Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to Fix Your Cellphone if You Dropped It in Water

Have you ever dropped your cell phone in the sink, or even worse... the toilet? Did you ever leave it in your pocket and run it through the washer? Did you ever swim with your cell phone in your pocket? Ever have it fall into the pet's water bowl? Getting your cell phone wet usually means you have to replace it, but sometimes if you're fast enough, you might be able to save the phone! Follow the steps outlined in this article to try and save your wet cell phone.


  1. 1
    Take the phone out of the water as soon as possible. The plastic covers on cell phones are fairly tight, but water can enter the phone in a short period of time, perhaps only 20 seconds or less. Grab your phone quickly. Don't switch the phone on, as this can cause it to short circuit – if it has been in water, assume it needs drying immediately whether or not it is working.

    • Note: If you can't get to the phone in time, your best bet is to remove the battery while it is still under water. Water helps to dissipate heat from shorts that can damage the phone, so most damage occurs when the inside of the phone is wet and connected to a power source. This can go both ways, however. Being under water is more likely to short the battery to even more sensitive contacts, so be careful.
  2. 2
    Don't panic. Your phone will probably not be too damaged if you take it out of the water right away. A longer period of immersion, such as being in the washing machine cycle, will be cause for more alarm but it is still worth trying the following steps before giving up completely.

  3. 3
    Remove the battery. This is one of the most important steps. Don't take time to think about it; electricity and water do not mix. Cutting power to your phone is a crucial first step in saving it. Many circuits inside the phone will survive immersion in water provided they are not attached to a power source when wet.

    • Note: To find out if the phone is truly water damaged, check the corner near where the battery is – there should be a white square or circle, with or without red lines. If this is pink or red, your phone has water damage.
    • Note:Quickly read the manual to your phone if you're not sure how to remove the battery.
  4. 4
    Remove the SIM card if you have a GSM carrier. Some or all of your valuable contacts (along with other data) could be stored on your SIM. For many people, this could be more worth saving than the phone itself. SIM cards survive water damage well, but some of the following steps might damage it, so getting it out immediately makes good sense. Just pat it dry and leave it aside until you need to connect your phone to your cellular network. (This step does not apply to CDMA carriers such as Verizon, Alltel, US Cellular, Sprint, etc.)

  5. 5
    Remove all other peripherals and covers that can be removed. Remove any covers and external connectors to open up as many gaps, slots, and crevices in the phone as possible.

  6. 6
    Dry your phone. If there is even one drop of water left inside, it can ruin your phone by corroding it and making the wrong contact. Obviously you need to remove as much of the water as soon as possible, to prevent it from easing its way into the phone:

    • Note: Gently wipe off as much water as possible without dropping the phone. Avoid shaking or moving the phone excessively, so as to avoid moving water through it.
    • Note: Wipe down using a towel or paper towel. Ideally, try not to clog the wet paper in the gaps and grooves of the phone. Keep wiping, to gently remove as much of the remaining water as possible.
    • Note:(Optional): If you pulled the battery out in time, cleaning the inside of your phone with cleaning alcohol (alcohol will displace the water) or contact spray might remedy the problem.
    • Note:Dry any remaining excess moisture by moving your dry or mitten-clad hand across the surface.
  7. 7
    Use a vacuum cleaner if possible. If you want to try and suck the liquid out of the inner parts of the phone, try using a vacuum cleaner. Remove all residual moisture by drawing it away with a vacuum cleaner held over the affected areas for up to 20 minutes, in each accessible area (take it in turns with a friend). This is the fastest method and can completely dry out your phone and get it working in thirty minutes. However, unless the exposure to water was extremely short, it's not recommended to attempt to turn your phone on this soon. Be careful not to hold the vacuum too close to the phone, as a vacuum can create static electricity, which is even worse for the phone.

