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The biggest myths about saving wet phones

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Many mobile users have had the unfortunate experience of retrieving their phone from a watery grave. Whether the toilet, sink, lake, river, ocean, swimming pool, or simply a giant mud puddle - there are ample opportunities for cell phones to meet an unfortunate demise.

But does an accidental swim really mean the end of your device? If you Google "rescuing a wet phone," you'll find hundreds of articles and discussion boards offering advice on the various tactics that have been said to revive a water-damaged cell phone. Will these methods actually result in a resuscitated device? Or will you be doing more damage to your phone by subjecting it to the DIY elements?

But, to truly get to the bottom of this question, we asked a panel of tech bloggers and gadget pros to answer this question:

"What is the single biggest myth you've heard about how to save a water-damaged phone that people believe to be true (but doesn't really work)?"

Meet our panel of gadget pros:

 


Wet phones myths infographic

In addition to asking these 25 tech gurus, we've created this handy graphic to highlight the most common myths surrounding saving water-damaged smartphones. It can be used as a valuable tool for educating misinformed friends and helping them avoid further devastation. The graphic illustrates each of the common myths and the percentage of our experts who noted each as a bad idea for attempting to save a wet phone.Wet phone myths infographic


Frank Cuffaro GoodCellasFrank Cuffaro

@TheGoodCellas

Frank Cuffaro is the CEO of Good Cellas, a cell phone reseller and trade-in company.

"Liquid exposure is one of the single most destructive things to our cell phones..."

Whether it is drops of water from being exposed in the rain, soda spilled on top of it, or full submersion in a pool or toilet, it is one of the few types of damage that could be irreparable. The chief issue with liquid and electronics is that when the liquid dries it leaves residue all of the other materials contained, including minerals, dirt, etc. This causes the internal electronic components to corrode.

The single most common remedy is to put the liquid exposed phone into a bag of rice to dry it out. This remedy has been extensively written about in tech articles and has become the standard procedure for dealing with a water-damaged phone.

Even as an engineer I have heard people recommend this to myself and others. Unfortunately, this method doesn't dry the phone out any better than leaving it out in open air. The theory is as follows...

Rice is a desiccant, which means that it absorbs water. By putting the phone in a bag of rice, you surround the phone with material that will absorb the water and moisture contained within. Despite being even less effective than air drying it, the rice has starch on it (think of a light, powdery substance if you grabbed a few handfuls) which can get inside the phone. This can do more harm than just the water itself by increasing the amount of corrosion.


Kyle OpdahlKyle Opdahl

@CPRrepairTC

Kyle Opdahl is a partner/owner of CPR Midwest Holdings and the Midwest Regional Area Developer for Cell Phone Repair (CPR), the franchise. Kyle works with franchises and partners to open and operate CPR stores in Minnesota, Western Wisconsin and Eastern North Dakota. Opdahl is a mobile technology expert and has worked with all of the large U.S. mobile wireless carriers, dating back to 1999.

"The biggest myth about how to save a wet cell phone is..."

To put it in a bowl of rice. Rice will absorb the liquid. However, the minerals in the rice will transfer to the electronics in the phone and quickly corrode the motherboard, which will render the phone useless. Your best bet is to have a professional take apart the device, clean it, dry it, reassemble it, and replace the battery.

 


Jeff Clemmensen MiPhoneDoctorJeff Clemmensen

@PhoneDocFresno

Jeff Clemmensen is the Owner and Electronics Technician at MiPhone Doctor of Fresno.

"The biggest water-damage repair myth is..."

Rice. Yes, it does work for wicking away moisture. But it ONLY works where it can touch the water. Since the iPhone is a closed system, the rice can't get in to where the water has gotten. Rice doesn't magically draw it back out of the interior of the phone.


Eric BrantnerEric Brantner

@Eric_Scribblrs

Eric Brantner runs several blogs in a variety of niches. Some of his blogs get over 500,000 hits a month, mostly from organic search traffic. They've also been featured in USA Today, Time, MSN, TechCrunch, Fortune, and other top publications. He's also been a freelance writer for 10 years. He has now launched Scribblrs.com, a site where he shares his experiences and tips for those looking to start blogging.

"I've always heard that if you put your phone in..."

A bag of dry rice, it will cure your soaked smartphone. Don't count on it! The trick originated with camera equipment back in the old days, but smartphones are just too intricate (and fragile) for this old trick to work.


Max RobinsonMax Robinson

@GuardianRemoval

Max Robinson works for Guardian Removals of Edinburgh.

