How to Prevent Water Damage to Your Cell Phone

Your phone took a swim and you don’t know what to do. Follow these steps to mitigate the damage and prevent even more damage.

Hopefully, you are reading this to be prepared for the off-chance that you drop your phone into your drink. For the rest of you, here are some tips on how best to recover your phone after it has taken a dive. A key ingredient to the success of saving your phone is TIME. Two other factors to resuscitating your cell phone are OPENNESS and POWER.

There are various and sundry articles on what to do after you’ve dropped your phone in water, when to do it and with what particular items, etc. Most would qualify as urban legend, i.e. the bag of rice. The concepts and steps we outline in this article are based on science, testing and some common sense.

The Time Is Now

Once you have dropped your mobile phone in the water, it is important to retrieve it as soon as possible. The obvious reason being that the longer it is submerged, the more water will find its way inside your phone, potentially reaching the battery and shorting out sensitive components.

IMPORTANT: If the phone is plugged into a charger AND submerged, unplug the charger from the electrical outlet first!

Now that you’ve reached in and saved your phone from the water, don’t shake it, just turn it off and lay it upside down on a dry towel. If you shake the phone, you will most likely cause any water that is already inside the phone to cover more area. Doing so only decreases the chances of saving your phone from irreparable harm.

Now that you’ve got your phone out, and it’s laying on its front side, its time to get to work. Take another dry towel and dry off the exterior of the phone. You should use some Q-tips or other small absorbent material to wick the water away from areas around the seams, the buttons, camera lens and ports (headphone jack, charging port, etc). Don’t flip over the phone to carry out this process. Just dry as much as you can with the phone laying down, then hold the phone up and continue to dry off the specified areas without flipping it over. It’s important to prevent water inside the phone from moving around and reaching additional interior areas of the phone. Be sure not to push any of the buttons as you dry them off. You want a little water as possible to enter into your phone, and pressing a button gives water an increased chance of getting in.

For Phones With a Removable Battery

If you have a phone with a removable back, then carefully remove it. Don’t remove the battery or SIM card just yet. Pat down the areas inside the phone with a dry towel, paper towel or other absorbent material, being extremely careful to prevent water inside the phone from moving around to exposed areas.

Now, remove the battery if it is removable, dry the battery off right away, and then dry the area where the battery was. Carry out the same procedure for any other removable components – SIM card or memory card.

With the battery removed, you now have the best chance of restoring your phone. Without a power source to short out or damage any other components, you can begin the process of drying out the remainder of the phone.

If the phone was dropped into salt water or heavily chlorinated water, then you may have residue deposits after the water has evaporated. To prevent this from happening, you can quickly dunk the phone into denatured alcohol and dry it off again with a towel. The alcohol will rinse the salt away. Also, alcohol evaporates much quicker than water, so the drying off process will be much faster.

For iPhone Or Other Factory Sealed Device

If you have an iPhone or other phone that was designed to be opened only by authorized technicians, then after drying off the external areas as thoroughly as possible, remove the SIM card from its slot, and wick away any moisture inside with a paper towel. Once you’ve removed as much water as you can, it’s time for the evaporation process.

I’ve Removed As Much Water As I Can. What Next?

After you’ve removed as much water as you can reach on your iPhone or other mobile phone, it’s time to let nature take its course. The only way to remove any remaining moisture is for it to evaporate. Evaporation is most effective in warm, dry, ventilated areas, so try to combine these conditions for your phone.

Like we mentioned before, storing the phone in a bag of rice isn’t the best choice. In fact, without ventilation, the moisture won’t successfully evaporate and escape your phone at all.

The most effective process at this point would be to put the phone near an air conditioning or heater vent with a fan blowing on it. If you can put it in a sunny area as well, that would help.

Using a hair dryer probably isn’t a good idea, because you run the risk of forcing water further into the phone. Also, if you are blowing heat on the phone, you can damage the battery or other components that are heat sensitive.

Time Is On Your Side

Let time take its course. An iPhone or other sealed phone will require more time than a phone that you’ve managed to open up. You should leave the phone to dry for at least 24 hours (up to 72 hours for an iPhone).

If you follow these steps, you give your phone the best chance of surviving its unexpected swimming session.

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