Ever dropped your cell phone in the sink, or even worse, the toilet? Did you ever leave it in your pocket and run it through the washer? It usually means you have to replace your phone, but sometimes if you're fast, you can save the phone!
- 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 in a short period of time, perhaps only 20 seconds or less. So grab your phone quickly! If you can't get to it in time, your best bet is to remove the battery while it is still under water. Water helps dissipate heat from shorts that can damage the phone, so most damage occurs when the inside of the phone is merely wet and there is a power source.
- 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.
- If you have a GSM carrier, 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. (This step does not apply to CDMA carriers such as Verizon, Alltel, US Cellular, Sprint, etc.)
- Dry your phone. Obviously you need to remove as much of the water as soon as possible, so you can save it from getting into the phone. Shake it out without dropping it, then use a towel or paper towel to gently remove as much of the remaining water as possible. Dry the excess moisture by hand.
- Remove any covers and external connectors to open up as many gaps, slots, and crevices in the phone as possible.
- Use a vacuum if possible. Do not use a hair dryer (even on a "cool" mode) to dry out the phone, as this may force moisture further into the small components, deep inside the phone. If moisture is driven deeper inside, corrosion and oxidation may result when minerals from liquids are deposited on the circuitry. Using a hairdryer might be a temporary fix, but this will eventually cause component failure inside the phone. Instead, remove all residual moisture by drawing it away with a vacuum cleaner held over the affected areas for up to 20 minutes in each accessible area. This is the fastest method and can completely dry out your phone and get it working in thirty minutes. Be careful not to hold the vacuum too close to the phone, as a vacuum can create static electricity, which is even worse.
- Use a substance with a high affinity for water to help draw out moisture. Leave the phone in a bowl or bag of uncooked rice overnight. The rice would absorb any remaining moisture. If available, it is preferable to use desiccant instead. Desiccant will absorb moisture better than rice. It may be found under a brand name such as "Damp Rid" or "Dry Right".
- Let the phone sit on absorbent towels, napkin, or other paper. Remember that the goal is to evacuate all the moisture and humidity, not to trap it or add even more. Check the absorbent material every hour for 4 to 6 hours. If moisture is evident, repeat the vacuuming step and desiccant steps.
- Test your phone. After you have waited a day or so, 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, try plugging it into its charger without the battery, if this works, you need a new battery. If not, try taking your cell phone to an authorized dealer. Sometimes they can fix it. Don't try to hide the fact that it has been wet. There are internal indicators that prove moisture.
- In most cases, if you pulled the battery out in time, cleaning the inside of your phone with cleaning alcohol (alcohol will displace the water) or contact spray will fix your problem. If there is even one drop of water left inside, it can ruin your phone by corroding it and making the wrong contact. If your phone is powering up but still acting strange after you have cleaned it, then you've missed some liquid or the corrosion has already occurred and dis-assembly and cleaning with a toothbrush and appropriate solvent may fully fix it. For the fainthearted, a skilled technician or engineer can often fix such an issue easily and quickly.
- Excessive heat can damage your phone even more! Most phones have warnings about leaving them in your car or exposing them to heat. The main point is to completely dry the phone before applying power. Be patient! Use the LOWEST heat setting! or better still don't use heat at all, use a vacuum cleaner to rapidly draw all the residual moisture out, this usually takes about 20 minutes of care and patience turning the phone every few minutes to ensure all holes and outlets get accessed.
- If your phone falls in the ocean or another form of salt water, rinse it with fresh water before salt crystals can form in the phone after the removal of the battery.
- If your phone has been subjected to salt water crystallizing, gently tap the board and the chips with a plastic object (the back of a 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. And follow up with appropriate solvent cleaning afterwards to clean away any oxidation residue.
- Place the phone in a vacuum chamber (found at many high schools and universities) and active the chamber. Typically universities and specific industries will have a vacuum chamber available if you happen to know the right person. Water "boils" at room temperature, given enough time, meaning that it evaporates through bubbles even though it isn't heated. This method should be successful when the vacuum is maintained at room temperature for about 30 minutes. That will dry out parts you can't access as will the tip above regarding a vacuum cleaner if you have no vacuum chamber available.
- Try holding a compressed air can STRAIGHT (upside down, sideways, or at an angle will shoot out a freezing liquid) and shoot into the crevices, speaker, mic, and keypad. Any excess water stuck should come out. If the can gets cold and you're not done, let the can sit a while before continuing, as cold air could make excess moisture condense onto parts deeper inside. This process should be followed by the other methods that use a vacuum chamber or vacuum cleaner to more thoroughly remove any deeper residual moisture and humidity as the phone must be totally dry inside to ensure no further failure later on. The contents of many "canned air" products can be poisonous. Follow all recommendations on the can label.
- Since your warranty is void anyway, if you have further problems with your phone's functions after trying the above methods to dry it out, then buy Torx screwdrivers to open the phone's case, since these are almost always specialized. (For example, the RAZR needs Torx #4, #5, and #6). Pick up a can of Contact Spray (electric contact cleaner)and douse the inside. It dries rapidly. Scrub any residue with a soft-bristle toothbrush. Spray with compressed air, and/or vacuum it out for several minutes to suck out further moisture and then carefully put it back together. Do not leave your phone wet for an extended period of time. Dry it out as soon as possible.
- Do not switch the phone on. This is important as it will prevent a charge from running from the battery to the phone which may subsequently cause the phone to short circuit.
- 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 until 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.
- Be warned that manufacturers of most modern cell phones place liquid damage indicator stickers that will change colors in the presence of a liquid inside their phones. This helps technicians know that you have dropped your phone in water, as most cell phone insurance coverage policies don't cover water damage. Chances are, if the sticker under the battery is triggered, then the internal stickers you can't access have probably been tripped as well. This will result in you paying a voided-warranty fee in the long run. You should be aware that warranties don't cover water damage, only insurance does, and even then, not all insurance companies or plans will honor water damaged phones. It is also worth noting that these liquid damage indicator stickers have been known to change colors in extreme humidity as well.
- Even if all these steps are followed, minerals dissolved in the water can precipitate on solder and component pins, causing corrosion or shorting. Component pins are packed so closely together in modern cell phones that even a small encrustation can create a short, rendering the phone inoperable.
- Do not put the phone (or any electronic or metal-containing object) into the microwave. You will destroy electronic components and potentially the microwave.
- For the semi-mechanically inclined remove screws and as a minimum crack the case open to allow moisture to escape. Cell phones are normally somewhat water proof so they can be used in the light rain and humid environments. This means that once moisture has entered the phone it is very hard for it to dry out.
- Removing your cell phone from the water quickly and IMMEDIATELY REMOVING THE BATTERY gives you the best chance of saving your phone.
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