Save a Wet Cell Phone

June 13, 2007


Ever dropped your Mobile phone in the sink, or even worse, the toilet? Did you ever leave it in your pocket and run it through the washer? or if you love rain like me and walked in to rain with your mobile phone in your front pocket. It usually means you have to replace your phone, but sometimes if you’re fast, you can save the phone.

Steps

1. Get it out of the water as soon as possible. The plastic covers on cell phones are fairly tight, but water can enter the phone over time. But this time may be quite short – 20 seconds or less. So grab your phone quickly!

2. Remove the battery. This is one of the most important steps. Don’t take time to think about it; electricity and water do not mix. Cutting power to your phone is a crucial first step in saving it. Many circuits inside the phone will survive immersion in water provided they are not attached to a power source when wet.

3. Remove your SIM card. Some or all of your valuable contacts (along with other data) could be stored on your SIM. To some people this could be more worth saving than the phone itself. SIM cards survive water damage well, but some of the following steps are unnecessary i.e. don’t heat it. Just pat it dry and leave it aside until you need to connect your phone to your cellular network. Note that many phones by specific providers, such as Verizon, do not use SIM cards.

4. Dry your phone. Obviously you need to remove as much of the water as soon as possible, so you can prevent it from getting into the phone. Use a towel or paper towel to remove as much of the water as possible. Soft Tissue Paper is also good.

5. Allow the phone to dry. You have to let your phone dry at least for 48 hours placed in vertical position. Since you do not want to ruin your phone or lose all of the numbers in your phone book, you need to allow the phone to dry. Also, ringtones and graphics stay with the phone – not the SIM. Don’t try putting the battery back on to see if it works as this would risk damaging the phone with a short circuit.

6. Wait. This is the hardest part – leaving your phone alone, with battery and SIM card out, while it dries slowly. Tricks like leaving your phone in a bowl of dry rice will help to expedite moisture evaporation. They might also have side effects like getting rice in your phone. Just put it someplace reasonably warm and dry, uncovered so water can evaporate, and wait.

7. Test your phone. After you have waited 3 days, make sure everything is clean and dry looking and re-attach the battery to the phone and see if it works. If your phone does not work, wait another few days. If it still won’t work, try taking your cell phone to an authorized dealer. Sometimes they can fix it.

Alternate Alcohol Soak Method (Not Recommended do it at your own Risk)

1. Dry your phone by soaking it in alcohol or distilled water. This method is controversial and considered risky by some, but the proponents believe in it strongly. Using alcohol is more effective than distilled water because not only does it displace the water and sediments, it also evaporates faster with less residue. It will not harm your mobile phone. Preferably, use denatured alcohol or a 95% alcohol solution. Denatured alcohol may be purchased at any hardware store and is used to clean electronics because it evaporates quickly and leaves no residue. You should check to see what the alcohol is denatured with. If it is anything other than methanol (some are denatured with very hazardous chemicals such as methyl ethelyne ketone [MEK]) you should not use it, as some denaturants can melt plastics. Most drugstores or larger retailers carry 91% rubbing alcohol. Regular rubbing alcohol is only 70% and is not recommended. Distilled water also displaces water and is a viable alternative because it is non-conductive. Prolonged exposure to other liquids will cause corrosion of the copper traces within the mobile phone, and will most likely cease its operation.

Tips

Another method for drying the phone is to set it on top of the vent of a cable box, monitor or TV for at least 24 hours (up to 3 days). The low heat emitted is enough to gently dry out the phone.

The longer your phone is wet the more likely it is to be damaged. To dry your phone more quickly than room temperature air can manage, immerse it in a can of dry, uncooked rice. The rice will absorb excess moisture, drying your phone from the inside out.

Don’t put the battery in for at least three days, or longer if your digital screen is foggy.

An alternate drying technique is to seal the phone (battery, SIM card, SD card all removed) in a plastic bag with a few of the silica packs that come packed with shoes, coats, electronics. Leave the phone in the bag for a day or 2, and the silica packs will absorb the moisture.

One other way to assist in the drying process is to put your cell phone in a disposable baby diaper. Works for babies and can work for the cell phone as well.

If your phone falls in the ocean or other salt water, rinse with fresh water before crystals can form after removing battery.

If your phone has been subjected to salt water crystallizing, gently tap the board and the chips with a plastic object (back of the small screw driver for example). The vibration of the taps will set some of the foreign objects free and they will fall out. Be careful and don’t smash the board or the chips. A sharp enough blow will break the chips. Tapping very gently multiple times in multiple locations, especially around the chips, is a preferred method.

Try opening your phone if you can. You’ll probably need a TORX screwdriver for that, but it’s worth it. This may void your warranty, but it is likely the water damage already has.

