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The Best Way to Dry a Wet Phone

Posted by Joseph on May 25, 2019

It’s hard to describe the horror felt when your mobile phone is submerged in a pool of water. Whether it be the toilet, sink, bathtub, or outdoor puddle, the worry that your $700 toy will never turn on again is almost enough to stop the heart. I’m here to let you know that a wet phone doesn’t have to be the end of the world. There’s a very good chance that if you follow the advice provided in this article, your phone can, in fact, be saved.

“Well, I’m still freaking out here, Man. Tell me what to do.”

There’s no time to waste. The most important thing you can do is act fast. Remove the phone immediately from whatever liquid it has been submerged in and continue reading for instructions on how best to save it.

 

Save Your Phone From A Watery Death

Drop your phone in the toilet after getting up from doing your business? Forget to remove your phone from your pocket before taking a dip in the pool? No matter how the phone ended up wet, you have the ability to save it so long as you act quickly.

What you’re going to need to do to save your phone from certain death:

  1. Remove the phone from the water immediately. The longer the phone remains submerged, the more damage it’s likely to receive.
    • Do not remove the phone from water if it’s currently plugged into an outlet. Doing so could result in an electric shock. Instead, you’ll want to disconnect the power to the outlet from a fuse box before retrieving it.
  2. Power down your phone. It’s not so much the water that damages electronics, but the short that can happen if you power them on when they are still wet. Even if it appears to be working, it may have gotten water-logged which can result in a short if left on.
    • Keep your phone off until you know it’s totally dry.
    • At this point, you may feel the desire to vigorously shake the phone in an attempt to remove additional liquid that you can’t currently see. DO NOT do this. You could further damage the interior components by splashing around the excess water inside.
  3. Break your phone down. No, I don’t mean smash it. A better way to convey this instruction is to disassemble your phone if possible. Remove the case, any connections including headphones and charging cable, the SD card, SIM card, battery, back cover, and anything else you can.
  4. Use paper towels to rid your battery of excess moisture and to wipe dry the phone covers. Soft cloths can also be used if paper towels are not available. Place the phone on top of them while you remove the battery cover and battery.
    • You may require a mini Philips head screwdriver in order to open most phones. However, an iPhone requires a special “pentalobe” screwdriver.
    • If you need further instruction when it comes to battery removal, look to the manual that came with the phone.
    • To find out if the phone is truly water damaged, you can check the corner near where the battery is. There should be a white square or circle. If you instead find it in either a pink or red color then your phone has water damage.
  5. Not all phones have SIM cards, but if yours does, use paper towels to dry it off. Lay the SIM card down on paper towels or soft cloths to air dry until your phone is ready for assembly. The SIM card holds the contacts on your phone as well as some other important information. It may be in your best interest to save it.
  6. Do the same paper towel or soft cloth drying steps for all of the other attachments and accessories that were connected to your phone when it got wet. Make sure that all crevices are exposed in order to have them all dry properly.
  7. This next step will require a vacuum, blower, or your own breath to blow the water out the nooks and crannies of the phone.
    • Using a vacuum, fit a hose attachment to it and set it to the highest setting in order to suck the water out of your phone. Vacuum near all of your phone’s openings.
      1. A wet/dry vac would work especially well at this point of the drying process. It’s the fastest method and can have your phone completely dry within half an hour. That being said, it’s still not recommended to turn your phone back on until a few hours have passed, just in case.
    • An air compressor can be used to blow the water out of your phone if you own one of those instead. Just set your air compressor to a low psi (pounds per square inch) setting before blowing the air across the surface of your phone and its ports. A higher psi setting could cause further damage to the components of your phone so this is important.
      1. Alternatively, you can use a can of compressed air.
      2. Don’t use a hair dryer to dry out your phone for the same reason the psi will need to be set low on an air compressor. It could lead to component damage if you do.
  8. While you’re blowing or vacuuming the water from your phone, take a dry paper towel or soft cloth and gently wipe away as much water off its surface as possible. The inside may be the priority but the outside can be just as important.
  9. This step is the best one to take in order to force dry your phone. You’ll want to submerge your phone in a bowl of uncooked instant rice for 48-72 hours.
    • It has to be instant rice as regular uncooked white or brown rice is not as absorbent.
    • Pour around 4 cups (950 mL) of rice into a large bowl and then bury your phone and battery (still disconnected) into the rice. The rice will help draw out any residual moisture in your device.
    • While the phone is drying, you should rotate the phone to a different position every hour until you go to sleep. This affords the phone to allow any water that may still reside inside, to escape through the openings.

 

Instant Rice Alternatives

If you don’t happen to have any uncooked instant rice on hand, don’t worry. Chances are you probably have real rice so don’t feel too bad. There are several alternative ways of drying out your phone without the use of rice at all. It’s imperative that once the phone is removed from the water and disassembled, you wipe down the interior components and submerge them in a drying agent for at least 48 hours. A case can be made for leaving the components set out in front of a blowing fan as well, but the drying is much more reliable when using one of the below agents.

