If you’ve been unlucky enough to drop your phone in a drink or down the loo (the latter applies to one in five of us, by the way), your friends and family will have probably shared all sorts of remedies and treatments which they swear can bring your device back to life.
“Dry it with a hairdryer”, says your best mate. “Overcharge the handset so the heat dries it out”, your dad counters. “Stick it in the freezer”, comes your neighbour’s muffled voice through the wall.
Although everyone seems to have an opinion on what to do if you soak your phone, most of these tactics will do nothing to resurrect your device.
So, here’s what to actually do if your phone gets wet:
When it comes to fluid and electronics, time is of the essence. Remove your phone from its liquid surroundings as quickly as you possibly can. The more time your phone spends submerged, the more water it will absorb. More water equals more damage. So get your phone out of there stat!
With soggy phone in hand, your immediate temptation will be to check if it’s still working by pressing some buttons. Resist this urge. Applying pressure to the keys will potentially move liquid deeper into your device. Since that’s where all the important stuff is, that’s not something you want to do.
Remove the battery as soon as you can. Without an active power source, your phone will not short circuit – meaning important parts won’t be frazzled by excessive energy. We know, we know – some phones don’t allow you to remove the battery. If you own such a device, turn the phone off instead. This should have the same effect.
Water loves nooks and crannies and will fill any open spaces – such as the small gaps between your phone and its case. Take the case and any additional accessories off to minimise the number of places water can hide.
If your phone’s a goner, you may as well attempt to rescue some of your data. Anything stored externally will be contained on your SIM card or SD card. So, remove your SIM card and any SD cards you’re using and gently dry them with a towel.
Use the aforementioned towel to dry off the exterior of your device. Make sure you don’t allow water to enter any ports on your phone – such as the headphone or USB inputs. If any of these ports have covers, once dried, open them to aid ventilation.
If you’ve followed our steps thus far, you’ll have in your hand what looks like a dry-ish phone. However, inside – where it really matters – will still be sodden. You need to get all the internal moisture out. To do this, place your phone in a desiccant – or absorbent – material. Uncooked rice works well. Even better, if you have them, are silica gel packs (like the ones you get in shoeboxes). Leave your phone covered for 48 hours.
No, it’s not worth removing it from the rice early to check if it’s working. Patience is a virtue. Be virtuous. Wait.
Remove your phone from the arid environment you’ve created for it, and – fingers crossed – try turning it on. At this point, you’ll find out whether your phone is lost forever or not. Unfortunately, water damage is a serious issue for phones. And you may find that your device is unsavable. If this is the case, there’s not much more you can do I’m afraid.
Congratulations! If your phone’s still alive, you’re one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, you’re not done yet. But this is as much as you can do by yourself. When your phone gets wet, all the metal inside becomes much more prone to rust. A professional phone fixer will be able to remove some of this corrosion and so ensure your phone has the best possible chance of seeing you through another few years. Or until you soak it again.
By following the steps outlined above, you give your phone the best possible chance of making it through its watery ordeal. We highly recommend that you don’t follow any other instructions given to you – no matter who says them, or how logical they may seem.
Never dry your phone with a hairdryer. Although this will evaporate the water inside your phone, it could also fry the circuit board. Even worse, most of the water vapour you create won’t be able to escape from your phone; so, as soon as you turn the hairdryer off, it will start to condense inside. Presuming your phone survived the extreme heat you just subjected it to, you’re back to square one.
Another popular approach is to wrap your phone in a paper towel and put it in the freezer. Water that’s close to freezing is less conductive than its room temperature counterpart, so the idea is that this could prevent the phone from short circuiting. Indeed, this is true, but so will removing the battery or simply turning it off. And those methods don’t risk expanding the volume of H2O by turning it into ice – which could increase the amount of pressure inside your device and risk further damaging it.
Finally, if your device is under warranty, don’t try to fool your phone manufacturer by claiming that it “just broke”. All smartphones have a Liquid Contact Indicator (LCI). This is a small white sticker that turns bright red when it comes into contact with water. As such, you will be caught red-handed (or, rather, red-stickered) if you try to pull a fast one on your phone manufacturer.