How To Rescue Wet Gadgets

So you did it. Or maybe you did it again. Dropped your favourite gadget in a sink or a toilet. Or you spilled an entire litre on it. Oops. That doesn't mean you can't save it though. Here are a few tips that might just bring it back to life.

Step 1: Cut The Power

As soon as you realise your gadget has been doused you need to get the electricity out of it, and fast. Damage isn't generally caused by water itself, but by the electrical shorts that it creates. If you gadget has a removable battery, pull it out fast. If it doesn't turn off the power immediately. If the power is off by the time you retrieve it, resist the urge to turn it on to check it. You're going to be without your gadget for a couple days. Accept that now.

Step 2: Strip It Down

Remove everything that can come off the gadget. Back covers, SD cards, SIM cards, headphone port coverings. Everything. The more you can strip it down the better. Don't break it, but you want to open up as many points for air to get in and water to get out as possible.

Step 3: Suck It Out

If you have a vacuum cleaner with a narrow nozzle attachment, that's ideal. You want to try to get as much of that moisture out as possible. Suck from each port for at least five minutes.

Not long ago, I dropped my phone in a bowl of soup. I'm not proud of it, but it happened. I didn't have a vacuum nearby. I had to suck the soup out of the earphone port, the ear piece, and microphone ports with my mouth (spitting it out into a second bowl). Am I proud of this? No. Did it save the phone? Yes.

Step 4: Dry It Off

You will see a lot of sites that tell you to put your gadget into a bowl of dry rice. That works OK, but I'm going to share with you my secret weapon that works better than anything I've ever tried: Rice Bubbles. Yes, the breakfast cereal. They suck up liquid much faster and more aggressively than uncooked rice. Grab a fresh box, jam your device in there, and leave it for 48 hours. Rotate the device every now and then.

Step 5: Give It A Shot

After 48 hours or so, remove your phone from the Rice Bubbles. If you see any sign of moisture still in there (fog on the screen, for instance), put it back in for more time. If, however, it looks bone dry, put the battery back in, and (hopefully) turn it on. With a little luck, your gadget will be up and running again.

Untested Methods:

  • I cannot personally vouch for this method, but some recommend soaking the device in very pure rubbing alcohol. Using pure alcohol in the 90 per cent range, the theory is, alcohol is non-corrosive and evaporates faster than water. This is true. However, a lot of phones and tablets have oleophobic coatings, which alcohol will quickly degrade. So, it might not be worth the risk.
  • We've heard some people recommend putting the phone in the silica gel packets — you know, the do not eat pouch packed with your snacks and furniture. Thing is, the silica's powers of desiccation are all used up by the time you open a product — it's already reached is maximum absorption point. And who saves those things, anyway?
  • There is, however, a newish product on the market called the Bheestie Bag. It's something you buy ahead of time if you're going canoeing or are especially accident prone. It claims it can dry your gadgets out seven times faster than home remedies. But we've yet to test it. And seriously, my Rice Bubbles trick is awesome.

Do Not Try:

  • Hair-dryers, ovens, toasters. No, stupid, don't do that. You will melt the components. If you want to use a hair-dryer on the "no heat" setting (so it's just a fan), fine. But you're better off with a vacuum.
  • Microwaves. NOOOOOOOOOOO! What are you even thinking?
  • Shaking it. Might seem like a good idea when it first happens, but the water may only be in the outside chambers of your gadget. Shaking it can drive the water deeper. Don't. Just use a towel to dry it off.

That's what we do over here. If you have some ideas of your own, let us know!

Image credit: Shutterstock/silver-john



    Brent what sort of phone was the soup phone? What sort of soup?

    PROTIP: You can buy silica gel online works better than anything else.

      It was probably gazpacho soup. He dropped it while waving his arms around complaining its not hot enough. Lol

        Nice Red Dwarf reference there.

      From personal experience isopropol alcohol (rubbing alcohol) works great on older phones. On an older phone you were able to replace or remove the microphone before placing it in the alcohol. In newer phones the microphone is micro-welded to the board. Once alcohol gets into the mic, the phone will work but no one will be able to hear you...

        As long as corrosion doesn't seize the diaphragm. Until the alcohol dries out you're right. But once the alcohol dries out it should work fine again as nothing is stopping the diaphragm from freely moving.

      lel protip.

    Use a vacuum? It may work, but it will also build a huge static charge on the plastic nozzle which is just dying to get into your delicate electronics and fry all your transistor gaps....Good luck :-)

    I put a phone in the fan forced on the lowest temp once for 30 minutes or so after dropping it in a pool and it worked fine after.

    Well some gadgets will get hot after water damage even you turn it off , that means you haven't got much time to save it. In case of non removable batteries , you might consider admitting it to a phone hospital straight away :P

    Twice, my mother has lost a phone into her coffee. We just happen to have distilled water around. Little known fact, water does not conduct electricity, only the dissolved ions (so mineral water is about as bad as urinating on it. Distilled is what you need). Alcohol would be more effective, yes, but this won't strip your oleophobic coatings off.

    Cut power, run distilled water through it, and then follow the moisture absorbing trips above. It prevents the sugary residues forming inside the phone. I was surprised it worked the first time, further surprised it worked a second time.

    After dropping her Iphone 4 into a pool. Friend of mine swears hers worked after placing the wet phone in a bag of dry rice for a few days.

    Last edited 17/12/12 5:03 pm

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