Submerging your phone in 4 cups of one the following agents can expedite the process of drying your phone:

  • Silica Gel Packets
  • Desiccant Packets
  • Kitty Litter
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Couscous Pearls

 

Silica Gel Packets

Use silica gel packets instead of instant rice if you have some. Place the silica gel packet(s), your phone, and the disconnected battery into a large enough container. Then allow the phone to sit for approximately 48-72 hours in order to give the gel time to absorb any remaining moisture in your phone.

  • You can find silica gel packets in the packages that come with new shoes, purses, noodle packets, and other products.
  • Speed is the most important element in saving your wet phone, so use rice or another desiccant if you don’t have any silica packets lying around.

Desiccant Packets

Synthetic desiccant packets are not unlike silica gel packets. You can find them in almost all of the same commercial products. You’re very likely to find a synthetic desiccant packet in a package of beef jerky, some electronic devices, and shoe boxes. They’re about 34 in (1.9 cm) and are typically filled with highly absorptive silica beads which will pull moisture out of your phone. You’ll need quite a few of them so if you’ve been saving them or simply never removed them from the packages they’re in, now’s the time. If you haven’t been saving them up, you can still order them in bulk from an online outlet.

Cat Litter

No rice or silica gel packets? Cover your phone with 4 cups (950 mL) of crystal cat litter. You can find crystal cat litter at most grocery stores and pet-supply shops. Definitely not as cheap as instant rice but if you happen to have a cat, chances are some litter is readily available.

Crystal cat litter is made of silica gel and therefore is very absorbent. It will do an excellent job of pulling residual moisture out from a water-damaged phone. Just pour a layer of cat litter in a container that’s at least 1–2 US quarts (0.95–1.89 L) in size. Then, lay your open phone and its detached battery on top of this layer. Pour in additional litter until your phone has been completely submerged.

  • Don’t use any other litter type, especially those that happen to be clay-based. Clay-based or powdery litters may stick to your phone and turn it into a wet, clay-covered mess. Only crystal cat litter, which is made of silica gel, will work.

Instant Oatmeal

Instant oatmeal is one of the best ways in which to rip moisture from a wet phone. It must be instant oatmeal specifically, as steel-cut oats are far less absorbent. The thing is, that you’ll want the instant oatmeal to be flavorless in order to avoid adding unnecessary additives to your phone. Flavorless is easy to find in any of your local grocery stores and, in all honesty, rivals the absorbance of instant rice. Just know that using oatmeal to dry your phone components could lead to your phone being covered in small, gooey bits of oatmeal dust.

Couscous Pearls

Something you’d not likely think to use for moisture wicking purposes are couscous pearls. Couscous is a type of crushed and dried wheat grain and can actually be used to dry out your phone. The small, dry grains will work similarly to silica beads or instant oatmeal and pull any residual moisture out of your phone components. You can purchase couscous pearls at any grocery store or supermarket. It’s super absorbent just like instant oatmeal but without the likelihood of getting any couscous dust on your phone’s components. Just make sure to purchase a variety of couscous that is unflavored and unseasoned.

Fan Air Dry

The option that most folks think of when it comes to drying out a phone, or pretty much anything, has to be fan dry. Just place your phone on top of some absorbent towels, preferably paper or soft cloth, and leave your phone in the open air with a fan blowing across the surface. The positioning is very important. Ensure that the surface your phone and components are laid on is flat. Position the fan in a way that it will blow air across your phone’s surface.

Just like every other approach to drying your phone, you’ll want to wait around 48-72 hours before turning it on. In fact, the longer you wait, the better the chances are that your phone will survive the damages.

Prior to turning on your phone, check to see that it’s clean and appears dry. Wipe away or vacuum any residual dust and dirt from the device and the battery as a precaution. Once all looks well, you can insert the battery back into the phone and try to power it on.

This list may be full of things that you’re not guaranteed to have instead of instant rice. However, if you’re in a pinch, freaking out, and happen to have any of them, just go ahead and give them a shot.

 

Things NOT To Do When Attempting To Dry A Wet Phone

These things should really go without saying as they are pretty asinine. But nevertheless, I’m sure there are those who have or may wish to try these “alternatives” no matter how terrible of a decision it actually is.

DO NOT:

  • Place a water-damaged phone in the tumble dryer. It does not matter if you place it into a sock, pillowcase, or any other “protective” covering, doing so will damage your phone far more than fix it.
  • Leave your wet phone on a radiator or space heater. Do this only if you want a melted phone or to burn down your home. (Don’t do this!)
  • Heat up your wet phone with a hairdryer. It’s a hairdryer, not a phone dryer. Hair dryers get far too hot for the components in your phone. Heat damage is a very real possibility.
  • Put the phone in the freezer. Water turns to ice in the cold, sure. But ice turns back into the water when warmed. So what have you really done but waste time? Don’t be an idiot!

Save yourself a lot of grief and just follow the steps provided above. If your only plan is to attempt something from the “DO NOT” list, then you may as well just head to the store and purchase a new phone. Perhaps they’ll even take pity on you if you tell them the truth.

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