Dry Out A Wet Cellphone

Tragedy! Your phone got wet and now it won’t turn on! What to do, what to do?! Well, there’s actually several things you can do to draw out the moisture and rescue your phone from a watery grave:

You can put your phone in:

  • a ziplock bag of uncooked rice and let it sit for a few hours
  • a bag with some silica packets
  • a hearing aid dryer for a few hours
  • Place it in an oven with just the oven light on for a few days
  • A bag of clay-based absorbent
  • The sun

If your phone falls in salt water, you will want to bathe it first in distilled/deionized water first to remove the salt. Reader Ryan adds, “Actually a deionized/distilled water wash is useful even if the offending liquid isn’t salt water. The minerals/ions in tap water are conductive and will remain after the water dries, potentially causing a short circuit later on. Most liquids have ions.”

Certainly cheaper than buying a new phone.

Have you ever rescued a wet phone? What technique did you use? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

What to do if your iPhone gets wet [Cnet] (Thanks to Barbara!)

Comments

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  1. nofelix says:

    Step 1: don’t turn your phone on if it’s wet.

    Either it will turn on but you risk shorting it, or it won’t. Either way it needs to be dried out first.

    • Firethorn says:

      I’d remove the battery as well. Not many phones today that truly shut off when they’re ‘off’.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      Yes, take the battery out ASAP. Chlorine also causes damage to circuitry so unless you dropped it in distilled/deionized water to begin with, it will probably need rinsing.

      I once jumped into a pool with my cellphone in my pocket. After removing the battery I searched the interwebs for answers. I ended up baking my phone (not the battery!) in the oven for 4 hours at around 140 degrees. I didn’t rinse my phone first because I didn’t know about it then, but I came away with only minimal pixel damage. No data loss whatsoever.

      • Daemon Xar says:

        I also jumped in a pool with my blackberry clipped to my belt . . . teh interwebs told me to put it in a bowl of dry rice, and it worked. For six months. Which, as it turns out, was just long enough to get me my iPhone.

  2. doctorc4 says:

    We keep a glad-ware container of Silica Gel Packets just for such an occasion. So far, we have used it twice, and everything has worked! Minor spills, of course. Both were cell phones. Instantly removed the battery, toweled it off, and dropped the phone and battery in the container, waited 24-48 hours, plugged it in and we are all set!

  3. pop top says:

    I wish I would’ve known about these things last week– my dad put his cell through the washing machine. He was able to successfully dry it out (including a short trip in the toasting oven), but the oven melted the little faceplate. The phone still works at least. I think I’ll e-mail this story to him. :)

    • jesusofcool says:

      I did this with my phone after I somehow dropped it in a puddle. I thought it was totally gone for good but I stuck it and the battery loose in a bag of rice for the day. Phone has been working ever since (six months later).

  4. LunaMakesThings says:

    I wish I’d known this when I killed my old phone. Went through the laundry. At least I learned my lesson and I always check pockets first now.

  5. Noir says:

    don’t forget to clean the contacts with isopropilic alcohol to avoid corrossion due to the water, but don’t use it on the screen or you might ruin it!!!

  6. chenster02453 says:

    Never but my first reaction would be to quickly fish it out and immediately remove the battery while NOT pressing any buttons (pwr or otherwise). The vat of rice seems logical and should work. Would like to know if others have tried it as I do see this suggestion posted on a few iPhone/Apple forums. I would never use any sort of heat related drying agent/source to dry the phone as this can cause more damage than what the H2O has already done.

  7. Jfielder says:

    I’ve oven baked phones at the lowest temp setting (165 or 175) before with success. At that temp it’s not really hot enough to damage anything, but it’s warm enough to dry stuff out.

    • RevancheRM says:

      I’d e very interested to hear counter-wisdom to this method. It makes the most sense to me, and would be my likely first attempt, unless I’m persuaded not to.

      Thanks.

      • An_Album_Cover says:

        The only catch here is that oven thermostats aren’t necessarily very reliable, depending on your oven. I know mine can fluctuate +/- 50 degrees when set to 350F (and had one in an old apartment that was consistently about 75 degrees above the knob-selected temperature). Before you attempt this, you’ll probably want to double-check your oven temperature using an oven or probe thermometer. Also, you’ll probably want to take several readings over the course of a cycle as your oven’s temperature will fluctuate.

    • goodeness says:

      This technique has always worked for me very well, rescued 3+ phones with it, one more than once! Just do not forget to REMOVE THE BATTERY! Sure that could have interesting results. . .

