How To Save A Wet Cell Phone Or Tablet

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wet device   How To Save A Wet Cell Phone Or TabletI’ve got bad news for you. Dropping your phone in a puddle of water, bath, sink, toilet – even getting caught in a heavy shower – will leave it irreparably damaged. The same goes for tablet computers.

No more apps, games, Facebook, phonecalls or browsing. All gone.

That is, if you leave it switched on. Switching it off right away is probably the best solution, but it’s not all bad news.

In fact, there are a number of ways in which you can stop your phone or tablet computer from being left as nothing more than an expensive brick following prolonged contact with water.

The Effect of Water Damage

It is important to act fast when your phone or tablet gets wet. Water and electricity simply don’t get along, so a wet device could short out and even give you an electric shock. At best, a bit of water will condense on a hot circuit board or processor and cause damage to the screen, while water can find its way into bezels, slots, under the screen and into the battery cavity.

Basically, letting your phone or tablet (or laptop) get wet is a bad idea, and requires you to act as quickly as possible.

First Things First – Turn It Off!

If your phone has been exposed to enough water to make you concerned, the first thing you should do is turn it off! Not all phones will allow you to remove the battery, but if this option is available to you, do this rather than turning the device off.

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Whatever you do, don’t waste time checking if it still works or not – this will make things worse!

You might be out and about when the phone gets wet, or you might be at home or in the office. Either way, you will need to find a flat, dry surface that you can use for the following steps. Fast action is hugely recommended – failure to complete this and the following steps quickly will result in a permanently damaged phone or tablet!

Disassemble What You Can

Fortunately phones and tablets don’t come apart too easily. If they did, they’d probably fragment each time they were dropped!

muo wetphone1   How To Save A Wet Cell Phone Or Tablet

However along with the battery, there are at most two other items that should be removed. The first is the SIM card, which you should retrieve, dry and keep somewhere safe. Following this, if your device has a removable SD or micro SD card, this should also be removed and dried.

The reason for this step is simple – water gets everywhere! By removing these two cards, you can dry the slots where they are housed with some tissue paper, soaking up as much water as possible.

Drying the Phone or Tablet

Don’t stop with the SIM and SD card slots, however – any water you can find on your switched-off device should be blotted up as quickly as possible.

What follows is a list of suggestions for alternative methods of moisture removal from your hardware, but in the meantime, before reaching that stage, ensure all water droplets around the edge of the display, on the display itself, around any screw holes and bezels (in fact, everywhere on the exterior of your phone or tablet) is soaked up with tissue paper or kitchen towel.

Without taking the device apart (something that in itself is dangerous and with the added moisture drops trickling around becomes smartphone-suicide) this is as dry as you will be able to physically get it.

But what about the insides? Fortunately, there are a couple of tricks you can use…

Drying the Inner Workings

Inside a smartphone or tablet computer you will find processors, circuit boards, button rockets – all places where water can find a home and cause damage. With your waterlogged device quickly switched off and the SIM and micro SD card removed, however, you are in a strong position to recover the device.

You just need to dry the bare circuit board, wires and processors inside.

There are several ways in which you can achieve this:

muo wetphone5   How To Save A Wet Cell Phone Or Tablet

Hairdryer: with your hairdryer on a low setting and your phone held far enough away that you won’t burn your hand, use the hot air that it projects to dry your phone, spending some time focusing on the battery and SIM/micro SD card slots (in order to push warm, drying air ito the device). Be careful when warming the screen, however, as you don’t want to cause damage to the touch-screen interface. Continue this for up to 30 minutes, maintaining an even covering of warm air.

