Splash! That’s a noise you hope your phone will never cause. But if you’re like most of us, you take your phone with you almost everywhere. And that means you run the real risk of dropping your phone into water, splashing it with liquid, or letting it endure a rainstorm.
Panic is a reasonable response to a wet-phone problem. But it won’t help you fix things. Instead, you’ll need to keep your wits about you and follow logical, proven steps to repair the damage.
We’ve examined the many solutions people use to amend the wet-phone problem. And we’ve also included a few tips you can use if all your DIY hacks don’t help.
What to Do First
No matter how you try to get the water out of your phone, you'll need to follow a few basic steps to prepare your handset. You must:
- Fish out your phone. The longer your device is submerged, the more problems you'll face. Don't waste time with panic. Reach in and grab your handset.
- Don't check the damage. Water and electricity combine to fry your phone, and it only takes minutes for that to happen. It's tempting to push buttons and tap at screens to see how bad things are, but every action ups the risk.
- Power down. If you can, take your battery out of your phone. If it's impossible for you to find or reach this little piece of equipment, turn off your phone.
- Rub it dry. Use a lint-free towel to sop up the water on your phone, and pay special attention to buttons, ports, and other points of entry.
Now you're ready to work on getting the water out of your phone before it does even more harm.
Method 1: Uncooked Rice
Look online for solutions for wet-phone problems, and you'll see plenty of articles that talk about grain's moisture-sucking power. Rice is a reasonable solution, as most of us have a box or bag of the stuff lurking in the pantry. In theory, we can spring into action just minutes after our phones take a bath. But this method isn't always helpful, and it comes with some risks.
DIY bloggers suggest plunging your phone into a rice-filled container and leaving it there for several days. You'll replace the grain if it seems waterlogged, but otherwise, you'll let the rice do its work uninterrupted.
Rice isn't completely benign, and some come with dust and contaminants. If you've ever poured grains from a bag into a container, you've seen the cloud of debris rising into the air. If that muck gets into your phone, it could clog up delicate machinery. And if you wrap up your phone with a towel or paper to protect it, you're reducing the effectiveness of the rice.
That's a problem, as rice is already ineffective in a fight against water. In a study cited by USA Today, leaving a phone in rice for 48 hours meant extracting just 13 percent of the water trapped inside the device. That's a depressingly low number, and it highlights the limitations of grains as your wet-phone saviors.
Method 2: Silica Gel
Open up a box packed with new shoes, and you'll see tiny envelopes filled with a grain-like material. Those could be your saviors in a wet-phone situation.
Silica packets come into your household in:
- Pressed meats (like pepperoni)
- Headache medicine
Collect as many as you can, and store them in a plastic bag or glass jar. You don't need to open the packets. In fact, it's best if you don't open them. Just pop your phone in the container and let it stay surrounded by the packets. Leave it there for several days, and don't interrupt the process by checking your phone. Just let the silica do its work.
If you don't open the packets or check your phone, this method comes with no risks. But it may not get all of the water out of your phone either.
Method 3: Hairdryer
When your hair is wet, you reach for a machine to blow the water away. Why not use that same tool to blast your phone with heat and make the pesky water disappear?
The problem involves heat. Your phone is delicate, and most machinery doesn't appreciate a blast of very hot air. You could do yet more damage to your phone with this method.
In addition, the stream of air could push water deeper into the sensitive, small parts of your phone. Aiming the stream at a port, for example, could mean moving the water from an exit point into the belly of your device. Again, that could make things so much worse.
Method 4: Canned Air
If heat is a problem for your phone, can you use a can of air to push water out of your phone? Many of these products come with tiny straws attached, and they seem tailor made for removing nasty stuff from places you can't reach.
Unfortunately, canned air can also push water deeper into the guts of your phone. In fact, these products can do an exceptional job of moving water inside, simply because they do come with straws and delivery devices.
Method 5: Oven
Heat makes water disappear. Anyone who has put a pan of water on the stove and walked away knows that. It's tempting to pop your phone in the oven, turn the heat on low, and just wait for the water to boil and disappear. In fact, many online forums suggest that this is an exceptional solution.
Unfortunately, phones don't like heat. Tiny connections in phones consist of spliced wires and glue, and heat can break those apart. Plastic components in or around your phone can melt in the heat, and they can seep into the delicate spaces inside your phone and cause irreparable damage.
It doesn't take much time for your phone to literally fry inside your oven. Don't try this.
Method 6: Open Air
Let the water move out of your phone naturally while you wait patiently. That's the theory behind open-air phone drying methods.
To do this, you'll:
- Open up as much of your phone as you can. Slide open the battery drawer, slip out the SIM card, and otherwise allow air to move in and out.
- Leave the phone exposed in a dry location. Don't take this step in a humid spot, like your bathroom. Let things air out in a room with little ambient moisture.
- Turn on a fan. If you can, let a gentle breeze blow over your phone to move the water out. Aim just above the device, not at it, so you don't push water in.
- Wait for several days. Don't check on progress in any way. Just let nature do its work.
This method works best with phones you can open and manipulate. If your device has a hard shell you can’t remove, it might not be effective.
Help! Nothing Worked
When should you give up and call in the experts? That varies by phone manufacturer and level of damage, but there are a few basic indicators that your phone needs more than you can give.
Significant water damage will cause:
- A dead phone. You may not be able to turn the device on, and if you can, you may discover that some basic functions just don't work properly.
- Condensation. You might see fogging or clouding behind the screen.
- Flickering or flashing. As the water combines with electricity, your phones lights may dim and brighten at random intervals.
- Drips and puddles. Your phone may leave a ring of water behind when you've set it down.
A company like TekDry can help to save a phone drowned in water. Technicians use a patented combination of heat and vacuuming to remove and eliminate water from the phone, and it only takes an hour or two to do the work. But the company suggests that their solution works best when you bring them the phone within a few hours of meeting water.
Some smartphone manufacturers offer wet-phone repairs, but prepare to pay for the service. Smartphones just aren't made to float, and most companies use indicators to see whether or not devices have taken a bath.
Deep inside most phones is a little button that changes color after water exposure. Technicians can pop open your device and know in seconds if you've let your device take a swim. In most cases, that voids your warranty.
If you're prepared to pay, the manufacturer can do a repair with certified parts, and that can help you preserve full resale value. But it might cost you as much as a new phone to get that service.
Some third-party companies will buy waterlogged phones, but you won't get the full amount you paid for your phone after it has been subjected to this damage. But if it's broken and not working, this could be the only way to get even some of your money back.
How to Dry Out a Phone. (July 2018). Tech Advisor.
Here's the Right Way to Rescue a Soaking Wet Smartphone. (February 2014). Wired.
Your Smartphone Got Wet. Here's What Not to Do First. (August 2017). USA Today.
Best Ways to Dry a Wet Cell Phone. (November 2015). Smart Mobile Phone Solutions.
Do's and Don'ts. TekDry.