  8. rwalford79 says:

    Why is this on the consumerist? Ive seen it on so many blogs like Lifehacker… I dont quite understand.

  9. captadam says:

    I opened it (with a tiny screwdriver), propped the back open, and put it over the heat vent overnight. Worked great the next morning, after its unfortunate trip into the toilet.

    • SacraBos says:

      I’m not so sure I’d be wanting to put that up to my face again.

      My son dropped his iPhone in the toilet. He tried to flush it down, since at that point he didn’t want it anymore. Fortunately, we averted a major plumbing problem by giving him a rubber glove and a non-optional fishing experience.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Mine fell into the toilet too… After a quick rinse and rubdown with a damp and then dry paper towel, and some rubbing alcohol on some of the surfaces, I just let it dry in the air without the battery for a couple days. It was glitchy when I put it back together, but a couple of restarts put it to rights. It has been fine ever since.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      I had a coworker in a nursing home drop two different work phones in the toilet. Thankfully the vendor switches out phones for repair, but they’re $800 new. Funniest part, it was the same toilet both times less than a month apart.

  10. lockdog says:

    Used to work as a techie at a major theme park. At least once a week a diving whale would soak someone’s brand-new camera or video camera. (They call it a splash zone for a reason folks). Nice icy-cold, and very conductive salt water. If the person made a big stink, Guest Services would call us. We would give the camera a bath in deionized/distilled water to remove the salt and tell them to set it in a oven with just the light on for a few days. We got a least a few thankyou letters later.
    Now, about that 96 channel Behringer mixer that, ahem, fell into the pool….

  11. Magspie says:

    I dropped my phone in Lake Washington last summer. If I rent a diving suit and find it will these still work?

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      Ummm… I would consider that a lost cause. Wouldn’t want to put a hermit crab out of their home on CHRISTMAS, would you??

    • Paul in SF says:

      Your phone will work fine once you retrieve it. The constant rain in the Pacific Northwest has built its immunity to water to levels well beyond that of being immersed in the lake or in Puget Sound.

  12. jpropaganda says:

    I once dropped my blackberry in beer. Yes, beer.

    Separated the battery and phone, hand dryer, then left the two to dry separately once I got home. After a few days of shotty service and some keys not working, it now works like a charm.

  13. solareclipse2 says:

    Also make sure you remove the battery, and then peel off that little sticker that now says “void” on it in red letters. Your phone could be perfectly fine but that sticker is covering a contact that prevents your phone from turning on.

    That sticker does something when it’s wet to prevent your phone from turning on. My wife dropped hers in the bathroom and all of a sudden it wouldn’t turn on. The sticker didn’t say void before she dropped it. I peeled it off and it was working again.

  14. probablykate says:

    I fell into a stream with my phone in my pocket. Took the battery out and put it on the dashboard of a car with the hot sun shining on it, dried it right up.

  15. Katrine says:

    We did this last summer after teenage son #2 jumped into the pool with his phone (an older razr). We took the battery out, buried the whole thing in a bag of rice and sat it on top of the air conditioning vent. After about a week, we put it all back together, expecting nothing. It powered up just fine, and he’s still using it without any problems six months later.

    We weren’t as successful with TS #1′s phone, but it went through the washer *and* dryer.

  16. wootbot says:

    In my experience, there’s a better than average chance you’ll be OK if you do the following:

    1. Leave it switched off.

    2. Remove what you can. If your battery is removable, take it out and leave the cover off. Same goes for your SIM card slot. Anything that will help let air in and moisture out.

    3. Leave it somewhere where it will get gentle heat and be exposed to the air. A windowsill that gets lots of sun is a good choice. If it’s warm outside, then leaving it out there is even better. Prop it up so that air can get around it easier.

    4. Resist the temptation to try to turn it on too soon. Leave it at least 24 hours, up to 48 if you can.

  17. succinct says:

    The # 1 tip should be: TAKE YOUR BATTERY OUT! (Sorry iPhone users)

    What destroys the phone is not the getting wet part, it’s the subsequent micro-shortcircuits that happen when water is covering the electronics within the phone.

    So, to reiterate, take your battery out ASAP and do not put it back into the phone until you’re absolutely certain that it has dried out!

  18. 3rdUserName says:

    My wife spilled a cup of coffee on her Blackberry Pearl, she knew to turn it off till she brought it home for me to look at.. I opened it up and cleaned it the best I could with some rubbing alcohol and did the rice thing overnight.. After I turned it on the phone worked normal, but the scroll ball wouldn’t work, I used lots of rubbing alcohol on the ball and moved and pressed it for about an hour till it came back to life.. Overall, GREAT SUCCESS!!

