How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

Summary: It's possible to recover a liquid submerged iPhone but a few things have to go exactly right and timing is everything. Your iPhone is in cardiac arrest and you only have a few minutes.

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Ever drop your iPhone in the toilet? Sink? Bathtub? All is not lost.

It's very possible to recover a liquid submerged iPhone and bring it back to its full glory. But first, a few things have to go exactly right. Second, timing is everything. Your iPhone is in cardiac arrest and you only have a few minutes to save her.

The following is a true story about how a reader completely submerged his iPhone 4 in a sink and returned it to its original glory. Here's how to rescue your iPhone from an unintended liquid submersion (sometimes called the "toilet baptism").

1) You must turn the iPhone off and this part is critical. After submersion, dry the surfaces immediately and press and hold the power button. Use the slider to turn off your iPhone -- as soon as possible. Seconds count here and depending on how fast you recovered it from the water, the touchscreen may or may not work. If you can't slide to power off, you're probably dead in the water (pardon the pun). If you can't turn it off chances are that the water will soon cross a critical connection and short the device, meaning certain death. If you can turn it off, congratulations you went from a zero percent chance of recovery to a 50 percent chance of recovery. (If it won't slide, keep trying. Mine didn't work immediately but eventually slid to power off on the ninth or tenth try.)

2) Find the nearest hardware store to you that carries DampRid. This may be a challenge without your iPhone, but a local hardware store is your best friend right now.

3) Wrap your iPhone in a towel and get to a hardware store ASAP. Bonus points if it's extra hot in your car. In fact, hotter is better. Put the iPhone on the dashboard in your hot car and leave the air conditioning off. Throw caution to the wind and leave it on your dash while at the hardware store.

4) Get a Ziploc bag, thicker, "freezer" bags are better, but not required.

5) Option: If you don't have a hardware store that's drivable (or you're at home) use the rice trick. Throw your iPhone into a Ziploc bag surrounded by rice. Store it in a warm, dry place for 24 hours and cross your fingers. It doesn't hurt to throw your iPhone into rice while driving to the hardware store to get DampRid.

6) Purchase some DampRid, a commercial desiccant that removes moisture from the air (like the little packets of silica that come in the box with a new pair of leather shoes). DampRid is your best friend in times like this and is probably three to four times more effective than rice. It comes in many form factors and I recommend the Sachet (FG40) version which costs around $5 for a twin-pack. If your store only has DampRid in the pail, buy that. Timing is the most important factor right now.

7) Sandwich your iPhone between two DampRid sachet packets (porous side in).

8) Put the iPhone/DampRid sandwich into a heavy Ziploc bag and store it in a warm dry place. Don't keep it on your car's dashboard in direct sunlight or anything crazy, but keeping it in a warm-to-hot car is fine.

9) Leave your iPhone in the DampRid zip lock bag for a full 24 hours, not less. Use this non-iPhone time to reflect upon your stupidity and to atone for your sins. Make a pact that no Twitter or Facebook update is so important that you need to be using your phone in the loo. This is also a good time to remember that purchasing a non-subsidized replacement iPhone costs between $500 and $700.

After a full 24 hours have expired, cross your fingers and power it up. There's no guarantee that it will come back to life, but if you a) recovered it fast enough, b) turned it off in time and c) got it into a desiccant within the first 10 minutes or so, your odds are fairly good that your iPhone will come back to life -- good as new. Mine sure did.

Note: Sometimes your device will only partially work after 24 hours "in the bag." Don't panic. Another time I did this my iPhone worked fine except for the microphone, but that too came back to life about 24 hours later.

Have you ever submerged your device? How did you bring it back to life?

Toilet image: OnsecaShow.com

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, iPhone, Smartphones

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25 comments
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  • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

    I try to not make a habit of chatting on my iPhone while near my water closet. I do, however, have some experience with wet electronics. Once a friend brought me a Mac IIci that had been acting totally bonkers. I opened it up and found he had left one of the slot ports open in the back of the case allowing a family of rodents to build a nest inside the warm Mac innards. The accumulation of rodent feces, urine and whatever other disgusting material they decorate home with had been causing random shorts on the motherboard.
    I took the motherboard out of the case and literally hosed it off in my back yard. I then blow dried it with a hair drier on low. For caution's sake he didn't fire it back up for a day, but when he did it worked like a champ for quite a few years thereafter.
    As you say, normally the key is speed and powering off as soon as possible. In my friend's case the old IIci's motherboard was pretty rugged.
    dheady@...
    • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

      @dheady@...

