How to repair a water damaged tablet or smartphone

No great loss.It's the life giving substance we all rely upon, but the natural enemy of the electronic devices propping up modern society. 

Yes, water and phones are not the kind of winning couple deserving of a tabloid nickname and this causes problems when, for example, one drops their handset in the toilet.

You may say that you shouldn’t text while attending the porcelain throne, and you’d be right, but that’s not much help when a £500 handset is already doing its best submarine impression and trying to disappear round the u-bend. 

If this happens to you though, don’t panic, with some quck action it is possible to dry out a water damaged phone and get it working again.

By the way, while we’re referring mainly to phones here these tips apply to any electronic device so don’t panic if your iPod has gone for a swim.

1. Remove it from the water as quickly as possible.

Not that you’re going to just let your iPhone sit submerged for hours if you can help it, but the quicker you can get the device out of water the more chance you’ll have of getting it working. 

Gadgets are generally built to resist some moisture to prevent them breaking down in light rain or sweaty palms so a quick drop in the sink or toilet is not necessarily fatal; sending them through a washing machine is far deadlier.

2. Take the battery out

We know that water plus electricity equals bad times, so removing the battery is priority one. If you’ve got an iPhone or other device with a sealed battery switch it off straight away. Don’t plug it into the charger or try to use it in any way.

3. Remove all removable parts

Remove everything you can - battery cover, memory card, any port or slot covers. The SIM card should come out as well, dry it off with a paper towel and put it somewhere safe.

If the phone was dropped in salt water you should rinse the handset in fresh water as the salt can cause corrosion (thanks to Warren for the tip).

4. Put the phone in rice

Probably best not to eat it afterwards.

Seriously. The rice absorbs moisture, drawing water out of the nooks and crannies. 

After drying the outside of the handset cover it in (uncooked) rice in a sealed bag or container. Leave it for 1-2 days, turning the phone occasionally to move water which might be trapped inside. 

An alternative to rice is silica gel, those packets inside shoe boxes that you shouldn’t eat. 

Silica gel’s job is absorbing moisture so if you can get a bunch of those and throw it in a sealed bag with the phone that’ll perform better than the rice, and it won’t leave it covered in dust. 

If you’ve not got any lying about Amazon, Play and other electronics stores sell silica gel sachets for a few quid. This is preferable anyway as any packets you've got at home may have already absorbed a lot of moisture.

DO NOT:

Microwave your phone. We shouldn’t have to be saying it but this was the go-to solution for someone with a waterlogged Samsung Galaxy S3 and all it did was burn their handset and make them look foolish. Microwave energy does not play nicely with hardware, it’ll just cause more damage, and don’t we all know by now not to put metal in a microwave?

Use a hairdryer. This seems like it should work but you might just be pushing water further into the device’s inner workings. The heat is not going to help matters either which is why you also shouldn’t stick the phone in an oven (though bizarrely this can repair graphics cards).

Try to return it under warranty. There are water damage indicators inside the phone which change colour, at least one is usually visible (often in the battery compartment) while the rest are secreted about the internal components.

These are very sensitive (they can be tripped by sweat or humidity) so even if you just quickly dropped the phone the sticker will have changed colour. If you do take it back to a shop you’re better off just ‘fessing up, they’re only going to find out anyway.

Similarly, claiming on insurance may not be successful as many policies exclude water damage. Look for a specialist phone insurance policy which does cover liquids. 



Comments

  • happy

    by devinder at 20:38 on 11 Jul 2012

    Have you heard of Liquipel, it makes Gadgets Completely Waterproof.

    See here. http://thetecnica.com/2012/01/liquipel-makes-gadgets-completely-html

    Report abuse
  • neutral

    by Warren at 14:48 on 30 Jul 2012

    Remember too, that if you've dropped the phone in seawater, it's a good idea to rinse it in fresh water to get rid of the salt which will corrode the phone's parts...

    Report abuse
  • neutral

    by Dee Wilkinson at 12:10 on 3 Aug 2012

    HI, where is the water damage indicator on the samsung galaxy s3? I think it may have water ingress as I am currently on holiday and have been for a run with the phone strapped in a case on my arm. When I returned I noticed that the phone had droplets from the sweat over it. It worked fine for the rest of the evening however when I charged overnight the battery would not charge. There is no visible evidence of moisture but it would be good to find out where the indicator is so I can either discount this as the problem or return to the store
    Thanks, Dee

    Report abuse
  • Matt Powell - EditorEditor - Matt Powell

    by Matt Powell at 12:52 on 3 Aug 2012 | registered | 941 posts

    @Dee
    Pop out the battery. In the lower right corner of the compartment there'll be a small indicator sticker. If there is no damage this should be white and covered in crosses. If it's water damaged the ink will be smeared.

    @Warren
    Excellent point, thanks, I have updated with this info.

    Report abuse
  • happy

    by Rob Wilson at 10:01 on 11 Feb 2013

    My daughter confessed she dropped her Samsung Galaxy Y in the toilet by accident. Took the back off and removed the battery, sim and memory card. Put all in the dry warm airing cupboard in a plastic pot with kitchen paper underneath for 24 hours. Then based on information I found from the net took the phone and placed in plastic bag with several silica water absorbing packets from medication bottles and sealed up bag and returned to warm airing cupboard for a further 24 hours. Then connected re-assambled phone to charger- left charging overnight. The following day it was working fine so far. How long it will last I do not know but so far so good.

    Report abuse
  • neutral

    by TK at 12:08 on 14 Mar 2013

    I dropped my Samsung Galaxy S2 in water, I was ill and it fell out of my hand straight into a bucket with very little water. I did remove battery and let it dry, unfortunately it was blow dried by someone who told me it works. After a few days it surely started working but after a week the screen went black while the phone was still on. I believe it is the water damage but I don't know how to fix this now. Any advice? It switches on but the screen remains black...I am heartbroken. Please assist.

    Report abuse
  • Matt Powell - EditorEditor - Matt Powell

    by Matt Powell at 12:54 on 14 Mar 2013 | registered | 941 posts

    Unfortunately there is probably nothing you can do now. Blow drying it will likely have pushed the water further inside and by now it will have caused corrosion. Your only option will be to pay Samsung for a repair.

    Report abuse
  • neutral

    by colin at 21:25 on 31 May 2014 | registered | 1 post

    mistakingly put s3 mini in washer it was in almost an hour , got it out took battery off , sim card and memory card out, used hair dryer , it comes on with the samsung galaxy s3mini gt-1819on logo then it goes a green colour the restarts it self all over again repetedly. can you help

    Report abuse
  • Matt Powell - EditorEditor - Matt Powell

    by Matt Powell at 10:10 on 3 Jun 2014 | registered | 941 posts

    Probably isn't anything you can do now Colin. See my previous reply about using a hair dryer...that can do more damage.

    You could try leaving it in a bowl of rice, but sadly I wouldn't be too hopeful after it's spent an hour in the washing machine.

    Report abuse

Add your comment now

Please leave a comment
Please describe your emotions in making this comment:

Powered by reCAPTCHA