It’s not a feeling anyone relishes. That moment of stark realisation and dread when you drop your beloved smartphone into the glass of whatever it is you’re drinking, into the bath or, heavens forbid, down the toilet.
You know instantly that, unless you are the proud owner of a swanky device with its own IP60-something rating for water protection, your lifeline to the rest of the world has probably just been cut, temporarily at least. If water gets into the inner workings, it doesn’t take long for a phone to fizzle out completely.
So is that it - are you going to have to bite the bullet and buy a new one? Not necessarily. If you act decisively enough, and follow these steps, you might just get away with resuscitating your trusty sidekick so it can fight to text, browse and snap another day.
Take the phone apart
Assuming you haven’t got an iPhone or one of the modern sealed Androids, the first step is to take off the cover and remove the battery, SIM and any SD cards you might have for extra storage. If you have a model with a side-loading SIM and SD, which means you cannot get at them the same way you can the battery, focus on the battery first. This switches your phone off and immediately shuts down any electronic functions, which you don’t want with water around. If the phone has already powered down, don’t switch it back on, and don’t be tempted to start shaking it about - rather than drying it, you will only spread the water around.
Get rid of excess water
As you will have just taken your phone out of whatever you dropped it in or spilt on it, the main chassis and its components will probably be wet to the touch. To get rid of the obvious signs of liquid, first lay everything out on absorbent kitchen towel. Then you want to find a suitable cloth to wipe everything with. There are three important things to remember at this stage:
The cloth you choose must be soft enough not to risk scratching or marking sensitive surfaces. Cotton lens cleaners or similar are ideal.
You do not want to leave any debris on the inside of your phone. That is why you should never rub any components with a paper towel and only use a cloth you are sure is clean.
Be gentle. There is no point trying to save your smartphone from water damage if you then press too hard and break something delicate.
Absorb the hidden moisture
Even after you have wiped away any visible signs of liquid, there will be moisture you cannot see still in the device, especially in the hidden recesses you cannot get to. This is the tricky and crucial part of the operation - if you switch the phone back on with any moisture left in it at all, you could end up with the whole thing frying.
You need a bit of patience and luck here. You could try just leaving the taken apart phone open for a few days, but unless the atmosphere it is in is very dry, you risk any remaining droplets not evaporating out. The best bet is to leave phone, SIM and all in something that is good at absorbing water for a few days. Rice is one simple home solution, but if you can get hold of any silica gel packs, they will do a much more thorough and efficient job.
We’ve all heard the phrase prevention is better than the cure, but there is no legislating for accidents. So instead of prevention, we recommend precaution. If you do drop your phone in water, there is no guarantee you will dry it out and get it working again. That is why it is always best to take the precaution of having phone insurance, and at least then you have the safeguard of knowing you can afford to buy a new one.