How to save a water-damaged cell phone

Cell phones and water: Not a good mix. Yet as phones become more and more a part of our everyday lives, it seems like we keep coming up with new and creative ways to damage them. A dip in the pool, perhaps? Or an unexpected trip into some salty water at the beach? I actually have a friend who unknowingly floated around the Dead Sea with a phone in her pocket. Then, of course, there’s that other famous body of water phones just can’t seem to stay away from — the toilet bowl.

No matter where you drop it, it’s never a happy moment when your phone first learns to swim. But try not to panic. Just because your phone got wet doesn’t mean it’s gone for good. Follow these steps and you have a pretty decent shot at bringing it back to life.

  1. Take your phone out of the water. NOW.
    This should be pretty self-explanatory, but the longer your phone spends submerged, the greater chance there is of water seeping into open ports and really mucking things up. But just because you accidentally spent the entire day at the beach with your phone in your pocket doesn’t mean it can’t be revived. There’s still hope. Just less.
  2. Don’t press any buttons.
    I know it seems tempting, but pressing a button on your phone can let any residual moisture seep through, increasing your risk of damage.Galaxy S4 Active
  3. Dry the outside of the phone off.
    Quick. Grab some paper towels. Reach for the ShamWow. Roll a bunch of toilet paper into a ball or take the shirt off your back. Basically, do whatever you need to do to dry the phone off as thoroughly as possible.
  4. Remove the internal components.
    If your phone has a removable pack banel, take it off. Grab the battery, your SIM card, and/or your microSD card and dry them off completely. After all, even if you can’t save your phone, hopefully you’ll be able to save some of the valuable information you had stored inside. Place the components on a dry paper towel and put them off to the side.
  5. Give it a few shakes.
    There still might be some water hiding in the headphone jack or beneath any physical keys. Gently shake the phone to dispel as much of it as you can.
  6. Stick it in some rice.
    Now that you’ve gotten rid of all the water on the surface, it’s time to suck out the rest of the moisture you can’t see. Your best bet for doing this is a product like the Bheestie Bag, which is filled with tiny balls (pictured below) that are designed to absorb and retain water more efficiently than even silica. But you probably don’t have a Bheestie Bag just lying around (though if you do, kudos). In that case, reach for the nearest bag of rice. Pour the rice into a container, and bury the phone and components somewhere in the middle. Move the phone around every couple of hours, just to make sure gravity is doing its thing.Bheestie Bag
  7. Wait. Continue waiting. Then wait some more.
    The best thing you can do at this point is to give your phone time to dry. The longer you wait, the greater the chance your phone will live to make another call. The minimum amount of time you should wait is a full 24 hours. You’re better off giving it 48 hours, or even 72, if you can hold out that long. It’s going to feel really strange being without a phone for so long. Use this time to catch up on all those things you’ve been meaning to do. Read a book. Rewatch season three of Mad Men. Or better yet, get outside for a little.
  8. The moment of truth.
    Take your phone out of the bag or remove it from the bowl of rice. Dust off any starch, put all the pieces back together, and try to power it up. Hopefully your phone will turn on. If it doesn’t, you can try putting it back into the bag/rice for another day or so. But after that, if it still doesn’t I’m afraid you’ve got a dead phone on your hands. But check to see if the SIM card and/or microSD card still work if you have access to another phone. Hopefully you’ve managed to save at least something.
  9. Go to the books.
    I can’t verify this, but the chances of you winning the lottery are probably greater than your phone’s warranty covering water damage. Still, it can’t hurt to locate the original paperwork and check it out.
  10. Planning for the future.
    So how can you prevent this from happening again? Easy. Stop taking the phone into the bathroom. If that’s simply not an option, you can always purchase a waterproof case. Nowadays you can find one for just about every type of smartphone there is, though there aren’t many out there for feature phones. And if this is the sort of thing that happens to you a lot, you may want to think about getting a water-resistant smartphone. You still won’t be able to go deep sea diving with it, but it’ll almost certainly bounce back from a quick dip in the pool.