  19. ospreyguy says:

    I have also used clay based absorbent. Like the ones auto parts places sell for drying up oil and other nasty spills. Like $4 for a 25 lbs bag that you can use for all kinds of stuff. Plus you’re not using that rice you could eat…

  20. scoopie77 says:

    I know this problem well! I took the battery out after dropping my phone on a sink and then placed the rest of the phone on a fan. The fan oscillated for several hours and the phone went for a ride with it. It worked pretty well although the phone was a little weird after that.

  21. jmhart says:

    I accidentally ran my key fob through the washer and dryer once. Pulled it out, walked out to my car, unlocked it with no problem.

  22. coolteamblt says:

    When my sister soaked her phone, we disassembled her phone as small as we could take it apart, patted it dry with a towel, and set the whole thing on the a cookie tray lined with a towel. Then, we turned on the oven to ‘preheat’ and let it sit for about 15-30 minutes. We took it out of the oven, let it sit on the counter overnight, then reassembled it. It worked fine!

  23. MountainRooster says:

    When I dropped mine in the toilet I turned it off immediately. I then dipped it in rubbing alcohol to both displace the water and kill any bacteria. You coul also use commercial grade contact cleaner (ie. aerosol can of Novec). Use a hair dryer or compressed air to dry B4 turning on.

    If your white dots turned red, put some bleach on a Q-tip. And then next time you visit the cell store the rep will still talk to you. Reps tend to blame everything on water even if it is unrelated.

  24. msbask says:

    When my daughter put her new Rant through the entire wash cycle, we took the battery out and stood both the phone and the battery on the window sill for two days. Then we plugged it in and let it sit on the charge for another day. The slide-out keyboard still works only sporadically, I think, but otherwise the phone is fine.

    My other daughter dropped her Rant in the toilet. Just stood it up to let it dry and had the same results.

    I wish I’d have thought of the rice or silica thing. That makes total sense.

  25. jamar0303 says:

    Or you can buy that Casio phone (if you’re on Verizon) or the Sharp SH-08A (if you’re on AT&T/T-Mobile) and never worry about this again. The SH-08A even has a solar panel; helps it go longer per AC charge.

  26. Geekybiker says:

    Don’t forget rubbing alcohol. If your phone is truly soaked, putting it in a bath of alcohol helps. It dilutes/displaces the water to prevent corrosion like the distilled water trick for salt water. It also evaporates quicker and is less likely to leave mineral deposits around like plain old water. Either way the real critical thing is always not to turn it on until its completely dry.

    • LastError says:

      Rubbing Alcohol is not actually the one to use. Rubbing is only 70% alcohol by volume. The other 30% is water which is what you are trying to get rid of.

      What you should use is 90% or 100% alcohol which can be found at medical supply stores, home centers (in the paint removal section) or electronics parts shops or online. THAT stuff will suck the moisture out of your hands -or the device you need to dry out- and so it’s a much much better choice.

  27. subtlefrog says:

    Dipped a digital camera into a very disgusting pond in the tropics. Several days in a box with silica gel – my advisor never knew the difference….His daughter now has the camera.

    Just remember that if you use silica, the dust can be very fine and can ruin electronics, so it NEEDS to be in something that will contain it. Old film canisters placed upright with holes poked in the top (don’t knock them over!), several layers of material (socks work well), etc. It’s cheaper to buy it at craft stores (used for flower drying) and make your own packets.

  28. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    Holy cow, this is timely. I rescued my phone from the washing machine yesterday, and it’s sitting in a container of rice even as I type.

  29. Kris says:

    I too did the oven trick a couple of years back with an older Motorola. I preheated the oven to 200 degrees, then turned the oven off and put the various parts of the phone inside. Waited until the oven cooled completely and then put it back together. Worked like a charm!

  30. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Rice does not absorb moisture like people think it does. I mean, if rice was so good, why don’t they use that instead of Silica? Except for Kosher Salt, most table salt contain de-clumping agents, which is why I use un-popped popping corn in my Kosher Salt. Un-popped popping corn WILL absorb ambient moisture, unlike rice. As Alton Brown says:

    Now a lot of folks like to put rice inside finely granulated salt in order to keep it from clumping because of humidity. The truth is, the rice doesn’t actually absorb any of the humidity. If it did, you’d be able to cook a pot of rice just by setting it out in the rainforest for a couple of days. What it really does is provide physical agitation. The problem with rice is, as it breaks and cracks, it can actually jam up the little holes. So, I say skip the rice altogether and use a little bit of [raw] popcorn, which I’ve got plenty of here. We’ll take about a teaspoon, add to the salt, give it a shake, and we are good to go.