It is likely that the dunk in water will kill the battery. Fortunately you can buy another for 150-300 PKR or 20 – 40 US dollars. The phone itself usually survives.

Corrosion is a threat. You may want to consider soaking your phone in distilled water to wash away any minerals it picked up from the original water.

Warnings

Don’t heat the battery or it could leak or explode. Lithium-ion batteries are sensitive. If you use an oven or hairdryer, make sure to remove the battery first.

If you use alcohol make sure to do so outside, and do not apply heat in any form, not even the gentle heat of a monitor. Do not hook up the battery till the alcohol smell dissipates.

Do not apply too much heat to your phone, as mentioned above. You don’t want to melt or burn your phone.

Most modern phones have more than one liquid damage indicator (stickers that change color when wet) on them, only one visible to you (and sales/technician agents), and chances are, if the sticker under the battery is triggered, then the odds are that the internal stickers you can’t access are tripped as well. This will still result in you paying a voided-warranty fee in the long run. Warranties don’t cover water damage, insurance does. And not all insurance companies or plans will honor water damaged phones.

Even if all these steps are followed, minerals dissolved in the water can precipitate on solder and component pins, causing corrosion or shorting. Components pins are packed so closely together in a modern cell phone that even a small encrustation can create a short, rendering the phone inoperable.

Be warned that manufacturers place stickers that will display “void” once peeled and some will change colors in the presence of a liquid (usually turns blue or red). This helps techs know that you have dropped it in the water, as most cell phone insurance coverage policies don’t cover water damage. Also note that these stickers have been known to change colors in extreme humidity as well.

Do not put the phone (or any electronic or metal-containing object) into the microwave. You will destroy electronic components and potentially the microwave.

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10 Responses to “Save a Wet Cell Phone”

  1. CellSpider said

    I actually dropped my RAZR while getting out of the car last year, and it got rained on all night. I figured it was deader than a doornail, which it was, but it came back to life once it dried out.

    The interesting thing is though, that the moisture tattle tail thingy inside my phone turned red, so now, if anything else goes wrong with it, I’m screwed. according to the warrantee, they don’t have to fix it if it got wet. So, if anything else does break on it, they will take one look at the red dot and say, “too bad for you”.

    Anyone know how to fake a new moisture button?

  2. Alp said

    Good document.Thanks.

  3. […] it was flashing the white screen of death. After a week of drying, my phone was a brick. I had read some suggestions on drying out a wet phone, but had no […]

  4. mansoorhabib said

    Well Cell Spider

    First of all Remove your battery then put some Isopropyl Alchohal on that button/screen and wait till its completely Dry then back on.
    I am sure that this will work

  5. Steven said

    My son was pushed in the pool with his Samsung cell phone in his pocket. He realized it when the phone would not stop vibrating. We immediately took out the battery and SIM card, shook the phone to get rid of excess water, pat dried it and hoped. Hours later we put in the battery and it was still constantly vibrating. Then onto the internet for help. Later that night we swished the phone in distilled water (not the LCD screen), shook off the execess water and dried it for a few minutes with a blow dryer on warm (not hot). I then put it in an enclosed container with uncooked rice and 5 silica gel packs taken from shoe boxes we had in a closet. I woke up the next morning, put the SIM card and battery in and the phone works perfectly!

  6. Lynda said

    My daughter washed her Motorola Razr. It went through the entire wash cycle with Era,Downy and jeans! Fortunately she was waiting on the washer to shut off and found her cell phone with the back cover off and wet. She pulled out the battery and we immediately put the phone and battery in the oven. I turned the oven on and counted to about 20, and shut it off. I only let the oven get warm to touch. About every 1/2 hour I’d turn the oven on again. We did this for several hours. When she went to her room, to watch a movie, she placed it on her DVD player vent, which played for another few hours. Before finally going to bed, she placed it on her TV vent, and left the TV on all night. About 24 hours after the incident, we put the battery back in and her phone works perfectly well. She called me a few minutes ago to let me know she arrived back at college and it is still working and is good as new again. Yes, the dot on her battery is now red and there is a smidgeon of pink also on the battery. We do consider this a miracle.

  7. mansoorhabib said

    Its better not to do it by your own just take it to some professionals

  8. Sam said

    My touchscreen phone fell out of pocket into loo – rescued within seconds. As expected it stopped working. So I took out battery and sim and left on my desk to dry during the day. That night left in the airing cupboard overnight, where it was dry and warm. This morning, it appears to be working fine – so far. Hopefully I have saved it!

  9. Phone Girl said

    I found this page while searching online and Im glad I did..! This info helped me allot in my research and I like your site as well. Very cool design and layout. I bookmarked it so I can come back. Thanks

  10. It’s good, it’s useful (as usual), actionable and concise. Love it.

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