picking this material up from any hardware store (I got mine at Menards) and then placing your phone into a Ziploc bag with the DampRid packet. I was desperate, so I followed the directions of the video. After 72 hours, I plugged my phone into the charger to watch the battery charger begin to illuminate! After several days now AND purchasing a waterproof Lifeproof case, I am happy to say that my phone is working fine. 

So what is DampRid and what is the chemistry behind this wonderful bag of powder? After all, this story leads to a great teaching moment in chemistry and you better believe I will be sharing this one with my students.

After examining the contents of the box, it simply says “contains calcium chloride”. Besides the added lavender vanilla scent (it is okay… my phone no longer smells), that is it!  But, what IS it that makes calcium chloride so wonderful at absorbing water from the atmosphere (OR my phone)?  How does it absorb water? Is this true for all salts? Is this better than using rice? How much better? When it does collect the water, what happens to the calcium chloride? If it dissolves, then what does it dissolve into?  You can see where I am going with this and how I can use this as a great teaching moment! Yeah for chemistry! AND, I am really considering remaking that product video using my phone story instead.  So I hope this helps if anyone ever finds themselves in a similar situation.  Good luck and get yourself some DampRid.