Oven: placing your phone or tablet on a small empty box on an oven tray and setting the oven to its lowest setting is one other way that you might dry the internal components of your device. Your oven’s lowest temperature (110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit) shouldn’t cause any damage to your device, but you’ll need to leave it in overnight (or until “done”)

Boiler/Airing Cupboard: another heat-based solution, this will take a few hours to dry your phone – probably about a full day. Make sure your boiler is switched on before using this solution, however.

muo wetphone2   How To Save A Wet Cell Phone Or Tablet

A Bowl of Rice: while you might have to head to the local convenience store, a bowl of dry, uncooked rice is perhaps the most successful solution to any water damage to your phone or tablet. You’ll need to pack it into a container big enough to hold your hardware and a good layer of rice – about 1 inch on all sides – but the foodstuff will soak up almost all of the moisture overnight, leaving you with a fully working device.

muo wetphone3   How To Save A Wet Cell Phone Or Tablet

Lots of Silica Gel: if you’re a serial tech addict, the chances are you’ve collected a large supply of silica gel sachets for some indeterminate event in the future. Well, I’ve got news for you – the future is now! Pack your phone or tablet into a box with plenty of silica gel sachets to cover the device on all sides and leave it overnight, and hope that your hoarding wasn’t in vain.

Pure Alcohol: one last suggestion that has been proven to work is the use of pure alcohol. If the damage caused to your device by water is the result of basic physics then the submerging of the switched-off device into rubbing alcohol is a result of basic chemistry. The concept is simple: the alcohol will displace the water, and when your device is removed from the liquid the alcohol will evaporate. This is an extreme solution, but useful if the other fixes don’t work.

Conclusion

muo wetphone6   How To Save A Wet Cell Phone Or Tablet

With so many ways of resolving the problem of a waterlogged phone or tablet, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is okay to get your hardware wet.

It isn’t.

These potential fixes are precisely that: “potential” fixes, as opposed to “actual” fixes. They’ve all be used by people in the past, but none is guaranteed to work, not even submerging in rice! As such, there are a few things you should consider:

  • Don’t use your phone or tablet over a toilet, sink or bath.
  • Don’t leave your device in the bathroom (steam from a hot shower can condense and cause water damage).
  • Treat your hardware with respect, regardless of how much it cost you. A replacement will be costly and time consuming to acquire.

Keeping your phone or tablet in a safe place where it is unlikely to be exposed to any water damage is of course the best option!

Image Credit: Mobile floats on water ripples, Hair dryer, Silica Gel packets via Shutterstock

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70 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Scott

As an Apple technician that sees a lot of spillages (esp from wine, beer etc..) I do not recommend following the steps in this guide.
While it is good to remove the power source from the computer or Phone, it’s not always possible, e.g. iPhone. Even though you can power it off, the battery is still supplying power to the iPhone.
The best thing to do is submerse it in rice, this will absorb the moisture, do not use paper towels on circuitry, and especially don’t use a hairdryer as they produce negative ions, can overheat the circuits and cause electromagnetic damage. The same goes with ovens, some use electromagnetic or Infrared waves to heat, which can damage electronics.
As soon as possible take it to a service provider and have them dry it out correctly and clean up any corrosion that has taken place before re-attaching the power source.
This is quite the irresponsible and misinformed article, please research yourself before following any of the steps provided in this article to prevent further damage and data loss to your device.

SomeoneSmarterThanYou

You’re a *technician*??!!

Half of what you wrote is a pile of pseudoscientific claptrap. “Negative Ions” from a hairdryer? Ooooh, scary “Electromagnetic Waves” from an oven!! Not unless it’s a microwave.

I’m assuming by “Apple technician” you mean “Underpaid, polo-shirt wearing, Genius Bar idiot”

This article contained many useful tips, and you sir, are a fool.

Reply

Rob Hindle

With the power off a lot of electronics survives quite well. Coffee in the keyboard? run it under the tap and give it plenty of time to dry – warm dry place. Mobile phone fell in the toilet (yes, done it, luckily nothing other than water down there at the time!) – whip the battery out – leave the back off and leave it in warm dry place (the airing cupboard?) – problem solved.

One problem I keep getting is with pocket devices (phone, camera) when I’m out in the rain. Outside pockets are risky but tucked away inside the waterproofs is at risk of condensation too so some kind of waterproof holder is good. Camera is best kept warm so it doesn’t get condensation on the lens when you get it out for a photo (and battery life gets cut short if you go sub-zero).

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Glenn

My 18 month old dropped my wife’s iPhone 3GS into the bath last year. Not even rice fixed that!

