I’ve noticed that many of the used cell phones that I’ve sold on Craigslist are bought by people who broke their phone when they accidentally dropped their phone in some form of liquid. Many buyers are in the emergency-I-need-a-phone-ASAP mode and are more likely to pay top dollar for a used phone. I’ve made the most money from people who can’t survive without their iPhone and need a replacement the same day they broke their original phone.
Many people who have submerged their phones in water or any other type of liquid don’t know what to do. Their first instinct is to dry it off with a paper towel and try to turn it on to see if it works. For most people it won’t turn on at all or will turn on for about a second and then immediately shut off. This is the worst thing you can do if your phone gets wet, and I hope you have found and read this article before you do that. If this hasn’t ever happened to you, do yourself a favor and bookmark this page.
Meanwhile, there are other people who have heard a few rumors that putting your phone in a bowl of rice will fix the phone. Although your chances are better if you do this, there is a better alternative that is almost guaranteed to fix your phone.
Don’t Turn It On
As soon as you drop your phone in the toilet, pool, sink, or wherever it gets wet, obviously remove it from the liquid quickly. If the phone is still on, POWER IT OFF IMMEDIATELY. Don’t panic and DO NOT CHECK YOUR PHONE TO SEE IF IT STILL WORKS. DO NOT TRY TO TURN IT ON. I know, it is very tempting just to see if you can get away with out any water damage. If you’re phone was submerged, it most likely hasn’t been damaged yet; however, as soon as you turn it on, you will be permanently damaging it. You will short the circuits and will never be able to use your phone or obtain the data that was on it.
If you have already tried turning on your phone before you read this, you can still go through these steps to have the best chances of recovery.
Also, DO NOT try to heat your phone to dry it. Don’t put it in an oven or hold a hair dryer up to it. This will only melt the internals and make the problem worse/unrecoverable. DO NOT put your phone in a microwave oven. This will completely destroy your phone and microwave.
On a side note, I recommend you frequently backup your phone just in case you find yourself in this situation. For iPhones you can use iTunes or iCloud, on Android you can use Backup Pro, and with a Windows phone you can use Microsoft’s cloud backup software.
Tools And Supplies
You will need a handful of supplies to fix your phone, so search your house or head over to the local hardware/grocery store for these items. These items may seem strange at first, but you will need them to save your phone.
- Silica – these are those strange little packets you find in new shoe boxes, suitcases, furniture boxes, etc… You can also buy these packs from your local arts and crafts store or online. You can buy silica crystals in 2kg bags in the kitty litter aisle of your supermarket.
- Tupperware or Ziploc Bag – Either one will work, must be big enough to fit the phone plus some.
- Isopropyl Alcohol (or distilled water) – this is optional but better safe than sorry. Head shops usually carry this.
- Paper Towels
- Dish Towels
- Salad Spinner
- Case of beer – If you don’t follow these directions carefully or you already tried to turn on your phone, maybe a case of beer will make you feel better about shelling out several hundred dollars for a replacement phone.
Dry Your Phone
The first step is to remove all parts and accessories off of your phone. This includes back panels/covers, cases, SIM cards, memory cards, batteries, etc… If you own an iPhone you won’t be able to easily take much off of it except for your protective case.
For iPhone users: The phone has 2 tiny screws at the bottom remove these slide back plate downwards and disconnect and remove battery. You can find the tool on Amazon or eBay. The rest of the instructions are the same.
If your phone was dropped in a sugary liquid such as soda, completely submerge your phone in 100% rubbing alcohol. ONLY perform this step if you dropped your phone in sugary liquid and ONLY DO IT after you have removed the battery. I know this sounds crazy, but it is essential to submerge the internal electronic parts of your phone into rubbing alcohol if your phone was in a sugary liquid. If you didn’t drop your phone in a sugary liquid DO NOT DO THIS because if you just dropped it in water then you run the risk of dissolving adhesives inside the phone. You don’t have to worry about this step if your phone falls into a diet soda since diet drinks don’t have sugar. Also, you can use distilled water instead of alcohol for this step.
Lay your phone in a bed of paper towels or dish towels in a salad spinner if possible. Place the phone on the side against the wall of spinner with the phone’s screen facing the center of the spinner, we want the liquid pulled away from the screen and towards the battery area. Spin the phone for three minutes in the salad spinner. The centrifugal force will pull most of the liquid away from the phone’s screen.
Next, remove the phone from the spinner and hold the phone with a firm grip and shake it as hard as you can. Please make sure to grip the phone well so you don’t let go of it. Keep shaking it until the liquid stops spraying out of it.
Put the phone in the Ziploc bag or the Tupperware container with the screen facing up. Fill the container or bag up as much as possible with the silica gel packets. Put in as much as you can but make sure you can still seal the bag/container. Pack the battery compartment with them and place the silica around all sides of phone. Get as much coverage as possible. The more of the phone’s surface area that is covered the better that your chances of recovery are.
** As an extra effort, you should dry your silica gel by heating in the oven at 110*C for 1-2 hours. After doing so it should be stored in a sealed container or it will adsorb moisture from the air. This isn’t a must-do step but it certainly will help. If you are using brand new silica gel packets that are still sealed in the package they were sold in, you don’t have to worry about this. This step is only for silica packets that have been lying around your house.
The next step is the toughest to get through. After you seal the bag/container, you will have to let it sit for two full days. DO NOT remove the phone until 48 hours have passed. The internal parts will require this amount of time to completely dry. The silica gel will help absorb all of the liquid from the phone. But if you remove your phone from the bag and turn it on before two days are up, there is a good change your phone will be damaged.
While your phone is sitting in the silica gel, clean the contacts of the SIM/memory card/battery with alcohol wipes or isopropyl and a paper towel.
As I said earlier, hopefully you find this article before you find yourself with a wet cell phone. I have helped several friends with a submerged phone and have successfully repaired them with these steps. Just remember not to turn your phone on and the main thing is to get your phone in a bag with a material that will absorb the liquid. If you’re in an emergency, time is of the essence, and rice is better than nothing. Silica is best. Calcium chloride ice melter is second-best. Don’t forget… DON’T touch the phone for two days!
If you go through all of this and you still can’t fix your phone, you can still sell a broken phone. If you want to completely avoid this situation, consider waterproofing your cell phone with Liquipel.