How to repair a water damaged tablet or smartphone

No great lossIt'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. This is a big problem 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 £600 gadget is already doing its best submarine impression and trying to disappear down 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 it's your iPad that's 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 - cases, 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).

With all removable bits out, give the device a gentle shake to dislodge as much water as possible.

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 won’t leave it covered in rice dust. 

If you’ve not got any lying about silica gel can be bought online for a few quid. This is preferable anyway as any packets you've got at home may have already absorbed a lot of moisture.


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.