I work on the railway and keep my phone dry in a ziplock bag. It allows me to key in data in the weather without getting stuff wet.

Reply

Kirby

One solution Filipino rescuers made during the flood rescue operations was put their phones in condoms to protect their cellphones.

I just wanted to ask if its advisable to drown the device in alcohol before putting it in a bowl of rice? Or just choose one of the two potential fixes?

Vipul Jain

Alcohol is a last resort kind of method. It’s advisable to put it in a bowl of rice first, and let is stay for 1-2 days.
After that if it still doesn’t work, then try alcohol.

Shmuel Mendelsohn

I wonder what sort of alcohol is best. Rum? Scotch? Whiskey? Does it help if you use brown rice? Organic rice?

L Farrell

rubbing alcohol:-)

L Farrell

use rubbing alcohol, not the drinking kind … I’ve used this method successfully to dry out a couple of cameras.

Christian Cawley

hi Shmuel

“submerging of the switched-off device into _rubbing alcohol_ is a result of basic chemistry”

As for the rice – it really doesn’t matter, we want to absorb moisture, not establish a healthy and life-sustaining diet for the device ;)

Shmuel Mendelsohn

This is what I like – practical, good advice! However, I would still advise insuring the phone.

Billy Tyler

See Joe’s comment below..you shouldn’t be going about and buying random alcohol but getting alcohol designed specifically for cleaning electronics.

Joe

Beware, as there are different types of alcohol! The most common sort is isopropyl, and many drugstore varieties are 50% water! Very bad. Other types of alcohol can actually damage plastics and dissolve glues. You can buy iso that is over 99% pure, and is intended for cleaning electronics.

Reply

Ashwin Ramesh

Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Shakirah Faleh Lai

My brother’s phone got wet when he’d been in water for about 15 minutes (he forgot that he put the phone in his pant’s pocket). Disassembled, dried and soaked in rice. The phone works but can’t use camera anymore. Heard another alternative to save a wet phone, but cost money, use thirsty bag http://www.ifixit.com/Tools/Thirsty-Bag/IF145-163

Reply

Kao Vang

I was able to recover my phone to working order via the rice method and left it out in the sun. Awesome!

Reply

Paul Burnett

Put the device in an expedient vacuum chamber and pull a slight vacuum (not a hard vacuum) on it – the water will evaporate quicker.

If it’s been submerged in dirty water, rinsing it in distilled (or clean) water first may be a good idea.

Petey Pabler

Hey Paul, my expedient Vacuum Chamber is not working…may I borrow yours?

Reply

Sacha Obado

I have particularly used the rice option many times and it works.. I used it on a camera that dropped in water left it in a rice bowl for 2 weeks and it worked perfectly after no probs at all…

Reply

Petey Pabler

I think maybe that telling a bunch of geeks to put electronics in the oven might be a bad idea LOL…In my experience, Rice and condensed air have worked the best for me. Then afterwards you can cook the rice…WIN/WIN

Reply

Petey Pabler

You also forgot to mention how most carriers will say you Voided your warranty by getting it wet. Inside the iPhone and some Motorola devices, there is this tiny paper tab. It dissolves when it gets wet, and the manufacturer or store will KNOW if you got it wet or not…

Reply

Cesar

Although the article did have some good advice, it did not mention how to remove the water and dry you phone/tablet the fastest. Since Water and Alcohol don’t mix very well and Alcohol evaporates quickly dunking the powered-off device in alcohol. Then taking it apart and allowing it to dry will bring back you device, as long as the device has not already shorted out.

bounce

this is very hard to understand. it makes me feel like you have no idea what you’re talking about. the article make it very clear what to do and why to do it. lmao

Cesar

LMAO, I guess you and I must be on different wave lengths. My 2 cents, it also helps that I’m a chemist. So you can think “You have no idea what you’re talking about” but I do know what I wrote about. Just try it at home mix some rubbing alcohol and water see what happens for yourself.

Reply

GrrGrrr

never knew abt the rice option.
does it really works?