    • kjherron says:

      Your AB quote doesn’t say anything about popcorn absorbing moisture. He’s recommending popcorn because it provides the same (or better) physical agitation, without breaking into little pieces that block the shaker holes.

      In fact, in the episode about making sausage, AB recommended suggested storing grinder parts–which are prone to rusting–in a bag of rice because it’d help keep them dry.

      Manufacturers probably use silica gel packets because they’re cheaper in bulk, and/or they don’t attract bugs.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        Since Alton uses Kosher Salt, like I do, and it doesn’t contain any anti-clumping chemicals/additives, and WILL clump in humidity, there is really only one reason to add it.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        Also, I checked that episodes transcipt, and this is what he said:

        “…keeping them inside rice is smart because it wicks away the moisture, preventing that.”

        Wicking is a different action. He’s saying if the rice touches the water, it will absorb it, just like when you cook it. I can hold a string in the air above a glass of water, and it won’t get wet. But touch it to the water, and it suck up the water. As he puts the part in his plastic bag, he shakes it, showing that he’s using the rice to get into the nooks and crannies, in case a drop or two are hiding in there.

  31. almightytora says:

    My friend took some drastic measures. He actually disassembled his phone, patted everything dry, used compressed air, and let all the pieces dry.

    Amazingly, the phone worked like new after he reassembled it.

  32. shaun3000 says:

    I always use an AV receiver. The heat that radiates from the top of a receiver is perfect for slowly drying out a phone or similar device. Just make sure it’s not dripping wet when you put it up there!

  33. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Thanks for this article. So far the worst thing I’ve done is leave my phone at work over the weekend (since I have a query out, it was AGONY), but I’m sure I’ll drop it in something wet eventually. I hope I can remember the rice thing when I’m freaking out.

  34. PickyPatron says:

    My favorite essay about resuscitating a wet cell phone: http://inscape.byu.edu/winter2007/griffin_immersion.php

    According to the author, mouth-to-mouth and a hair dryer work, too!

  35. Lyn Never says:

    Rice worked for me after my husband poured coffee on my Nano and then helpfully left it, still in its coffee-filled case, not even rinsed off, in my chair for me to find several hours later. After two days in rice, I was still getting some display errors, so I put it back for another 4-5 days and it’s been fine ever since.

  36. psykomyko says:

    My wife once had her cell phone go through the laundry (including the dryer) – while turned on. I removed the battery and placed both the phone and battery into a container of dry rice for a day – the next day the phone worked, but the screen didn’t. The phone ended up dying completely several months later.

  37. Ziggie says:

    The key is to avoid an electrical short. So, if the phone isn’t already off turn it off as quickly as possible when you get your phone wet. Then seal it in a container with silica desiccant and don’t touch it for a couple of days. Keep in mind that even if it does work, you’ve pretty much voided your warranty b/c that little sticker inside the phone has already changed color to indicate you got it wet. No amount of drying out will change it back.

    I managed to spill a rootbeer on my MacBook and still save it. I immediately powered it down, took the battery out, and put it in a container with rice. Then I bought silica desiccant at Michael’s– it’s used to dry out flowers. I put lots of that in the container with the laptop and left it alone for 4 days to completely dry it out. Only then did I turn it on. It worked fine – just had a stickiness issue with a few keys.

  38. wickedpixel says:

    kitty litter (unused) also works well

  39. njack says:

    I was in the pool for 45 minutes before realizing my phone was in my pocket….something about vicodin for my back pain made me forget.

    One big key as others have said is to not turn it on.

    Anyway, to dry it out, I submersed the phone in isopropyl acohol and then put it in a ziploc bag with uncooked white rice overnight.

    By morning the phone was in perfect working order.

  40. Thora says:

    I can confirm that rice does work. My ex had a knack for destroying electronics, either intentionally through his anger issues or accidentally, and I made the mistake of letting him use my old Touch Pro. He was supposed to pay me for it, but after 6 weeks with no pay, I repoed it. When he gave it back it was soaked in CAT PEE. Oh it was disgusting. I took it apart, cleaned it as best I could, and then stuck it in a ziplock baggie with rice. I let it sit overnight & when I took it out, the phone was fine & the RICE reeked of cat pee. Pretty neat.

