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How to fix a water damaged phone

Has your phone gone for a swim?
March 22, 2022

The world suddenly freezes when you see your phone dunked in water. Whether it’s in a pool, the sea, or a toilet, you know nothing good will come out of the next few seconds. After all, that’s a high-tech device worth a significant amount of cash, and chances are it will be deemed unusable. Not to mention all your important files might be gone! You may want to learn how to fix a water-damaged phone.

Let’s start by saying trying to rescue a water-damaged phone is a bit of a coin flip. Nothing can guarantee a positive outcome, but it’s always worth trying. Our upcoming tips may give you a higher chance of success.

Consider these: The best waterproof phones

Be proactive and protect your phone

CaliCase waterproof pouch
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

You may want to get a waterproof phone with a good IP rating to make sure it will survive a dip. Not all of us will have the luxury of owning a water-resistant handset, though. If your phone can’t handle liquids and you know you’ll be putting it in danger at your next beach retreat, buying something like a waterproof phone pouch might be worth it.

Additionally, it’s always nice to consider getting phone insurance, whether from your carrier, the retailer you bought the phone from, or a third party. We have a handy list of the best phone insurance options out there. Just make sure to read the fine print to ensure the insurance policy covers accidental and water damage.

Turn it off ASAP!

E Waste smartphone on beach2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

I know it’s hard to react quickly after such a devastating event, but you must snap out of it! The longer your device stays underwater, the lower its chances of survival are. You must dig in there and take that phone out of the water right away. Yes… even if it’s in the toilet!

Once the phone is out of the water, make sure it’s off and stays that way. Even if it seems okay… it is important to shut it off just in case. If the phone is still on, just shut it down. Those who still have a removable battery should take it off. Turning off the device ensures that water doesn’t reach and damage important phone parts while electronics are active. Water reaching operating components is more likely to cause permanent damage.

More: The best phones with a removable battery

What not to do after you dropped a phone in water

the google pixel 5a on a bench with water splashed droplets
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The following actions can mean the difference between a totaled phone or a survival story. You better be careful what you do. Before we jump into finding a solution, let’s try to prevent major failures you could cause.

  • Do not turn on the phone, as we already mentioned. Electrical components don’t play well with water when operating.
  • Don’t plug it in either! For the same reason.
  • Don’t press any keys. This can push water further into the phone. It’s best to mess with the phone as little as possible.
  • Don’t shake or blow into the device. This may also push water into deeper areas of the phone. Especially try to avoid blow driers — not only because of the blowing part, but also because of the following point.
  • Do not apply any heat to the phone. Remember, excessive heat can also damage the phone.
  • Don’t move the phone around too much. Same deal; you don’t want the water moving around inside the phone.

More: Common Android problems and how to fix them

Disassemble the water damaged phone

Removable battery clorseup
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Don’t mistake this step with “take the whole darn phone apart!”. What we mean is that you should remove everything that is user-removable. If your back cover is removable, take it off. Similarly, try to remove the battery (if you can), SIM card, and SD card. Lay it all out on a paper towel. Most phones have no removable backs nowadays, but do what you can.

Now, if you are an experienced tech specialist of sorts, know the ins and outs of a phone, and don’t mind voiding your warranty, you can go ahead and take the whole phone apart too. It might help with drying up every single piece faster. Just be careful, if you don’t know what you’re doing, this could cause more harm than good.

Related: To solve the smartphone e-waste problem, we first need fewer disposable devices

Try to dry the exterior

Phone with micro fiber 2 - Fix water damaged phone
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

We first have to try to get rid of all the excess water found in the exterior of your phone. Use a cloth or paper towel to dry out everything as much as you can. Just make sure you don’t mess with the phone too much. Gently dry everything out without moving things around too much. All this water can make its way inside the phone, which isn’t good news.

You could try a vacuum cleaner

Fix water damaged phone

Of course, there are areas the paper towel can’t access. And while we told you not to blow anything into the phone, we didn’t tell you not to suction the water out. In fact, a vacuum cleaner can suck off bits of water from the phone without too much risk. Just make sure the suctioning doesn’t make the phone move around excessively.

Also read: How to clean and disinfect your phone to help prevent the spread of germs

Time to dry out the water damaged phone

Sony Xperia 1 II vs Apple iPhone 12 Max EOY 2020 - Fix water damaged phone
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The hardest part is now, because it involves leaving the phone alone for some time. We know simply waiting isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. If you have another phone or one you can borrow, make sure the SIM card is completely dried out and stick it into the working handset. Otherwise, resort to smoke signals, public phones, and all that archaic stuff.

So how do you dry your phone out? You could leave the phone on the counter or inside a drawer, but some people like giving it a little help. The idea is to put it in an environment that will ease its drying process. Next to a window works great, as the moving air (if the window is open) and sunlight might help a bit. It could also help to put them next to a fan or air conditioning vent.

Sony Xperia 5 III front facing on windowsil
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Another very common practice is to put the phone in a Ziploc bag full of rice and let it rest for about two or three days. Why rice? Mainly because it is something readily available at most homes. Rice is dry, and hence very good at absorbing humidity in the air, making the phone’s environment drier and helping dry out the device.

With that said, if you can make your way to a store, there are better alternatives. Among better options are silica gel packs, which are those little packets you often find in shoes or electronics boxes (and you can’t eat). It’s not like all of us have these laying around, but if you think ahead of time you, could get good deals on Amazon.

And while we are on the whole thinking ahead topic — you could also buy a water rescue kit. I happen to like Kensington’s EVAP bundle, which includes a special bag and silica gel packs. Kensington states this is 700% more effective at drying moisture than rice is, though it’s hard to say how true their claim is. Still, it might be worth the investment.

The moment of truth

Google Pixel 5 standing up on table 1
David Imel / Android Authority

So you did everything you could and a few days have passed by. It’s time to see if all your efforts paid off. Take the phone out of wherever you left it and put it all together. Then plug the phone in and try to turn it on. If it works, you have succeeded! Stay on the lookout for any odd behavior, though, at least for a few days. Also, test all the components. Make a call to see if the microphone and earphone work, test the speaker, etc.

Now, if the phone doesn’t work, it’s time to accept defeat and take it to a professional and see if it can be salvaged. You can also claim insurance if you have it. Not to sound like a doctor, but after this point we have really done everything we could. Sometimes you have to let the phone go.

Did your phone die? Let’s help you find a new one. Take a look at our lists of the best Android phones and best budget Android phones. You might also want to consider a used or refurbished phone to save some money.