Aditya Roy

Can vouch for it… tried and tested

Reply

Fayz

I have often used the last 3 as a solution to dry my phone or tablet, but never the first 3! Good to know there are other ways. Thanks for the info and a great read! c:

Reply

tkj tkj

Nice article, generally, but you have a bit of an error in understanding how alcohol removes water ..
Water is soluble in alcohol .. it does not “displace” it ..

Rather, alcohol, when it evaporates, is obligated to take water molecules with it as it leaves the wet surface. It is very difficult to get pure alcohol: that’s why you can get it much higher than 92% or so .. No matter how well you distill it, it will always bring with it a low percentage of water. (To get 100% you need to place a pan of alcohol in a container where there also exists an extremely hydrophilic {water loving} substance such as sulphuric acid .. The acid will remove the water from the air in the container and that will allow the water in the alcohol to evaporate into the air and thence again into the acid tray.

Ive rescued 3 phones by turning off, removing backcover, battery,sim, etc, as you say, and then immediately immersing it in a bowl of 91% alcohol ..with agitation .. Pulling phone out of bowl for quick shakes or gentle hot air is good, but then get it back into the alcohol. After several minutes, warm-air drying, and overnight in dry uncooked rice as final step saved the day.

It is nice to see your article, good work ;)

jon

Reply

tkj tkj

Placing a phone inside a dry (need i say ‘unused’?) condom, tying a knot, then invert and place in a 2nd condom, tied too, then tossing it in a swimming pool will yield …

a normal working phone ;)

I suspect the newer ‘clear plastic’ polypropylene condoms would have the advantage of youre being able to push buttons .. tho i dont know the capacitance of PolyPro or latex. A gummy-bear condom, tho , should allow touchscreen use too (Theoretically! Gummybears have same capacitance as human finger!)

Reply

Krzysztof Buzko

Great article! The most important thing is not to try turn on wet device(as most of people do to “check if it works”). This can really kill your device. I was usually disassembling my mobile phone to the smallest elements ald left it for night to get dry. I had 3 phones, all 3 got into water(bath, toilet, sea) and all 3 was saved. My friend however had less luck. He didn’t disassemble his phone and after 3 months his phone was dead, corrosion on mainboard… So Dry your phone as fast as possible.

Reply

Irshaad Abdool

Thanks Christian. i always thought that if your smartphone (ya smartphone not Nokia 3310 :P) falls in a water stream, pick it up, remove your SIM card and the memory card and then put it back where it fell :P

Aditya Roy

Haha…. :D

Reply

Stephen Bozzone

I worked at Motorola and you would not believe the number of phones people returned because they microwaved to try to dry them. NEVER MICROWAVE electronics!

Reply

Richard

You say:
“basic physics then the submerging of the switched-off device into rubbing alcohol is a result of basic chemistry. The concept is simple: the alcohol will displace the water”.
Nothing could be more wrong. Alcohol and water mix extremely well. They mix so well that they are the textbook example of a property called miscibility.
From Wikipedia: “Miscibility /m?s??b?l?ti/ is the property of liquids to mix in all proportions, forming a homogeneous solution. In principle, the term applies also to other phases (solids and gases), but the main focus is usually on the solubility of one liquid in another. Water and ethanol, for example, are miscible because they mix in all proportions.”
The fact that commonly available forms of isopropyl alcohol come in different percentages is testimony to the miscibility of alcohol and water.
I recommend having a first aid kit made up ahead to time to deal with these situations. Pure alcohol is very hard to find anytime, much less at 2 AM when an accident occurs. I also recommend that, when using a desiccant or drying agent such as silica gel or white rice, that you have a large ziplock in which to enclose both the electronic item and the desiccant and seal it from the atmosphere.

Christian Cawley

Hi Richard

Appreciate your clarification there, thanks a lot!

Reply

Allan Joffe

best way to date is to roll device in a heating pad set on LOW and leave it for 3 or 4 hours…if when you examine the unit you see water vapor drops on the inside of the display…it means the proces needs more time to get remaining water out of unit.
check at hourly ntervals until no water vapor steam shows up. then
turn unit on…might need charge to work well….this has worked well with 2 cell fones
that were really sopping wet. Note that some devices will make a record of past water
damage which can be detected in case a claim was made for a defective device in
warranty and was not caused by significant water damage.

