It fell in the toilet. Your clumsy partner knocked a glass of water onto it. You forgot it was in your pocket when you jumped into the pool. That’s just a few of the hundreds of ways your phone could come into life-threatening contact with liquid.
Fortunately, waterproofing has become mostly standard on modern phones. New iPhones, Samsung Galaxy devices, and Google’s newest Pixel phones all feature some degree of water resistance or waterproofing. How well a phone resists water is measured on an IP (or Ingress Protection) scale. If your phone is rated with a high number, like IP67 or IP68 protection, congratulations, it’s probably going to be fine! But if it’s got a lower rating, or none at all, you should prepare for the worst before you start chilling in the hot tub with your trusty Sidekick.
So when your phone decides to take a dive, as soon as you’re done freaking out, you’ll probably begin frantically tapping all the buttons, blowing on it, or blasting it with a hair dryer to quickly get rid of all that water. While those are all well-meaning actions, guess what? Totally the wrong approach. Here’s the right way to rescue your water-damaged smartphone.
First, retrieve it as quickly as possible. If your phone is still in the bottom of the jacuzzi or the toilet, get it out ASAP. The longer it’s in the liquid, the greater the likelihood of damage will be.
Once the device is no longer submerged, power it off right away. Don’t try to press any of the other buttons or load any apps, just switch it off. Remove the case if you have one. If you have a phone with a removable battery, pop the battery out. You want to cut off power in the device as quickly as possible to prevent the possibility of a short circuit. Most of today’s smartphones don’t have removable batteries, but some older models, or new models built with repairability in mind like the Nokia 1.3, let you pop the battery out.
Do not blow-dry your wet phone or stick it in the oven! Heat can damage the delicate electronics inside. What you should do is give the naked, case-free phone a quick wipe with a clean towel, making sure no water accidentally ends up draining into its charging port, SIM or MicroSD slots, or headphone jack (if your phone still has one). If there are traces of water trapped inside cracks or indentations in the case, try carefully and conservatively using compressed air to blow it out. If you don’t have a can of air lying around, you can use your mouth to gently blow it out. Just be careful not to blow the water further inside the phone, or add any of your own spit to the mix.
Next we have a few different options. If you search the internet or ask a friend, a common piece of advice you’ll hear is to stuff your device in a bag of rice. It might work in a pinch, but that method can cause some problems. While rice is absorbent, it’s incapable of collecting all the moisture hidden deep within your phone, so it only serves as a partial fix. Also, the rice gets mushy and sticky as it absorbs the water, and then you could wind up with gummy bits of rice stuck in your phone’s seams and ports, or dust deep in your device’s crevices. You can wrap the phone loosely in a paper towel before dropping it into the rice, but this is still not your best option.
You might be better off turning to the pros for help. Some retail stores like Staples offer TekDry wet phone repair services that use specially designed machines to pull the water out. The service isn’t cheap: Repairing a soaked smartphone will cost you $70. Plus, Covid restrictions might mean that a store near you might not be open, so be sure to call and check with the store before you go.
Of course, for the accident-prone and careful alike, it’s a good idea to be prepared for this inevitable phone-soaking well ahead of any actual accidents. The smartest option is to keep synthetic desiccants (drying agents) on hand. These usually take the form of those small, square packets that you find in shoeboxes and packages of beef jerky. You know, the “DO NOT EAT” stuff. These packets typically contain little beads of silica gel, which absorbs moisture around them. They work more quickly and efficiently than rice, and they are far less messy.
You might as well hoard the packets you’re already getting for free. Start now: Every time you see a loose desiccant packet in a box with a new hard drive or a shipment of spices or whatever, pull it out and save it in an airtight container. (You can also buy desiccant packets in bulk.) Dump them all into a plastic or glass container you’re certain has an air-tight seal. After you’ve collected a bunch of them, you have an emergency phone-rescue pod ready to go. Just drop the dunked phone into the container so it’s surrounded by packets, seal the container, and wait 24 to 48 hours.
The $15 Nine Lives Wet Phone Fix is a ready-made solution you can order and keep on the shelf at home. You can drop your phone in the airtight plastic pouch periodically (like after your jeans get soaked in a rainstorm) to make sure no lingering moisture starts doing damage inside your handset, or just use it if your phone encounters a full-on liqui-mergency.
Nanoflow X is another option. Same deal as the Nine Lives: You just seal up your phone inside the pouch, which is filled with desiccant, and then wait the specified amount of time (12 to 24 hours) to let your phone dry out. You can grab a pouch for as cheap as $5 on Amazon.
The trick to all of these methods is that for the desiccant to do its magic, it needs to be in a sealed container so that it can absorb water only from your phone, and not from the outside air. Also, you need to have enough of the desiccant present to absorb all the water.
Following these tips, there’s a good chance your phone could survive its untimely spill. But if it spends too much time underwater, you could be out of options. In which case, maybe it’s finally time to get yourself a waterproof phone.