Save my smartphone: How to resurrect your wet iPhone and other handsets

Dunking your mobile device in liquid can be a painful experience -- but what actually works to save your smartphone?
Topic: Mobility
1 of 12 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Be quick!

The longer your mobile device is submerged, the worse the damage will be -- so don't stand there in shock starting at an iPhone in the sink's soapy water; instead, pick it up as quickly as possible. You also need to be realistic -- if your iPhone or other mobile device has been taking a swim for several hours, the chance of resurrection is pretty slim.

If the device is connected to a power outlet, do not touch it until the connection is severed by turning off the mains and potentially seeking professional advice -- or you risk electrical shock.

2 of 12 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Turn your smartphone off immediately

Although it's tempting to try and see if your mobile device is still functional after a dunk in the toilet or swim in the pool, resist temptation. Powering up can blow the circuitry and remove all hope of saving your smartphone -- and you mustn't try to power it up until you're absolutely sure it is as dry as possible, and this is likely to be days later.

If you have an iPhone or another model with a battery which cannot be removed, you may have to chance pressing a button or two to double-check the power has been cut, but if you leave the power on through the drying process, it is likely dead anyway.

3 of 12 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Dry your device, remove peripherals

Using some paper towels, dry off your smartphone as promptly and gently as possible. Take out any SIM cards and any microSD storage, and if there are any removable elements -- such as batteries, back covers or screen protectors -- peel them away to increase air flow. In addition, remove any port covers in place to help dry out the internals. Be careful and try not to move or shake the phone too much, as you may push water further inside and cause additional damage.

4 of 12 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Be careful

If a cure for a wet smartphone sounds unrealistic, it probably is -- as a number of users found when they fell for a 4chan prank which stipulated an iPhone could be charged using a microwave, as well as another which convinced some users the iPhone iOS 7 update made devices waterproof. Stick with the basics: air flow, drying and water absorption.

5 of 12 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet


So, we've all heard that uncooked rice can help dry out a wet smartphone, but does this myth actually have a grain of truth? The key is materials which absorb water, and rice certainly does -- although other means, such as cat litter, could also work well. Out of personal experience -- having received good news and dropping my Android smartphone into my cup of tea in excitement -- it does work, to a degree.

You can pick any absorbent material, but you will need to bury your mobile device in plenty of it and give it time to try. I would recommend at least 24 hours to two days. In my case, rice worked (the brown kind, rather than white, processed rice) -- but the phone then began its death rattle several weeks later.

6 of 12 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Do not use heaters, blow dryers or microwaves

You might think a quick and hot dry would work, but please, stay well away. If you choose to use a hairdryer, home heater or -- even -- a washing machine's dry setting, you risk frying the smartphone's components completely.

7 of 12 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

You've drowned your iPhone in water, and now drown it in material

Some users who have dunked their phones might think swaddling their devices in fabric like a newborn will absorb water faster -- but this is one of the worst things you can do. The key is to increase air flow, not stifle it -- and so using a fan to help keep the air moving while you keep your drowned device on a shelf with a bed of towels is more likely to be successful.

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Silica gel?

Another common suggestion is using a bag of silica gel instead of rice. As another absorbent material, it is worth a shot, but the small bags you get with new clothing and shoe buys will not work well as they likely have already sucked moisture out of the inside of packaging and won't be able to hold much more. A common suggestion from readers which seems to work is crystal cat litter, but whatever you have to hand will have to do.

9 of 12 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Use summer to advantage

If it's a nice, sunny day, keep your phone on paper towels and let it dry out in the warm and sun. Direct sunlight isn't a good idea, but a summer's day can help warm and dry out your smartphone by evaporating water you may have missed. Keep your device in a place where there is a warm air flow but not stark, direct sunbeams.

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Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can be used to gently wipe away any residual water on internal hardware, but it is not recommended unless you know exactly what you are doing. If you absolutely must save your device, hand it over to a professional.

11 of 12 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

A special tip for sea bathing

If you left your smartphone in your pocket while taking a dip in the ocean, you might have even more trouble as when you dry the device, salt crystals will remain inside even after the water has gone. Unfortunately, there are only two options in this scenario -- take it to a professional or expose your smartphone to potentially even more damage by rinsing it several times in fresh water to remove corrosive salt residue.

12 of 12 ZDNet

Try it out

Does the phone work? Success! Well, at least for now. You may find your iPhone or other handsets will respond, but this may only be in the short-term. The problem is that water may have already eroded internal circuits, and so it is only a matter of time -- so salvage any data you need and start preparing for a new device. If you have insurance, check to see if accidental damage is covered.

When it comes to warranty, trying to pull the wool over a vendor's eyes is unlikely to work as many smartphones will have an internal sticker which changes color when water damage occurs.

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