Reply

Steve Rathbun

While travelling,I spilled coffee on my cell phone,soaking it thoroughly.So I removed the battery and placed it on the dash over the defroster vents,and covered it with a small towel.The defroster on high was trapped under the towel,and after about three hours,when I stopped for the day,I tried it.And it worked!

Reply

Martin

I dropped my iPhone 4S into a lake whilst fishing. It sank to the bottom (about 5 feet) and was under for about a minute before I got it back.

It was still working when I got it, so switched off immediately except it came back on again. Took it home and put in a lunchbox and covered with silica gel (loose, not in packets). Left it for 36hrs and it’s as good as new.

Moral of story: if it gets wet, it can still work if you’re lucky.

Christian Cawley

I think luck plays a large part in all of it!

Reply

PeterC

“At best, a bit of water will condense on a HOT circuit board or processor and cause damage to the screen”
WRONG!!! Condensation takes place between a warm moisture laden (not necessarily a completely saturated) media & a COOLer surface – NOT a HOTter surface. Please research simple & basic high school physics before unleashing your lack of knowledge on people that may be relying on you for answers! The damage you cause may be greater than that caused by a dunking their gadgets in the bathtub, because they will believe you are correct, & will go on to assume everything you spout is valid. This lack of basic knowledge indicates that you may not be a reliable source of information on any topic.

Christian Cawley

*Clearly* there is a word missing here before “condense”, namely “evaporate” (followed by “and”).

Perhaps as a valued reader of MakeUseOf it would have been more appropriate to drop us a quiet note pointing this out, rather than making an unwarranted personal attack.

PeterC

No personal attack intended. I am just annoyed that someone setting themselves to have influence over others by what they write as an authority in a forum, can make such an elementary error & expect to not be called on it. Proper research, backed up by facts from legitimate sources counts far more than just letting go with incorrect statements. You are setting yourself up to be the source of information for others who may not have any idea about the consequences of following your dialog to the letter, & therefore are tasked with an obligation to know your subject.
I stand by my previous statement: you should know & research your subject before committing to something that cannot be retracted. Please consider the following amendment, as suggested by you:
*Clearly* there is a word missing here before “condense”, namely “evaporate” (followed by “and”).
So:
“At best, a bit of water will “evaporate” “and” condense on a HOT circuit board or processor and cause damage to the screen”
Still WRONG!!!
I ask you, would a quiet word away from the throng have had any bearing on correcting your error, since you are still adhering to it?

Christian Cawley

Your attitude is unnecessarily aggressive.

Moreover I’m more than qualified to speak on this matter and present my suggestions. This is my piece, edited and approved by the MUO team. You, sir, are a commenter, offering thoughts under the guise of some perceived expertise. But you don’t offer anything to back it up.

Reply

Muhlis

I had Ă  HTC Sensesion XL drop Litle milk over,
I tride to restore i washt it with sentetick tinner
Had Ă  handdryer over it.
Then i left it in rice for over tree days but notting metter
It dozend metter notting works Anny more.

Reply

Charles Church

I have been told, avoid using a hair dryer or blower of any type as it will only force the water deeper into any crack, crevice, opening in the device and allow the water to further contaminate or damage the electronics. Use of desiccants such as rice in a sealed container is best.

Christian Cawley

A hot air blower should cause the water to dry out/evaporate, so nothing would be pushed deeper into the device – however it is worth thinking about, so thanks for sharing Charles!

Reply

Ken Jokken

One great way to get water out of small electronic devices is by simply blasting them with compressed air. I personally have a small air compressor at home like many others, however if you don’t, most gas stations/mechanics/tire shops where you can fill your tires up (usually for .50c) will also have an airblow nozzle for use if you ask. There is always the cans of air at most retail outlets (Chinawalmart/Homedepot/Lowes etc.) but these will set you back $5 – $10 and for those of us who are more “accident prone” you may want to consider a protective film solution such as “Aquashield”. Goodluck.