    • Note: Contrary to common advice, it is not recommended that you use a hair dryer (not even on the "cold" mode) to dry out the phone. Using a hair dryer may force moisture further into the small components, deep inside the phone, as the air blows inward. And if it is too warm, it will likely melt them. If moisture is driven deeper inside, corrosion and oxidation may result when minerals from liquids are deposited on the circuitry. Using a hairdryer might be a temporary fix, but this will eventually cause component failure inside the phone. While this applies to blowing air into the phone, using a heater, fan or other moving-air device to blow air ACROSS the phone's openings will work. The Bernoulli principle states that as the warm, dry air moves fast over the openings in the phone, the decreased air pressure will gently pull or suck the moist air out of the phone. The best part of this option is that you can leave a phone in front of a warm (not hot), dry movement of air for hours on end without effort.
  8. 8
    Use a substance with a high affinity for water to help draw out moisture. Leave the phone in a bowl or bag of uncooked rice overnight. The rice would absorb any remaining moisture.[citation needed]

    • Note: If available, it is preferable to use desiccant instead. Desiccant will absorb moisture better than rice. You can also try slipping the cell phone inside a plastic bag that can be sealed or a plastic container (airtight). Add a desiccant packet (often found with shoes, noodle packets, etc.) in with the cell phone. The downside of this method is the type desiccant found with shoes, noodle packets etc. has usually already reached its absorption capacity and also doesn't actually "pull" water to it. Leave as long as possible (overnight) to absorb the moisture.
    • Note: Rotate the phone to a different position every hour until you go to sleep. This will allow any water left inside to run down and hopefully find an opening to escape.
  9. 9
    Let the phone sit on absorbent towels, napkin, or other paper. After removing the phone from the rice or desiccant (or if you were not able to use either method), place the phone on absorbent material. Remember that the goal is to evacuate all of the moisture and humidity, not to trap it or add even more.

    • Note: Check the absorbent material every hour for 4 to 6 hours. If moisture is evident, repeat the vacuuming step and desiccant steps.
  10. 10
    Test your phone. After you have waited at least 24 hours, or longer if possible, check to see that everything on and in your cell phone is clean and looks dry. Re-attach the battery to the phone. Try turning it on.

    • Note: If your phone still does not work, try plugging it into its charger without the battery. If this works, you need a new battery.
    • Note:If not, try taking your cell phone to an authorized dealer. Sometimes they can fix it. Don't try to hide the fact that it has been wet – there are internal indicators that prove moisture and they're more likely to be able to help you if you explain exactly what has happened.
  11. 11
    Take the phone apart if your phone doesn't turn on at all. If you feel comfortable doing this, try taking it apart. First, make sure that you have all of the right parts and knowexactly where they go. Be sure to put everything back in its proper place once finished. As you're disassembling it, pat each individual part dry with a small towel and use the vacuum cleaner once more on the crevices (but be careful not to accidentally suck up any loose parts – keep them well to one side, or stretch a length of old pantyhose over the nozzle). If this doesn't work, or you're too unsure about undoing your phone, get help from cell phone professionals.

    • Note: If your phone is powering up but still acting strange after you've dried it, then it's probable that you've missed some liquid, or that the corrosion has already occurred. Dis-assembly and cleaning with a toothbrush or engineer can often fix such an issue easily and quickly.
  12. 12
    If you are an apple user, you can save your phone or smartphone by drying it with a paper towel and pressing the home button. If you have a nano and it turns on and stays on, it's OK.

