In the Drink: Can This Phone Be Saved?

Don’t cry over spilt milk, unless it landed on your mobile phone. Even so, resist the urge to cry, because you’re more likely to revive the phone with a fast response.

Turn off your phone right away to prevent short circuits. Take the battery out, this will power down the phone immediately. Since iPhone batteries are not removable, press down the home button at the same time as the power button. DO NOT turn the phone on again until it is fully dry.

Even if it was a quick dunk and it looks like the phone works, still go through the recovery process. A single drop of water could cause permanent damage.

Strip It

Remove anything that’s possible to remove. Take off the case; take out the headphones, the SIM card, and memory card. Exposed surfaces dry faster and residual moisture can find a path out of the phone body.

Wash It? Really?

Proceed to the next step if your phone fell in clean water. However, if the culprit was coffee, soda, toilet bowl water (it happens), or some other less-than-pristine liquid, rinse all parts to make sure the gunk is gone. Note that swimming pool water is particularly damaging to electronics because of the chlorine. Salt water is bad too.

Get the Wet Out

Gently blot all exposed surfaces of each component with a soft cloth. Shake all parts to get out most of the water. Use a clean sock or soft, sturdy net bag and whirl each piece for a minute at high speed. To prevent flinging items across the room, securely tie a cord to the bag and your wrist. Centrifugal force will do wonders to speed drying.

Compressed air can clear moisture from tight spots. Pick up a can or visit a friend with an air compressor (set the psi low!). A vacuum can also help remove remaining liquid.

Let It Dry, Dry, Dry

There are different approaches to the best drying process. Some advocate leaving the cell uncovered in a warm, dry place; for instance, a television vent provides constant low heat. Even leaving the phone out with a fan blowing over it will help it dry thoroughly.

Another school of thought is to put electronics in a drying agent as long as possible. While many recommend uncooked rice, instant rice will absorb moisture faster. Even better is silica gel, found at craft stores. Place a generous amount of the drying agent in an airtight container with the phone. Change the medium several times over three days, at least. Use compressed air or a vacuum to remove leftover particles.


Don’t try to dry the phone with heat. Just don’t. Even low heat can melt casings and circuits; batteries can explode, especially Lithium-ion types. No blow dryers. No ovens. And especially no microwaves, which can be especially dangerous to both you and your phone.

Keep Up Hope

Patiently, you’ve gone through the drying process. You turn it on…and nothing.

Unless you have an insurance plan that specifically covers water damage, you’re going to have some out-of-pocket costs for phone repair. There are moisture sensors inside; don’t waste time sending it back to the manufacturer because it “just stopped working.” Fess up and hire a professional. There are companies that will perform diagnostics at low cost, only charging if they can return a working phone.

For Future Reference

With your fast actions and some luck, maybe you can weep some tears of joy at a working phone. Perhaps, though, it’s wise to consider a water-proof case…