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How to fix a water damaged phone
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.
The best way to fix a water damaged phone is to turn it off, disassemble it as much as possible, and let it air dry for a day or two. You can also use silica gel packets to try removing all the moisture from the phone. Try turning the phone back on when it's completely dry. Also, check if it still has a charge by plugging it in.
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Be proactive and protect your phone
Water damage repair might be unnecessary if you take some precautions. You may want a waterproof phone with a good IP rating to ensure it will survive a dip. These are becoming very common. 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. Just make sure to read the fine print to ensure the insurance policy covers accidental and water damage.
Please turn it off ASAP!
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 and take that phone out of the water immediately. Yes… even if it’s in the toilet!
Once the phone is out of the water, make sure it’s off and it stays that way. Even if it seems okay… it is important to shut it off just in case. 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. And it might not happen right away, so turn it off.
What not to do after you dropped a phone in water
The following actions can mean the difference between a totaled phone and a survival story. You better be careful what you do. Before we jump into water damage repair, 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, or open space for water to go deeper into the device’s internals. It’s best to mess with the phone as little as possible.
- Don’t poke 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. It’s the same deal; you don’t want the water moving around inside the phone.
- Don’t put it in rice! We will talk about this later, but rice has starch and particles, which can get into the device.
Disassemble the water damaged phone
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 there are still some!), but do what you can.
Now, if you are an experienced tech specialist, know a phone’s ins and outs, 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.
Try to dry the exterior
We first have to try to get rid of all the excess water found on the exterior of your phone. Use a cloth or paper towel to dry out everything as much as possible. 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 still make its way inside the phone, which isn’t good news.
You could try a vacuum cleaner
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.
Time to dry out the water damaged phone
The hardest part is now, because it involves leaving the phone alone for some time. We know that simply waiting isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. If you have another phone or one you can borrow, ensure the SIM card is completely dry 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 airflow (if the window is open) and sunlight might help a bit. It could also help to put the device close to a fan or air conditioning vent.
Uncovering the rice myth
A very common practice is putting the phone in a Ziploc bag full of rice and letting it rest. Why rice? Mainly because it is something readily available in 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. Or, at least, that is the theory.
We would like to emphasize using rice is not recommended, though! Rice has starch, dust, and other small particles that may cause more damage than good. In fact, Apple has gone as far as addressing the whole rice myth, just to make sure users stop doing this.
Safe things you can use
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 we all have these lying around, but if you think ahead, you could get good deals on Amazon.
And while we are on the topic of thinking ahead, 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 its claim is. Still, it might be worth the investment.
The moment of truth
So you did everything you could, and a few days passed. 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, check the buttons, etc.
Now, if the phone doesn’t work, it’s time to accept defeat, 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 done everything we could. Sometimes, you have to let the phone go.
It’s not guaranteed, and despite the fact that the theory makes sense, rice can actually harm your device. Rice has starch, dust, and other small particles that can harm your device.
Using rice to try to salvage a wet phone is not the best solution. In fact, it may be harmful. Silica packs are more efficient.
While it may sound like a good idea, blow drying a wet phone can often do more harm than good. This is because blowing air into electronics can push moisture further inside. Additionally, excessive heat can harm electronics.
Phone warranties don’t commonly cover water damage. This is often the case even when a phone is said to be waterproof. Most phone insurances do cover water damage, though.