Christian Cawley

This is an interesting option, thanks for sharing Ken!

Reply

H G

Interesting tips. I hope I never have to use them!

Reply

Praveen pandey

very useful tip for me

Reply

anthonymonori

I always used a bowl of rice. Thanks for the tips.

Reply

Edward Bellair

Good advice. Hope I never need it.

Reply

Mark

i did the rice thing few years back..and it’s turn out ok

Reply

Leland Whitlock

Great advice especially for those unfamiliar with fixing and repairing their own electronics. I have used many of these methods over the years to rescue supposedly dead devices. Thanks for putting it all into one great post I can share with my friends.

Reply

John

I have an iPhone 3gs that I happened to have in my pocked when entering my swimming pool and turned on. About 30-40 minutes later I realized that I had the phone in my pocket and promptly got out of the pool and dried the phone off the best I could. After leaving the phone for about 9 days in a clear plastic container of rice in the sun, I tried turning it on and it worked just fine. The only damage seems to be ghost lines behind the glass. So the rice technique does work but you cannot be impatient.

Reply

tarzan2001

Nice tips! We could have used some of them when my sister dropped her phone into some water last month. :P

Reply

Shahzad Billimoria

nice

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josemon maliakal

it is good

Reply

Mani Ahmed

Awsome and very very informative need … as emabressing as this might be, a month back while in the loooo i dropped my cell phone in the WC :s from my short pocket .. its a small tiny cell phone …. a few bucks to the cleaner retrieved the phone but it still ended up in the waste basket … i was too grossed to use it again specially when had no hope to get it up and running every again …

still trying to get my contacts in order.

Reply

Ahmed Khalil

the main point is to make the device off in the correct time

Reply

Jim Spencer

I think we all have dropped one of our phones into the water at least once in our life, when we let out a giant gasp in dibelief! I do not want to use this aticle on the subject, however, if I am unfortunate enough that lightning strikes twice, I will use this resource for sure! Thank you, you have answered some questions I had before reading this! 91% rubbing alcohol should do just fine! I don’t use an iPhone, so I should be good to go! I am the proud owner of anything but an iPhone!

Reply

Usman Mubashir

hmmmm…..
sounds helpful

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Jeff Hamilton

Go to the store and get a tub of Damprid.
I dumped it into a plastic food storage container that was three inches deep. I placed a small bowl upside down in the middle of the desiccant and placed the SOAKED iPhone on the little platform created my the bowl.
Apply the lid to the larger container and seal it. Leave it alone for a couple days. NO PEEKING!
The only thing that would make this better would be the ability to remove the battery.
The moisture trapped int the device is actually collected in the bottom of the larger container, leaving your phone high & dry!!
Works great!!

Reply

Luke Blache-Fraser

Not sure I agree with the blow dryer part of this guide. I thought too much heat is not good for electrical components.

Reply

syed asghar

Hi,
As I am a mobile addicted person I got good knowledge about how to protect or at least precaution when the mobile or i pad suddenly or accidentally met with water.
I personally like the BOWL OF RICE thing.I never thought it that way.
Thanks alot

Reply

Mike Germain

I have heard of the bowl of rice idea, but some of the others are awesome ideas!

Reply

gzuckier

I’ve always been dubious about the rice as dehumidifier meme. It seems to me that rice already has absorbed all the moisture it’s going to absorb at room temp and humidity. If not, wouldn’t it mean that you could cook your rice by just letting it stand in a humid environment until it had absorbed as much moisture as it would by cooking?

Reply

Dave Miller

Great article. Most people forget that while using a blow dryer can help to dry out the phone you should never use warm air as this actually speeds up the corrosion process. Don’t take my word for it though as I am not an Apple technician- http://t.co/C0Fjbtzh So leaving your wet phone out in the sun is not a great idea either…

Also remember to put your phone inside of a nylon stocking or something similar before putting it into a bag of rice. You might end up with grains of rice in your headset jack or charging port.

Christian Cawley

Great tips there Dave, thanks!

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