How to rescue electronic devices after exposure to water
Since time immemorial (or at least, the arrival of washing machines), people have been accidentally putting things through the wash that they really shouldn’t. Money, important documents and even pets have all ended up on a spin cycle at some point and it's fair to say it doesn't do them much good!
We can't help you with animals and cash (other than to say be really careful and always double check before hitting that hot wash), but if your iPod, smartphone or other device ends up in the drink, is there anything you can do to get it up and running again, or will you have to fork out for a new one?
The answer is that you might just be able to salvage it if you follow a few simple (albeit quite fiddly) steps. Here goes!
Check if you've got insurance cover and whether or not your policy covers your device for water damage. If so, this could save you a lot of time and effort. If you haven’t, then don’t worry – read on and we’ll try to help. Just remember, these steps can void your warranty and should be treated as a last resort with this in mind.
1. Make sure the device is switched off and remove the battery (if possible)
Remove the battery as soon as possible and don’t try to switch the device on either. This will protect the electronic parts from any more damage. For instance, contacts may short circuit from any moisture still in the device.
2. Try to remove as many other parts as you can
These include the keypad, back cover, sim card, SD card etc. Use a tiny screwdriver if you want to remove anything that's firmly attached, but make sure you’ll still be able to put it all back together again - just separate the easy bits if you're not confident!
3. If dropped in a sticky or dirty liquid…
Rinse your device under clean, preferably filtered water – but only if you CAN remove your battery.
4. Dry ALL the parts
You can then get a wad of paper towels or cotton buds and start the process of carefully drying everything, making sure you really get into all the nooks, crannies and recesses that may contain moisture.
5. Ricely does it
Next, you can speed up the drying process by putting all your loose bits, along with the device itself, and submerge them in a 'dessicant' – i.e. water-absorbing – material.
Uncooked rice is the most commonly recommended material here, but silica gel packets from old shoeboxes also works well. Interestingly enough, though, the best substance in our experience is cat litter! Just make sure it's fresh cat litter.
Alternatively, you can also buy special bags that have a desiccant material inside that you seal the device in, and are specially designed to extract the moisture from the device. You can get these online.
6. Finally, put the whole thing in a warm, dry place and leave it for 24 - 48 hours
The best place is in an airing cupboard – but nowhere too warm. When you come back, reassemble all the parts, cross your fingers and press 'on'. If it works, then congratulations: you're back in business! If not, then you can at least assure yourself that you’ve given it your best shot. Unfortunately, water damaged phones often end up beyond rescue and written off completely.
What not to do…
Dry the device with any sort of heat
This can cause the device to overheat and cause damage to the internal workings of the device. It can also cause steam to form in the device and damage it further.
Put the device in a microwave or oven
This is a really bad idea and can have dire consequences for all devices and people involved. The device may explode or release toxic fumes and will damage the device beyond repair.
Freeze the device
There’s an internet rumour going round that says freezing the device in a paper towel will help. It won’t. The water freezes and expands and can cause parts in the device to move and break. Also, once the device thaws, you’re still left with the same problem of it being waterlogged.
Overcharge the device
As most devices get warm when charging some people think this will dry out the device. In fact, this can short circuit the device and damage both the device and charger. You can even run the risk of short circuiting your entire home electrics! It’s best not to attempt to charge the device until you believe it is the driest it can possibly be.
Finally, there’s is one more thing to watch out for:
As the device has come into contact with both oxygen and water the device can corrode over time. The best thing to do in this situation is to replace the device as soon as possible and back the device up to a computer. If you intend to keep using the device, it may start to malfunction. This is a sign that the device has started to corrode. If this happens, back up and replace the device as soon as possible.