      When I used to work on point-of-sale equipment, it was standard servicing practice to take mainboards and wash them with some good 'ol Comet cleanser and water from the tap. Then we'd use an air compressor to dry the component off beffore putting it back in service. Worked everytime.

      It's just important to remember that mainboards frequently have batteries that need removal prior to washing.
      jmiller1978
    • I'll vouch for this method...

      Completely submerged phone in a drum of water (watched the display stay on while it sunk to the bottom). Grabbed it, took the battery off immediately. I think it is better than powering off. Dry away moisture with a towel. Got a hair dryer and used low heat 6"-12" from the phone for about ten minutes. Then placed the phone in an airstream (my stovetop exhaust vent) for another few hours. Next day, put the battery back in and it has continued to work since. This was a Samsung Stratosphere, not an IPhone, but it probably doesn't matter what kind of phone is the victim.
      rgod8855
  • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

    This should just be a general electronics guide, as it can save more than just an iPhone.
    Aerowind
    • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

      @Aerowind
      Yeah, I guess the tips mentioned will work in any device.
      eschwartzk
  • Brought Blackberry back...

    When my wife dropped her Blackberry in water, I brought it back to life by quickly yanking out the battery, SIM, and memory cards. Then, I rinsed them thoroughly with distilled water. Next, I used a blow dryer to blow the liquid out of it and propped it up on end on a thick wad of folded paper towels. I let it sit like that for 24 hours before I reinstalled the cards and battery to try it. It worked perfectly, until she did it again when I wasn't around 6 months later and didn't yank the battery out of it immediately. *sigh*
    BillDem
  • Surviving iPhone Immersion

    When I was traveling, and my iPhone went for a swim, I needed it back to life faster than 24 hours. As an electronics engineer and a seasoned backpacker, I really should know better than going near water without putting my iPhone in a plastic bag. (I had previously dried out a digital camera that went swimming in a creek while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by disassembling with a pen knife and drying it in the sun.)

    After the phone went into the water, I turned it off ASAP. I shook it violently to get any water I could out of it. I went to the hardware store across the street from the hotel, and got a set of small screw drivers. The store was kind enough to let me remove the back of the phone, disconnect and remove the battery, and use compressed air to blow any water out of the phone.

    I returned to the hotel, and asked if I there was a small oven I could use. When I explained I was trying to recover my phone, the desk agent quickly let me have access to the small kitchen in the breakfast area.

    I preheated the oven to 175 degrees, and turned it off. I placed the phone with the rear cover and battery removed into the extinguished oven laying on a cotton towel. I set my watch timer for an hour.

    An hour later, I returned and repeated the process of warming the oven and turning it off.

    After the second drying cycle, I let the phone cool to room temperature.

    Approximately 3 hours after my iPhone went for a swim, I re-installed the battery and anxiously powered it on. The phone came to life. For the first day there appeared to be an issue with the backlight control, but that problem quickly disappeared.

    Be careful out there!!!
    TerryNorton
  • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

    Wow! Great stories, thanks for sharing! Please add yours to the thread....
    - Jason
    Jason D. O'Grady
    • Android Lives Again

