Tech Magazine

Fixing a Water Damaged Phone

Posted on the 01 October 2011 by Nerdywerds @NerdyWerds

Moisture does not have to be the end of your phone

The following story is not exactly a tale of my best moment, but I think a similar situation has probably happened to most of us. I was at work, just leaving the restroom, when I knocked my phone out of it's holster. The lucky guy that I am, I happened to be standing next to a toilet, and my phone apparently needed to cool itself off. Your phone may not have ended up in the toilet, but a lot of you have had to deal with the wet phone at some point. With the costs of phones without a contract running about $600, it'd be wonderful if your phone didn't die in it's watery grave, right? I can't promise 100% effectiveness, but I can definitely give you a fighting chance.

Remain Calm!

It is natural to get a bit upset and frantic when your phone is in water; I sure as heck did. But the key is to not over react. It's tempting to convince yourself that you and your phone have had your last conversation and that it's dead. This very well may be true, but probably not. If you calmly execute the following steps, you have a good chance of seeing your phone's lovely face again soon.

Get It Out of the Water

This may seem like common knowledge, but you'd be surprised how many people say goodbye to their phone the moment it touches water. Your phone is pretty water tight; it can survive in water for a moment. Don't go and run your phone through the dish washer on purpose, but your phone can last 10 or 15 seconds without letting water into it's vital components. Fun fact, water isn't as bad for your phone as you might think; actually some of the circuitry and components are actually washed with distilled water at the manufacturer. The electrical current and impurities in regular water bring about the problems. The quicker you get the phone out of water, the better. If you aren't able to rescue your phone right away, try removing the battery while it's submerged. The worst case scenario for your phone is the innards being wet and the power source still being connected.

Remove the Power Source

This is pretty vital to the success of this rescue mission. As I said earlier, the real damage is done when power source meets wet circuitry. The moment you get your phone out of water, pull the battery off. Don't take the time to turn the power off first, just yank the battery out. After you've removed your battery, try to locate your phone's water damage indicator. It's usually a white circle or square near the battery cavity. If it is indeed white, your phone probably didn't sustain any water damage. If it's pink or red, water has penetrated the exterior and gotten to the important stuff.

Remove SIM cards and Peripherals

If you have AT&T or T-Mobile, or any other GSM network, you have a SIM card in your phone. This card typically holds your contacts information, and can almost always be salvaged, even if the phone goes the way of the dodo. Once you've removed it, just dab it dry with a towel and let it air dry for a while. If you have an SD card or other additional features, remove them. Your SD card should be able to survive the drowning as well.

Dry, Baby Dry

It's important to note that even a single drop of water in your phone can wreak havoc. When you power it back on, the water can corrode your circuits and lead to their improper functioning. So we need to make sure that not a bit of H2O makes it past this point. It's tempting to dry your phone like a dog would, don't do that! Shaking your phone will reroute the water, and possibly allow it to move into the depths of your phone. Wipe as much water from your phone, while holding it as still as possible. Don't jam a towel into the crevices of your phone, try to just dab the water or wipe it off. If you're feeling adventurous, you can use some cleaning alcohol as well. Just take a q-tip and lightly apply alcohol to the places you can see. The alcohol will dry out the phone and remove the water. You can also try submerging your phone in a rubbing alcohol bath. Place your phone face down in a container and then cover it with the alcohol. This has worked for me on numerous occasions before and won't harm your phone.

It's going to be tempting to use a hair dryer or compressed air to try and dry the phone; fight this urge. Blowing air over the phone can force water into small areas of your phone you can't get to. Also, if you use your dryer on high, the heat can melt some components on your phone, which doesn't seem like a good thing. If you remember our article about flight, you're familiar with Bernoulli's principle. We can use this knowledge to allow us to use a hair dryer and not damage our phone. If you blow air across the phone and not at it, you can create areas of low pressure that will suck out moisture. So remember, if you're going to use a dryer, blow across the phone, not directly onto it.

You can use a vacuum to suck out liquid. If you've used your towel and removed all the moisture you can that way, trying a vacuum could be a next step. From a reasonable distance, maybe 3-6 inches above the phone, hover the suction nozzle over small areas of your phone. This isn't a speed thing, it's a persistence method. Hover over specific areas for up to 20 minutes at a time. This may seem like overkill, but it is the fastest way to remove the moisture from your phone. Don't get the nozzle too close to the phone of it can begin to create static, and static is worse for a phone that water.

Patience Grasshopper

Your next step is an overnight treatment in an absorbent environment. Most people will tell you a bag of rice will do the trick. Rice is absorbent and should wick away the remaining moisture if given the time. But I think a better environment is using a desiccant. It is more absorbent and will get the job done faster and more completely. Put your phone in a resealable plastic bag and then add a desiccant packet or two in the bag. Seal the bag and let the desiccant do it's job overnight.

If you have the time, after that last step, take your phone and let it sit on an absorbent towel for a few more hours, possibly another day. Typically, I place the phone battery side down, and let gravity draw out any moisture that may be left inside.

The Moment of Truth

You've now been without your phone for at least a day, preferably two. Visually inspect the phone for any signs of moisture. Check the battery to ensure it's also free of moisture. Re-connect it to the phone and try turning it back on. If it works, you've just saved your phone from Davy Jones' locker. If the phone won't turn on, try disconnecting the battery and plugging your phone up to the charger. If you can turn the phone on that way, your phone survived, but your battery did not. If this doesn't work, you may have to go to an authorized dealer and beg for help.

For the Adventurous Reader

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