We’ve all done it or at least known someone who has; whether it was a bowl of soup or a toilet bowl, the infamous leap into the pool or the washing machine, we’ve all been witness to the accidental submersion of various electronic devices. So now that you’ve successfully tested the seaworthiness (unworthiness) of your phone, what steps must be taken to resuscitate your soggy device?
Well, there are actually multiple paths of action as well as remedies that have been suggested by those who have experienced this fate, all with varying degrees of success. After combing through a variety of guides as well as anecdotal accounts, I have consolidated a wealth of information into the following nuggets of knowledge that will give you the best shot at reviving your phone!
Phase 1: Immediate Damage Control
1.1 Don’t Panic
So you just just ran into the ocean neglecting the fact that your phone is still on your person, or the laundry machine just finished its spin cycle and you can’t remember where you put your phone. Don’t panic, your phone can’t get any wetter. Actually, panic just enough to quickly get out of the ocean and turn off the washing machine. It’s okay to cry a little during this phase.
1.2 Cut Power/Remove Battery
After getting the device out of harms way, immediately power down (it should already be off; if it is, DO NOT try to power it back on) and pop out the battery. Remove the SIM and microSD while you’re at it.
1.3 Strip Down
After you have removed the SIM, microSD and battery, proceed to strip down the phone as far as you are able. If it means just popping off the back cover that’s fine, but if you have the tools, remove the rear shell as well exposing the mainboard:
Check out our disassembly guide
Shake off any excess water and prepare for Phase 2: Desiccation. If you’re phone was dropped into unpure water (salinated, toilet, soup, etc.), be sure to follow the next step as well.
1.4 Bathing the Phone
This step may sound counter-intuitive but is paramount, especially if the phone was dropped in sea water as it could lead to phone-wrecking corrosion. Take the phone and place it into a pail of distilled water, gently agitating to remove debris and replacing as necessary. Shake off excess water and use compressed air if available to help further remove water.
Phase 2: Desiccation (Drying)
Although we have gotten rid of most of the visible moisture from the phone, their is still a lot of moisture lurking throughout the board, especially in certain electronic components such as the capacitors:
Good luck getting that completely dry!
The next step requires exactly 3 ingredients: 1) a desiccant, 2) time and most importantly 3) patience. What is a desiccant you ask?
There are two main options, one being superior but difficult to source in a timely manner and the other an adequate standby: silica gel and rice, respectively. Using whichever you can get your hands on first, submerge the phone and battery into the desiccant in an airtight container such as Tupperware or a Ziploc bag.
If the battery was submerged for a prolonged period, it’s a good idea to get a replacement rather than trying to dry it out.
Phase 3: The Waiting Game
This is probably the most difficult but also most important phase of the recovery process. Don’t try to cheat the drying process using heat as a method to expedite this phase. Using a hairdryer or, god forbid, an oven, to dry out the device can cause the mainboard to warp, solder points to melt, and electrical components to fry. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight should also be avoided.
While we are on the subject of what not to do, you may have seen some suggestions regarding an alcohol bath. The theory behind this is that the alcohol will displace the water, and evaporate much more quickly thereafter. The issue with this is the extensive use of adhesives found in most modern smartphones and the solvent properties of alcohol. Result? Your phone’s screen will fall off its face.
If you can help it, leave the phone in its desiccant tomb for more than a week, replacing the desiccant every few days.
Phase 4: The Rebirth
Now after centuries of waiting, the glorious rebirth of the phoenix is upon us! Except instead of being consumed by flames and reborn from the ashes, your phone will have been consumed by water to be reborn from pellets of silica gel and rice. Assuming everything went well, your phone should be back to a state of complete dryness.
Now for the moment of truth; reassemble your phone and pop the battery back in. Attach the charging cable, hold down the power button and hold your breath.
Did it turn on? If so, great! The question now is, will it stay on and function? If it did, then congratulations you just saved your first phone! If you answered no to either, return the phone back to its tomb and pray that it won’t be your phone’s final resting place.