      Coming home from a hellaciously wet volunteer kitchen job, the minute I came home I threw all the clothes I'd worn into the wash, with what I thought were my last leg muscles remaining. After I set supper to thaw I hit the recliner with a cup of tea-- I'd also thrown on a wrap. Tea, relaxing... then reached for..... OH NO, I had dressed UP this time, worn a cami that would have shown the fone in my bra, so had put fone in trouser pocket!!! Therefore (already up and moving)... no, not in the loo like usual where I undress, so on to washer.... just finishing wash cycle. TBTG I do not use detergent... fone's viewscreen looked like a wave tank. Tore off tape holding its back onto the old fone, pulled the battery and cards (no idea why, just made sense and I was on autopilot). I shook out some water, set it to drain, and (this is all nonstop) proceeded to search my tablet for instrux. I found this page. RICE! The hardware store is 20 minutes away and probably just closed... But just the week before I had broken down 20 pounds of basmati into 1-gal ziplocs, with the least-filled bag right on top of the bin, PERFECT! I set the phone in the rice in a cast iron pan, set the pan (it absorbs heat) under a warming lamp we use for thawing meat, and prayed.

      24 hours later, still wet. Another 24. Next, just a thin film of condensation remained under the screen, so I inserted the battery and turned it on... it powered up!

      I yanked the battery again before it could finish booting up, and set it all back in there for another 24.

      When I powered it up it was a little slow (Rip Van Android) but made a phone call after a
      s l o w s e a r c h thru the address book. I had half-batt life left. I plugged it in to charge-- our handi-scooter's instrux say that to leave it out in the rain or winter, just keep it charging and it will be fine.

      The fone has worked all, day, which has given me time to copy off all the photos on it and make a back-up plan-- I can just tough it out with a TrakFone if it dies, till our cell plan allows an affordable replacement!

      THANKS, ALL!
      Susan Hinton
  • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

    About a year ago I had my iphone on my lap, in my car on speaker phone and after the call I forgot to move it from my lap. So, when I got home I was parked over a shallow puddle, opened the door, stood up AND...you guessed it; right into the puddle.

    I was able to snatch it up immediately as it hit the water but it was pretty wet. I powered it down, took it out of it's case and wrapped it in paper towels inside. 24 hours later I turned it on and it worked fine. Weeks later however, the black home button ceased functioning and when I brought it to the Apple store, they said it had water damage and was off warranty and would cost a few hundred to fix. Later, that day as I was weighing what to do, the button started working again and has worked ever since. Orange water tab and all.
    Tigertank
  • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

    I just used the rice trick. After 24 hrs. it came back on but thought that headphones were plugged in all the time. I then just sprayed liquid air directly into the headphone jack at very close range and this fixed it. My phone is once again perfect!
    reidc4
  • I Did Nothing Useful

    About three months ago, I had a late night with too many beers. When I got home, I realized I needed to do my laundry; off went the clothes, on went the drier, up I went to bed. The next morning, I found my phone. It had been through the wash and sitting in the washer in the pocket of my jeans.

    I turned it off and waited for about eighteen hours. I didn't clean it, didn't wrap it in anything, didn't cook it, and, honestly, figured with the amount of time it had been on and in the wash it must certainly be dead.

    When I powered it back up, there was a thin film of moisture showing in the display but everything worked just fine. I assumed it would die. I assumed the battery would fail. I assumed something would go wrong--and I shopped around for my next phone, preparing for the inevitable.

    Except that didn't happen. The thing is still running like a champ and the only lasting negative effect is that the vibrating motor barely functions. Everything else still works just fine.

    Go figure.
    zombyboy
    • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

      @zombyboy Wow, I wish I'd been as lucky. Like you, I washed my phone in my pants pocket and it came out dead. I took the back cover off, dried it for days, and still absolutely nothing. Had to pay $200 for a replacement.
      ktappe
  • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

    A household food dehydrator (such as this: http://fooddehydrators123.com/DeniFoodDehydrator.aspx) is built to dessicate anything.

    I've used mine after several water incidents, in general following the procedure:
    * mop off obvious water immediately with a towel, shake,
    * power down, remove batteries if possible,
    * if it was in salt water, bathe thoroughly with distilled water, and
    * drop into the dehydrator for 24 hours.
    daniel@...
  • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

    I did the toilet drop, almost caught my iPhone 4 (3 months old) before it hit the water, and got it out in less than half a second. I dried it, took it apart within 15-20 minutes and put the parts into a ziploc bag with rice for 24 hours. I was sure that the moisture detectors would void the warranty, but much to my surprise, not only did the iPhone work perfectly, the detectors didn't turn red. Must have been an air bubble blocking the water for the short time the phone was submerged.
    ChazMacs
  • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

    If you hold the home button and the power button together down for about 6 seconds, ignoring the 'slide to power off' message it is a hard fast OFF. It might save a few panicked swipes and seconds, in the quick shut-it-off step.
    landar
  • surviving the washing machine

    So, I put my iPhone 4 in the pocket of my shorts and then into the laundry they went, and then the drier before we realized where the phone was.... Opps.

