Whether it’s a lake, pool, bathtub, toilet or shallow puddle, nothing good ever comes from dropping your phone in water. Every smartphone owner has had at least a close scare — if not a phone-breaking encounter — with some sort of liquid. It’s evidently a widely shared experience, as water damage is the leading cause of iPhone failure, making up 40% of accidents.
And when a smartphone hits water, drinks or any other type of liquid, permanent damage can set in quickly. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, it may be second nature to panic. It’s no secret most smartphone owners cherish their devices and would rather not spend a day without them. Luckily for you, if you keep calm and follow the right steps, you may be able to save your phone.
The First Steps You Should Take
As soon as you see your device has become exposed to any liquid, there are a few actions you need to take fast if you want to give it the best chance of survival.
- Don’t panic: It’s natural to freak out a little — or even a lot. But panic can do more bad than good. It’s essential to remain calm and collected so you can assess the right way to go about handling the situation.
- Retrieve phone: The most important action to take is to remove the device from the liquid immediately — even if that happens to be in a toilet. The longer it sits in water or the puddle of a spilled drink, the more damage it is likely to take on.
- Turn it completely off: As soon as you get it away from the liquid, turn the phone off. Don’t open it, plug it in or try to turn it on to check if it’s still working. If there is residual liquid in the device, trying to use it right away will likely fry the internal hardware. At that point, the phone will be unsalvageable.
- Remove SIM card and battery: If you have a phone model that allows you to remove the SIM card and battery, do so right away. You may be able to prevent them from taking on damage. Remove any piece that is meant to come off — no need to break out any tools. Saving the SIM card may help salvage some of your information, such as your contacts. If you have an iPhone or another fully encased smartphone model, you won’t be able to do this step. On the bright side, there are fewer cracks in your phone for water to seep in.
- Towel dry: Give your whole device a thorough towel dry to prevent any surface liquid from seeping deeper into the device. Focus on the areas around ports and buttons, where moisture can do the most immediate damage.
Once you’ve gotten through these initial steps, you’ve done all you can at the immediate time of damage. But, that’s not where you should stop. Once there is water in the device, you won’t be able to get it out without one of a few tools and a lot of patience.
Top Methods for Phone Revival
There are several methods you can use to extract liquids from the inside of the device. They are all relatively slow processes — meaning you likely won’t be able to use your phone for over 24 hours, if it lives through its swim. It can be a painful amount of time to wait just to check if your phone works, but giving it time is essential to improving its chances of functioning correctly.
When you’ve completed the immediate steps to dry off your phone and prevent possible short-circuiting, you can attempt to save the internal electronics with the following life hacks.
- Uncooked instant rice: While it isn’t the most effective method, it’s a product you might already have in your pantry, meaning it might be the fastest option you have to begin the lengthy drying process. Time is of the essence in this situation. Regular white rice doesn’t have the same absorptive characteristics as the instant variety. Instant rice has already undergone the boiling process, so the broken-down starches will absorb more water, faster. The same rules apply for instant oatmeal and couscous. If you have any of the three on hand, they may be your best shot. Take an airtight container or sealable bag, fill it with your food of choice, put the damaged phone in and let it sit for at least 24 hours before checking whether or not it works. If you’re worried about particles getting into the phone, wrap it lightly in a paper towel before putting it in the container.
- Silica gel: While it is far less common to have sitting around your house, silica gel does the same job as instant rice, but much more effectively. If you’ve ever bought new shoes, a handbag, medications or snacks that need to stay dry, you may have seen little white pouches in them with a bold directive to not eat them — those are silica gel. If you save the pouches, you can use them here, but you can also purchase silica gel beads. You’ll need enough to surround the phone, so digging through old shoeboxes might be a waste of time. Alternatively, if you have a cat, kitty litter often contains silica beads. Put either in an airtight container or bag, cover the phone and leave it to sit for 24 hours or more, just as you would with rice. If you’re particularly accident-prone, buying silica beads for future use may not be a bad plan.
- Vacuum: Blowing into your phone may push water further into delicate spaces, but if you can suck the excess water out, absorption methods may work much faster. Using a small vacuum or hose to draw the liquid out before putting it in rice or silica will improve your chances of the phone drying out. Gently move it around any open areas or buttons, and focus on critical spaces like the charger and headphone ports and microphones. Be sure to use a vacuum that is both waterproof and not too strong for the inner workings of the device.
- Open air: Surprisingly enough, one of the most tried-and-true methods of drying out your phone is letting it sit out in warm, dry open air. It may take a few days longer, and you may be more likely to accidentally turn it on out of habit if it’s just sitting out, but it’s effective. You can easily combine this method with other absorption techniques as well. You can give it time to air-dry before or after leaving it in rice or silica. For a little added warmth, put it on a windowsill or somewhere with sun exposure — but don’t leave it outside unattended.