    I still hate that bastard though.

    • Wombatish says:

      You’re braver than I… I still don’t think I could have put that phone to my face.

      Also, is it horrible that I want to soak some shitty electronic I don’t care about anymore and try this now? >

  41. JonBoy470 says:

    My son left a Gamboy Advance in our cat’s water bowl for an indeterminate length of time. (I found it there after gosh knows how long). Anyhow I pulled out the batteries and the game cartridge, and put the whole kit (minus the AA’s) in the oven. Our oven is an older model with a pilot light. Consequently the interior is always a little warmer than room temperature, even with the oven turned off.

    Left it in overnight, put in fresh AA’s, and the thing works like a champ to this day (a good couple of years later).

  42. perfectly_cromulent says:

    i work as a tech in a cell phone store, and i don’t know how many times we give this advice out. thanks for posting it! and thanks for NOT posting the terrible idea of turning the oven ON while your phone is in there….those make for some fun customers.

  43. wild homes loves you but chooses darkness! says:

    What to do if your iPhone gets wet: try rice. And PRAY. Because the iPhone has a non-removeable battery, so you’re two steps toward SCREWED before you start. Not being able to remove the power supply from a wet electronic device? Not so hot.

    Seriously, Apple! Make the battery replaceable!

  44. JollyJumjuck says:

    I had a Blackberry curve 8320 which I forgot in my pants pocket before putting it in the wash. I realized it moments later, before the wash started but after the pants were submerged. Took it out, went online, did the rice trick. The phone worked for a week, then died. I had to buy a new one. So, no, this doesn’t work for all phones. Less than a minute of submersion killed it.

  45. NPHighview says:

    We buy older mobile phones in group lots on eBay (as long as they’re certified for use on our carrier); last purchase was after our kids both accidentally destroyed their phones, and cost $30 for a set of five. This works well; I can re-assign the phones myself, we already have the right chargers, and we can typically salvage batteries. The phones aren’t fancy (monochrome LCDs, no MP3 player or downloadable apps), but as long as we’re footing the bill, the kids get workable phones.

  46. starryeyed0806 says:

    my friend did the rice thing with her iphone after dropping it in water (not sure if it was the toilet!) and it totally worked! saw the whole thing!

  47. BytheSea says:

    I can attest that the rice treatment worked. I put my Sansa clip through the washer and put it in a bag of jasmine rice, long grain, brand 365 from Whole Foods. (I dunno if it matters, but if you’re panicking, I’d think you’d want the details.) (I don’t usually eat snobby food.) I left it in for a few *days*, not hours. After charging, it worked fine, and has for over a year.

    I would be hesitant to use the oven. What if someone else in your household doesn’t know what you’re doing and turns on the preheat to 400 degrees?

  48. buShroom says:

    I second everyone who says turn your phone off and remove the battery as quickly as possible. This is probably the single most important step to recovering a wet cell.

    A method that I’ve used to rescue cell phones before is the TV Top method. If you’ve a CRT television set or monitor still around some where disassembling the phone then placing it on top of the vent openings is a great method for drying out a phone. The low, slow heat put out by an older CRT TV/Monitor is great for avoiding any sort of head damage which might occur with an oven and similar methods.

    One caveat to this method is to avoid using the vents on newer LCD/Plasma flat screen TVs. They tend to run quite a bit hotter than your bedroom’s dresser-top 19-inch.

  49. uber_mensch says:

    Denatured alcohol only. Do not use isopropyl alcohol. Totally immersed and then allowed to dry. The alcohol is like the kind you put in your gas tank to rid it of water.

  50. Desiderio says:

    I dried the phone near a space/room heater for 2-3 hours on a low heat setting for 2 days. After 2 days I then turned it on. The iPhone (i.e. web. etc.) worker but my actual phone did not. The problem was that the phone’s SIM card was ruined when I dropped it in water – once the SIM card was replaced all was well after 2 days. And yes, don’t turn the phone on if it is wet.

  51. matt314159 says:

    I’ve successfully used isopropyl alcohol. patted the water off then poured the alcohol. As was mentioned above, the alcohol displaces the water, and also evaporates much more quickly. Dissolves minerals that may deposit, etc. I wouldn’t use high heat to dry anything, but a dry windowledge in the sun…..the dry rice thing is a great idea, too!

  52. ElizabethD says:

    Our son in law did this with a hair dryer set on low. His phone was entirely submerged and now works fine.