"One of the biggest myths circulating about how to save a water-damaged phone is..."

To put it in the microwave for a few seconds. Not only is this extremely dangerous, but it will also do very little to help your water-damaged phone. Avoid at all costs!

 


Ashley TurnerAshley Turner

@GadgetValuer

Ashley Turner is director of Gadget Valuer – one of America’s biggest gadget trade-in comparison sites. Launching in 2009, the founding team wanted to create a completely independent recycling comparison website after running an actual phone recycling site. Such experience in the recycling market means Turner is constantly in touch with the latest trade-in trends and consumer habits.

"There are a couple of myths floating around regarding rescuing a wet cell phone..."

Don’t shake the device if it’s on, and if your cell phone is turned off when you get it wet or drop it in water, DO NOT turn it on!

Make sure you take the phone apart if you can, and place in a cool, dry place.

Never use a hair dryer or fan.

If you have a hair dryer or fan to blast the water out… DON’T! The air from a hair dryer or fan is too powerful and will actually cause the water inside your cell phone to spread deeper into your phone.


LucaLuca

@WispNola

Luca is a marketing assistant for Wisp, a group of tinkerers, tech-lovers, and fixers, located in Harvey, Louisiana.

"Everyday at Wisp we service customers with all types of damaged phones. Besides screen damage, it is common for phone damage to be caused by water..."

When it comes to water damage, people act quickly to find a fix. They'll try anything before accepting defeat. One of the biggest myths that people continue to believe in fixing a water-damaged phone is placing it in the oven. The belief is that the dry oven heat will rid the phone of all humidity. Although most people understand the risk of putting a phone in extreme heat, covering it with a substance such as rice or sand will still lead to irreversible physical phone damage. An oven’s temperature, even set on low, will cause permanent damage to the phone.


Chuck MorrisonChuck Morrison

@staymobileusa

Chuck Morrison serves as Staymobile® President and CMO, leading the company’s marketing, brand development, merchandising, business development and operations. Prior to his role at Staymobile, Morrison served as founder, President and CEO of MoRisen Records & Hot But Sour Music Publishing, an independent record label and music publishing company. He also has an extensive background in brand development, product development, and marketing, overseeing the sales cycle of products from ideation to retail at HiREV, LLC., a company he co-founded.

"The biggest myth about saving a wet phone is the one regarding..."

Rice. This grocery staple only helps absorb water along the outside of the device, but won't absorb any liquid on the inside, specifically towards the middle of the motherboard/device.

Best practices: Always be sure to keep your device away from any liquid exposure such as rain and even steam. The steam from a nice warm shower can get inside of some devices and cause the liquid damage indicators to change color, and in some cases cause damage to the device.


Andrea BarnesAndrea Barnes

@letsgoandrea

Andrea Barnes is the marketing manager at iCare Repair, a mobile device repair company with multiple locations in Michigan.

"We've had customers who used rice to dry up their phone, but it's an absolute myth..."

Rice doesn't absorb liquid within 48 hours! Time is of the essence to avoid liquid damage. The longer the moisture is inside the phone, the higher the risk of corrosion.


Amy RiceAmy Rice

@gazelle

As the Director of Marketing and Communications, Amy Rice promotes the e-waste efforts and technical expertise of Outerwall, Inc. brands Gazelle.com and ecoATM.

"Don't bother with the..."

Rice trick. We tested it at Gazelle.com, and uncooked white rice is the least effective for absorbing liquids.


Ryan MooreRyan Moore

@HzOinside

Based in Salt Lake City, Ryan Moore is an art director and graphic designer by trade and is Brand Manager in HZO Inc.'s marketing department. Ryan writes about the latest musings on tech and of course the latest developments coming out of HZO on the company blog.

NOTE: The information below is excerpted from Water Protection, Water Damage, and Tricks to Save Your Smartphone via HZO. 

"A less-frequently discussed myth about repairing wet phones is..."

It has been reported that running a hair dryer a few feet away from a water-damaged electronic device can quickly help dry out any excess moisture inside and help prevent corrosion and other long-term damage from water sitting inside of the device. Obviously, this sounds logical, as heat evaporates liquids, and a dryer would help to speed up this process.

The problem with this method is that most of the time, heat and electronics don’t mix very well. Exposing your precious electronic device to a direct heat source could ultimately warp expensive device components or melt special adhesives within the device, damaging it even further.