- Professional repairs: If there’s no hope for home remedies, you may need to seek professional water damage repair. While you won’t be able to identify what parts of your phone liquid has gotten into, a trained technician can. It could only need a replacement battery, charging port or screen to function — or the entire device could be fried. The downside here is that most companies or providers don’t cover accidental water damage unless you have an advanced insurance plan. So, you’ll likely have to pay for any repairs out of pocket, at which point it’s time to decide if your device is worth fixing up or if you should move on and purchase a newer model. Don’t bother trying to lie about the reason it’s broken, either — if you dropped your iPhone in water, there’s an internal indicator that’ll tell technicians exactly what they need to know.
If you end up resorting to any of these methods, note none of them are guaranteed to remove enough liquid to get your phone working. In some cases, the device could be dead before you even have time to pull it out of the water. Any damage that happens before you start the drying process is irreparable without professional help. Even then, it may not be fixable or worth repairing anyway.
Additionally, if you end up lucking out and your phone starts after you let it dry out, that doesn’t mean it isn’t damaged. Check the microphones, speakers, buttons, camera and screen. Keep a close eye on all these components for a few weeks after the treatment — they may begin acting up, even though they didn’t initially. If the device makes it out of the ordeal completely unscathed, congratulations on being incredibly lucky.
What Not to Do
While there are a ton of helpful articles and real-world stories about successful remedies all over the web, there are also a lot of rumors. Some sources — whether they know it or not — offer tips and tricks to reviving your doused device that may do more damage than good. A few of them could even kill your phone when it would have survived with proper care.
If you find yourself with a waterlogged phone, do not try any of the following.
- Turn it on: Liquids, especially those with added electrolytes, are excellent conductors. Most people’s first instinct after they pull their phone out of immediate danger is to check and see if it’s still working, but this is a big no-no. If there’s enough water in your phone, turning it on too quickly could fry it completely. The risk of this is much higher if you happen to get saltwater in it, as the electrolytes multiply water’s conductive properties. Powering your device off as soon as you pick it up helps prevent additional damage.
- Use excessive heat: When most people think of drying something, their first instinct may be to use heat. In many cases, that’s a viable course of action, but it could ruin a phone. While hairdryers, laundry dryers and ovens are great for heating things and removing water content, you should under no circumstances use them for a wet electronic device. It might sound silly to some people, but you may come across them as recommended options in a search for answers. The only heat you can use is natural sunlight, and even then, you shouldn’t leave your device directly in the midday sun. Your phone could still get hot enough to do damage to its delicate parts.
- Blow into openings: This one could be debatable, but the bottom line is, do not blow into your phone with your mouth or any other direct form of air. Doing so could push water further into your device, causing more damage. Vacuums that suck the water away from the inner workings of your phone are a much better bet. If you have a steady hand and are skilled with electronic cleaning techniques, you could use compressed air to blow water away from the areas around buttons and camera lenses — hence the debatability — however, you shouldn’t directly use it on ports. You can also put a small fan near it to help with air circulation.
- Shake it: Surprisingly, a lot of sources recommend shaking your phone to get out excess liquid. Holding it still with the openings facing down is a far better alternative. Fast motions in any direction can cause the liquid inside the device to shift and affect other areas. Tilting it upside down so the majority of the openings are at the top may do more damage as well, from gravity alone. Keep this in mind throughout the process of fishing for your phone and drying it.
Some of these ideas might seem like a natural solution, but it’s best to avoid all of them. There are plenty of useful remedies out there among the rumors. The last thing you want to do is end up destroying your device when the water may not have in the first place. If you’re currently in a pinch and have already tried one or more of these, you may need to admit defeat soon.
Trade in Your Water-Damaged Phone
Once you’ve done all you can to fix your water-damaged phone, you may need to get rid of it and find a replacement. Whether it’s fully broken or has a few glitches, trading it in is still an option.
Some trade-in sites will accept devices with water damage, though they will consider it broken when it comes to pricing. Even if you’ve exposed your phone indirectly to moisture, such as through steam or rain, the internal sensor that indicates water in the phone may trigger. Depending on the brand, model and whether or not it’s inoperable, you may be able to get cash for it to put toward a new phone — or a waterproof case.
If the moisture indicator has tripped, the value of your device will decrease, even if it’s in a current working condition. There is a risk the exposure may cause internal corrosion later in the phone’s life, causing hardware issues or failure. To check the sensor and see whether or not it has triggered before trading it in, you have to be able to remove the battery. Be careful, though, as disassembling specific smartphone models may mean a discontinued warranty.
Should you venture to remove it, there will be a white dot on the phone, the battery itself or on both. If it’s still white, moisture hasn’t affected it. But if it’s pink or red, there was enough damage to trip the indicator, and your device will be officially broken. Some phones may have a different kind of sensor, in which case you’d need to check with the manufacturer.
Even if the indicator shows damage, you may be able to trade it in for cash value. If it’s worth nothing, some sites will accept the phone and recycle it free of charge, which is a win-win for you and the environment.
Trade in Your Phones With Gazelle
Suffering from Android, Samsung or iPhone water damage blues? Gazelle is here to help.
With our online process, we make it fast and easy to trade in your old devices. All you have to do is give us the details of your phone on our website, and you’ll receive an immediate offer. We’ll send you what you need to ship it in for free and pay you through the method of your choice.
Get started trading in your phone today with a free offer, or contact us for more information.