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Help When Your Smartphone Gets Wet!

Updated on June 25, 2013

It's amazing just how many people get their smartphones wet. What’s even more amazing is how many of these people do the wrong things afterward that actually do more damage than getting the phone wet. In the interest of saving valuable electronics and helping others I thought I’d something up so that people can be more prepared in the even that their smartphone ever gets wet. Time and preparation are two of the most important things to saving your smartphone from any damage. Reading and memorizing the information outlined below can make all the difference in saving your phone. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Memorize these steps now, and hopefully you’ll never need to use them for yourself or a friend. Simply put; plan for the worst by memorizing the steps now, then hope for the best.

The first several steps you’ll need to do IMMEDIATELY! The first one is to turn the phone OFF and REMOVE THE BATTERY! Don’t think about it, just do it NOW! Seconds count here (especially if the water is contaminated or salty). 30 seconds later and it might be too late. The battery is usually the source of damage, not just the water alone. Water and electricity do NOT mix. No exceptions. End of story. Removing the power source immediately is one of the MOST important things that you can do at this point.

If your phones battery is not removable then simply keep the phone OFF and do NOT turn it on. I know, it’s temping to try it, but don’t, unless you need a fancy paperweight.

Acting quickly can make all the difference in being able to save your phone from water damage, but don’t panic! One of the reasons why it’s important to remember these steps is so that you can maintain a level head, which is key during a time when you'll be under pressure.

NOTE: If your phone gets wet it’s always best to assume it is waterlogged, whether it is still working or not.

FACT: salt water is FAR more dangerous to your smartphone that regular water.

The next step all depends on the type of water that your smartphone was in. If it was dirty water (like the toilet) or saltwater (for example from the ocean) the contamination must be rinsed out of the phone before you can reuse it. To do this you’ll need to place the phone in some DISTILLED water. I know this seems counter intuitive, but there’s a VERY good reason for it. Also, there are a couple of cautions you should be aware of before doing this step.

First, do NOT put the phone under running water or try to slosh the water around. Treat your phone from this point on as if it were an uncooked egg. Don’t make any sudden movements with the phone that might ‘spread’ the water that got inside around. Simply put the phone into the distilled water for a few minutes, then carefully remove it. Get rid of the distilled water that it was soaking in (which is now dirty) and pour more distilled water into the container. Soak your phone in it for a few additional minutes. Repeat this process several times. For those of you who are worried about putting your phone into water (the very thing you’re trying to remove) should know this. The reason for this step is to remove unhealthful and/or dangerous contaminants. Germs and your phone, and/or salt water and your phone are not a good combination. Also you should know that most electronic repair shops routinely wash out contaminated electronics before they do anything else. As long as your battery is removed and the phone is off you should be OK.

You see when salt water evaporates it leaves crystals behind that can do extreme damage to your phone's fragile internal components. Tap water also contains many damaging chemicals. That is why it needs to be distilled water, and only distilled water.

Once this step has been completed you should place the phone on some paper towels and pat it dry as much as you can. Your goal at this point is to dry your phone, and dry it fast. If you simply try to let the water in the phone dry naturally on your desk or a table, the chances for damage from corrosion increases drastically. This is why you need to remove your SIM card, not just to protect it but to open up more of the phone to allow for better drying (of course protecting the SIM card is important in itself too). SIM cards are fairly well protected from water damage IF the battery has been removed and the power is off.

What you DON’T want to do is to use any direct heat. Hair dryers, microwaves, your oven or even putting it in direct sunlight, are all a BIG no-no. Instead use a wet vac as best you can, but don’t waste too much time playing with it. The whole idea here is to use air to quickly pull moisture out through the same pathways as it got in.

Next you’ll need to place the smartphone in a drying agent. Placing the phone in a room with a dehumidifier is also good. Silica gel works best, but as time is very important you’ll need to get some NOW, and not shop for some after your phone gets wet. You can get some for free in packages of new clothing, shoes or even some vitamin bottles. Places like Amazon also sell it, but again, you’ll need to get some now. You won’t have time to wait for them to ship it to you. If you don’t have (or get) any silica gel then uncooked rice also works, BUT you should know that silica gel works MUCH better than rice. I always have some handy for precisely these kinds of emergencies.

Heat will also cause more damage because it places a lot of stress on the phone, especially stress caused by expansion and contraction. Another reason why heat should be avoided is because it could cause your battery to leak acid. It could also cause your battery to explode. Lithium-ion batteries are very sensitive. While it’s true that heat will evaporate the water, it could also damage many other things in your smartphone, like the adhesives. This is also why you want to avoid using any rubbing alcohol. Alcohol is a known solvent and it WILL dissolve internal adhesives. If you drop your phone in the toilet then you can gently wipe the outside with alcohol to disinfect it, but it may (and probably will) damage the finish of the body of the phone, especially plastic phones. Using silica gel is the best bet, and if you don’t have that then use uncooked rice BUT you need to keep the smartphone in it for AT LEAST 3 days. I usually wait 5 days to a week. A word of caution, you do NOT want to rush this step. Because of that it will probably be one of the hardest steps to complete. You WILL be tempted to see if the phone is working sooner, but if you succumb to those temptations you might damage a phone that was well on the road to recovery. 2 days should be the MINIMUM amount of drying time. Rule of thumb; the longer you keep the phone in the drying agent, the better your odds are that it will work, pure and simple. Resist the temptation to rush this step.

Once this step has been completed you should inspect the phone before you turn it on.

If you see any damage to your LCD screen where water leaked in, then your phone needs to get a new screen before you use it again. You simply cannot repair a water damaged LCD screen simply by drying it. It needs to be replaced. If the screen is inspected and looks OK then you can try to turn it on, BUT be prepared to turn it off quickly if needed. For example; if you turn it on and it starts to act strangely, then QUICKLY turn it OFF. Remove the battery and place the phone back into the drying agent for a few extra days. Like LCD screens, some microphones can be premaritally damaged by water also, so keep this in mind as you use it for the first time after drying it out. If you find that the microphone is damaged then it will need to be repaired. Additional drying won’t help this.

I've had a lot of success in rescuing all forms of waterlogged devices by planning ahead and following the above simple steps. Simply put; first, turn the phone off and remove the battery as quickly as possible. Then remove the water as quickly as possible. It sounds simple but most people try to use their phone too soon after it gets wet. It’s a shame but most phones are damaged this way. Hope this article helps you prepare for what none of us wants to ever experience. At least now you’ll know what to do, and what not to do to increase your odds of repairing your smartphone. Enjoy.

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