How to Save a Wet Portable Device

Follow the tips in this article to try and fix your wet portable device

iPod in Glass of Water
iPod in Glass of Water. Photograph © Tom Bennett

A small amount of water can threaten the life of any portable device that is not water-resistant. If you've accidentally dropped your phone or tablet into the sink, run it through the washing machine, or left it out in the rain, then this guide will provide you with tips and instructions that may help resuscitate a waterlogged device. Depending on the extent of the damage, however, there is no guarantee that the device can be saved.

Here's How to Save a Wet Phone, Tablet, or Portable Device

  1. Do not turn the device on. Never power up a waterlogged electronic device. If you turn it on while it's still wet, the water inside will short-circuit the electronics and most likely kill it. If your portable was off when the accident occurred, you have a better chance of rescuing it than if it was already switched on. Even if it was powered up during your mishap, you may still be able to get it working again.

  2. Take the Battery Out. If your portable has a battery compartment, then simply remove the battery cells. For devices with rechargeable batteries you may need to open the casing to access the battery. Consult the manual or the internet for the best way to do this. (Some simply do not offer this capability.) If possible, you may use the Hold/Lock button on your device to prevent it from accidentally switching on.

  3. Wash with Purified Water. It may sound strange to add even more water to your drenched device, but only water that contains dirt, salt, or minerals (i.e. conductors) can destroy electronics. The problem is that the vast majority of water sources contain these residues. You can use purified water (distilled/deionized) to flush them away. Disassemble your device and then lightly flush the electronic parts with properly purified water.

  4. Wash With Isopropyl Alcohol. To help remove water and dry your device's electronic components quickly, wash it with isopropyl alcohol (IPA).

    Don't use IPA on your portable's display screen, and try not to wash anything with IPA for too long as it can damage rubber seals if left for prolonged periods of time.

  5. Dry Components. Prop up all the washed components on an absorbent material like paper towel. To accelerate the drying process you can use a desktop fan—this process can take up to a week. Alternatively, leave the components in a warm (not hot) place such as an airing cupboard for 2 to 4 days. Another option is to use rice (or another desiccant), which is a great moisture absorber: Wrap the device in paper towels or place it in a container of uncooked rice and wait at least a day or two.

  6. Reassemble and Power up. Once you are happy that all the components of your device are dry, use compressed air to give them a final clean, especially if they've been sitting in a bowl full of rice for a week. Reassemble the portable device and power it on. If you're lucky, your portable will be saved from the grave.