    I got on the net, read about how to take the phone apart and partially dismantled it until I felt that my tech skills were maximized. I then use a hair drier a number of times during the day on the pieces (but never got them hot, rather just slightly warm) and then that night I placed the parts under a small lamp in my office. Of course, I fully expected that it would never work and began trying to figure out how to tell my wife I needed a new phone.

    In the morning, I without enthusiasm put it back together and turned it on....

    Yahoo, it worked and has continued to work just fine, now pushing three months. I now have a very clean iPhone 4....
    bt15566
  • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

    I never thought this would happen to me, but only a few days after reading all these incidents, here I am with my own story. I took my iPhone 4 in the boat with me, where I put it in the glove box, You see, it is my camera too, & I had my grandchildren out on the boat (never know when there will be a kodak moment) . Well, I decided to go ashore and prepare the food, but the rest of the family was staying on the boat while I took care of the food prep.. I needed my phone to let them know when it was ready, so I stuck it in my t-shirt pocket. I turn the boat around and push it away from shore, my son starts the engine, but didn't have the drive unit down when he gives it a little too much throttle - sending 1/2 the lake right on top of me! My pocket containing my iPhone is now 1/2 full of water with my iPhone in it. I shook the phone to clear any water that might have entered, it was right side up, meaning the largest port was down. I shut it off & set it in the sun. I left it in a container full of rice, not having any better desicant, for a full 24 hr.s before powering it on. It works perfectly. No distortion of any kind either detectable by me or the persons I have talked to. There is no sign of any condensation anywhere. I keep it in a Switcheasy case, so the sides & back are covered, and the front has a screen protector on it. Those cases come with little rubber plugs for the earphone jack and the charging/interface connector, but I don't usually use them. I thiink that will change, at least around the boat! Also, if it was completely submerged, it was momentary. Cotton tee-shirt pockets don't hold water that long and I pulled it out of my pocket ASAP. If it gives any problems, I do have a food dehydrator. I just don't believe it needs it, it works fine! By the way, I never disasembled it in any way, or even took it out of the case!
    retmico
  • RE: How to survive an iPhone liquid submersion (hint: it's not rice)

    Yes, Make a pact that no Twitter or Facebook update is so important that you need to be using your phone in the loo. My daughter recently dropped her phone down the loo doing the exact same thing. I managed to follow these tips and got it working again.
    <a href="http://tescowinedeals.wordpress.com/">Tesco wine deals</a>
    mrleisureuk
  • Food Dehydrator!

    My phone slipped into the lake- luckily it was still on/alive when I snatched it out of the water. I powered it off, ripped off the gummy and dried it to death with a towel- even shoving bits of towel into the bottom port (and keeping it tipped that way) to grab water. As soon as we got back to the campground it went into a bag of brown rice, where it spent the rest of the evening and overnight. It wouldn't power on in the morning so I put it back into the rice. On the highway home the next day I swore I heard the sound of a text message faintly and thought it was my imagination. But it repeated itself twice. Pulled over- grabbed phone which was vibrating with an incoming call. Woo! Except.... no screen life. I tried swiping the screen where one typically would if it was lit up and it worked! Yay! This was at hour 16 since 'the baptism'. At hour 21 a call was coming in and- eureka- the screen was working! Everything then seemed fine until I woke up this morning and realized, despite charging overnight, it was almost dead. I've tried charging it all morning but it likes to crash every half hour or so- plugged in or not. Tried reset and factory reset. Going to give it some more drying time powered off- this time in my Excalibur food dehydrator on zero temp. Blow baby blow!
    CanadianFembot