  • Try removing all the cell phone parts, and then put into dry rice.
  • Try an alcohol bath-remove all parts (battery, Sim card, etc) and place your phone face down in a small container and cover it with rubbing alcohol. This will not harm your phone and should dry it out and remove any moisture. I manage the cell phones for a large company and this has worked for me on more than one occasion. You can repeat if necessary.
  • Being on and wet at the same time can short out the phone's circuitry. If you're able to turn your phone off before it fries, you may well be able to resuscitate your drowned phone!
  • Excessive heat can damage your phone even more! Most phones have warnings about leaving them in your car or exposing them to heat. The main point is to completely dry the phone before applying power. Be patient! Use a vacuum cleaner to rapidly draw all the residual moisture out, this usually takes about 20 minutes of care and patience turning the phone every few minutes to ensure all holes and outlets get accessed.
  • It is very important that you keep drying it after it starts working and after you think all of the water is out. It isn't. Placing the phone in a very dry environment (in front of a working heater unit or in front of warm, moving air) for a long period of time is as important as is the initial vacuum removal of the bulk of the water. Hint, if you have to stand there doing something to the phone constantly, you will get bored or tired before you've done enough of it. Use a method that lets you leave it for hours.
  • If your phone falls in the ocean or another form of salt water, rinse it with fresh water before salt crystals can form in the phone after the removal of the battery.
  • It is possible to purchase commercial "wet cell phone emergency" kits. It's probably best to buy one "just in case" as you can waste valuable time going to the store to buy one.
  • If your phone has been subjected to salt water crystallizing, gently tap the board and the chips with a plastic object (the back of a small screw driver for example). The vibration of the taps will set some of the foreign objects free and they will fall out. Be careful and don't smash the board or the chips. A sharp enough blow will break the chips. Tapping very gently multiple times in multiple locations, especially around the chips, is a preferred method. And follow up with appropriate solvent cleaning afterwords to clean away any oxidation residue.
  • Place the phone in a vacuum chamber (found at many high schools and universities) and activate the chamber. Typically universities and specific industries will have a vacuum chamber available if you happen to know the right person. Water "boils" at room temperature, given enough time, meaning that it evaporates through bubbles even though it isn't heated. This method should be successful when the vacuum is maintained at room temperature for about 30 minutes. That will dry out parts you can't access as will the tip above regarding a vacuum cleaner if you have no vacuum chamber available.
  • Try holding a compressed air can straight (upside down, sideways, or at an angle will shoot out a freezing liquid) and shoot into the crevices, speaker, mic, and keypad. Any excess water stuck should come out. If the can gets cold and you're not done, let the can sit a while before continuing, as cold air could make excess moisture condense onto parts deeper inside. This process should be followed by the other methods that use a vacuum chamber or vacuum cleaner to more thoroughly remove any deeper residual moisture and humidity as the phone must be totally dry inside to ensure no further failure later on. The contents of many "canned air" products can be poisonous. Follow all recommendations on the can label.
  • Since your warranty is void anyway, if you have further problems with your phone's functions after trying the above methods to dry it out, then buy Torx screwdrivers to open the phone's case, since these are almost always specialized. (For example, the RAZR needs Torx #4, #5, and #6). Pick up a can of contact spray (electric contact cleaner)and douse the inside. It dries rapidly. Scrub any residue with a soft-bristle toothbrush. Spray with compressed air, and/or vacuum it out for several minutes to suck out further moisture and then carefully put it back together.
  • Take the phone with you on a long flight. The very dry air in the cabin is great for drying out the phone. One round trip from London to Singapore completely cured my blackberry after a dunking.
  • Another idea is to keep the phone at body temperature for a few hours. As in... next to your skin. The warmth and air flow around the phone may dry it out if it was not submerged to start with.
  • Do not leave your phone wet for an extended period of time. Dry it out as soon as possible.
  • Do not switch the phone on. This is important as it will prevent a charge from running from the battery to the phone which may subsequently cause the phone to short circuit.
  • Don't heat the battery or it could leak or explode. Lithium-ion batteries are sensitive. If you use a hairdryer, make sure to remove the battery first. Note that it is not recommended to apply heat to the phone.
  • If you use alcohol make sure to do so outside, and do not apply heat in any form, not even the gentle heat of a monitor. Do not hook up the battery until the alcohol smell dissipates.
  • Do not apply too much heat to your phone, as mentioned above. You don't want to melt or burn your phone.
  • Do not put your phone in an oven or microwave to dry it out.
  • Be warned that manufacturers of most modern cell phones place liquid damage indicator stickers that will change colors in the presence of a liquid inside their phones. This helps technicians know that you have dropped your phone in water, as most cell phone insurance coverage policies don't cover water damage. Chances are, if the sticker under the battery is triggered, then the internal stickers you can't access have probably been tripped as well. This will result in you paying a voided-warranty fee in the long run. You should be aware that warranties don't cover water damage, only insurance does, and even then, not all insurance companies or plans will honor water damaged phones. It is also worth noting that these liquid damage indicator stickers have been known to change colors in extreme humidity as well.
  • Even if all these steps are followed, minerals dissolved in the water can precipitate on solder and component pins, causing corrosion or shorting. Component pins are packed so closely together in modern cell phones that even a small encrustation can create a short, rendering the phone inoperable.
  • Do not put the phone (or any electronic or metal-containing object) into the microwave. You will destroy electronic components and potentially the microwave, and perhaps start a fire in your house. Not good.
  • For the semi-mechanically inclined: remove screws and, at a minimum, crack the case open to allow moisture to escape. Cell phones are normally somewhat waterproof, so they can be used in the light rain and in humid environments. This means that once has entered the phone, it is very hard for it to dry out.
  • Removing your cell phone from the water quickly and immediately removing the battery gives you the best chance of saving your phone.

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