There are plenty of ways that you can accidentally damage your smartphone. You can install malware or keep your phone turned on 24/7. You can leave it plugged in for way too long, or leave it in your pocket or on the couch, and allow it to overheat. Even filling up your iPhone’s storage or being careless about plugging it in to the charger can do some damage. And that’s to say nothing of dropping your phone, or exposing it to liquids. But sometimes the worst-case scenario happens, and you end up with a wet iPhone or Android phone on your hands.
Maybe your iPhone had a run-in with a swimming pool or the toilet. Or perhaps your beloved Android phone slipped out of your hands into a sink full of soapy dishes. Or maybe a smaller amount of liquid was involved, and now your phone won’t turn on at all. In any case, even a small amount of liquid can do real damage to a phone. Plenty of smartphones aren’t made to stand up to use in a rainstorm. An errant splash at the pool can have bad effects on the device, as can dropping it into a car cup holder that’s filled with condensation, or setting it down on top of a wet bath towel.
Unless you’ve purchased a phone that’s specifically certified for water resistance, like Apple’s most recent iPhone, it’s better to be safe than sorry and assume that water needs to stay away from your phone in all settings. And even in the case of the iPhone 7, the device probably isn’t quite so waterproof as you think it is. If you’re trying to save a wet phone, there are a few things that you can do to minimize the damage, but there are plenty more things that you shouldn’t do when trying to rescue a drowned iPhone or Android device. Read on to check out the worst things you can do with a device that took an unexpected dip.
1. Checking if it still works, or pressing buttons
Mat Greenfield reports for CNET that after you’ve retrieved your phone from the pool or the sink, you should resist the urge to check if the device still works. You should also avoid pressing buttons, since pressing any keys may force water further into the phone. If you have a device without a removable battery, like an iPhone, Greenfield advises taking the risk and pressing a few buttons to see if it’s still on, and turn it off if it is.
Some people aren’t comfortable disassembling their devices thanks to warranty issues (though you should know that the warranty is typically voided once liquid enters the device). But it’s generally a good idea to remove the battery, which will minimize power that could cause your phone to short-circuit. Greenfield also advises removing any peripherals, attachments, or cases from the phone. Then, you should extract the SIM card and the SD card, and leave any ports or covers open to increase ventilation. You should then dry the phone off with a towel, including its exterior. During that process, make sure that you don’t let any water drain into the ports or openings on the phone.
2. Relying on rice to draw moisture out of your phone
Conventional wisdom has it that sticking a drowned iPhone in a bag of uncooked rice will draw the water out of the device and maximize your chances of saving it. But when that theory is put to the test, it doesn’t perform as well as you might think. To test whether the rice method is really as effective as certain parts of the internet claim, Gazelle’s Scott S. Lyman tested a variety of household materials to see which could absorb the most water from a wet sponge in 24 hours.
Lyman tested cat litter, pearl couscous, classic rolled oatmeal, instant oatmeal, instant rice, crystal kitty litter, and uncooked rice. He concluded that dry rice “was the worst of the seven options” tested, and absorbed the least water in 24 hours. “More importantly, the sponge that we left in open air performed far better than any of the drying agents. It’s possible that the absorbent materials could have matched open air if we’d used a lot more. But it seems that leaving your phone on a shelf may be the best option.” In any case, don’t bother with conventional white rice. Instant rice, or silica gel, is a much better bet.
3. Neglecting to dry out your phone as much as possible
Lyman recommends focusing on shaking, blowing, or vacuuming as much water out of your iPhone or Android device as possible before turning to an absorbent material to dry out the device the rest of the way. In fact, he advises that you should only rely on drying agents like silica gel or rice to absorb residual moisture. While it might be tempting to handle a submerged device as little as possible, you should always do what you can to get as much water out yourself.
According to Gazelle, your best bet at saving your phone is probably to open the phone up and leave it in front of a fan. Lyman notes that you shouldn’t worry about voiding the warranty by opening the device, since the warranty was voided the moment that water entered the phone and tripped the water damage indicator. Silica gel or instant rice may be helpful after you’ve removed as much water as possible, but only if you use a large amount of whatever absorbent material you choose. Gazelle recommends at least four cups in a container with a one to two quart capacity. Alternately, leaving your phone in the open air, perhaps with a fan trained on it for better circulation, is likely to work just as well.
4. Trying a fast-track method for drying your phone
Whatever you do, don’t believe any blog posts that tout fast-track methods for drying out a drowned iPhone. CNET reports that you shouldn’t take a hairdryer to it, or use any other method of applying heat. While that could successfully evaporate the moisture sitting inside the phone, you risk overheating the device and damaging its components in the process. And if there’s a lot of water inside your iPhone or Android device, it’s unlikely that the steam created will fully ventilate and actually leave the device.
Similarly, you shouldn’t follow the advice of throwing your phone in the freezer, even wrapped in a paper towel. The idea is that the reduced conductivity of water at temperatures close to freezing will stop your phone from short-circuiting. But this is a temporary solution at best, and at worst may damage the screen. That trade-off likely isn’t worth it for a method that’s unlikely to be of any real help in the first place. Similarly, microwaving your phone is not only an ineffective method, but is also dangerous.
5. Powering the device on before it dries completely
Michael Zelenko reports for The Verge that the absolute worst thing you can do with a drowned phone is to power it up before it dries completely. To do so would be “cell phone homicide in the first degree.” Unlike leaving your phone on a sunny windowsill or in front of a fan, placing it in rice or another absorbent material puts the phone out of sight and out of mind. Zelenko notes that even if rice itself can’t effectively protect the device from water, the trick “does temporarily remove a much more dangerous element: us, and our impatient, tech-driven neuroses.”
Leaving the phone alone and off for 12 hours, 24 hours, or even a few days — however long it takes for the device to completely dry out — can seem difficult. That’s especially true if you’re worried about whether you’ll be able to retrieve the messages and photos stored on your device. But you should do whatever it takes to prevent yourself from powering the device up too soon, which can kill your phone. Leaving it alone, on the other hand, may mean that your phone lives through the near-death experience — which is the ultimate goal of trying to save a drowned phone.