Joshua BahamJoshua Baham

@ioSmartRepair

Joshua Baham is the Owner of In & Out Smart Repair in Mandeville and Director of IT at In & Out Smart Repair Franchise. Joshua has been with In & Out Smart Repair since day one. He was the original employee of the first two locations in Lafayette and Hammond. Joshua has achieved levels of master technician along with ownership in the last two years. He has more than four years of experience within the retail and parts supply chain industry.

"A few water damage myths come to mind from when customers bring in devices fresh out of the toilet or swimming pool. One of the most common myths is to..."

Put the phone in a bag of rice.

While putting a phone in a bag of rice may soak up some moisture, it will not alleviate the fact that there is a substantial amount of water within the cellular device, if it was submerged deep enough. The only way to efficiently and possibly save a water damaged device is to disconnect all power and dry from within. This usually involves a complete disassembly of the device. In & Out Smart Repair recommends leaving this step to professionals.

Two other myths that come to mind are taking a hair dryer to the outside of the device, or putting the device in the freezer. A hair dryer will only heat the phone up enough to dry a very light amount of moisture. Again, if there is standing water within the device, this will not help much. The freezer can only temporarily freeze the water within the device. Chances are it won't even do that. Frozen or non-frozen water will conduct and short out the device, bringing it all back to square one.


James Bond Smart Mobile Phone SolutionsJames Bond

@SMPS_JamesBond

'James Bond' offers troubleshooting tips for smartphone users at Smart Mobile Phone Solutions. (The author writes under a pseudonym.)

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Best ways to dry a wet cell phone via Smart Mobile Phone Solutions. 

"One of the biggest myths surrounding strategies for restoring a water-logged smartphone is..."

Putting it in the oven. This is one of the most bizarre suggestions I have run across on the topic of drying an electronic like a smartphone. Do not “set your oven to warm and cook your phone over night” ever! This is an actual suggestion I found while browsing online one night, and I’ve never forgotten it. Don’t ever cook your phone in an oven.


Christina BonningtonChristina Bonnington

@WIRED

Christina Bonnington is a WIRED staff writer covering Apple, wearables, robotics, and mobile. When she's not checking messages on the latest smartwatch, you'll find her riding and racing her road bike. She writes for WIRED.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Here's the Right Way to Rescue a Soaking Wet Smartphone via Wired.

"One thing you should definitely avoid if your smartphone is waterlogged is..."

Don't blow-dry it or stick it in the oven. The heat can damage the delicate electronics inside. What you should do is give it a quick wipe with a clean towel, making sure no water accidentally ends up draining into its ports or other openings.


Mat GreenfieldMat Greenfield

@CNETnews

Mat Greenfield is a contributor to CNET.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from How to save a wet mobile phone - and what not to do via CNET.

"Another recurring recommendation is to..."

Stick your phone in a freezer, wrapped in paper towel to prevent frost damage. Supposedly, the reduced conductivity of water when close to freezing temperatures will stop your phone from short-circuiting when in use.

This is definitely not a long-term solution, however, since as soon as the ice begins to thaw, you're left with an exacerbated problem. In the process you'll probably mess up your phone's very fragile screen, which hardly seems worth risking for a short-term fix of dubious effectiveness.


Joshua JohnsonJoshua Johnson

@secondfret

Joshua Johnson is a writer, designer, photographer and lover of all things Apple from Phoenix, Arizona. He's been using Macs since the logo on the laptops was upside down. He also writes for AppStorm.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from How to Save a Wet iPhone or iPod Touch via AppStorm

"As soon as you recover your device from its watery grave, the first step is to get all of the water out that you can. One of the most common ideas is to grab..."

A hair dryer. The problem with this method is that you can do as much damage as you repair. We know that water and electronics don’t mix, but it turns out heat and electronics have a similar relationship.

I’ve talked to and read about people that have successfully saved their iOS devices with a hair dryer, so it can in fact work. However, I don’t recommend it. If you’re convinced that this is the way to go, just be sure to use a low heat setting and take frequent breaks to allow the sensitive components in the phone to cool down.


Derrick MiyaoDerrick Miyao

@AndroidGuys

Derrick Miyao writes for AndroidGuys. Launched in 2007, AndroidGuys prides itself on providing current and prospective Android owners useful information, analysis, insight, resources, and inspiration. Updated daily, our aim is to educate consumers on all things related to Android smartphones, particularly with an eye toward unlocked devices.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from So you got your phone wet. Now what? via AndroidGuys.

"There are a few myths about effective methods for drying out a wet phone..."

A common myth is that you can surround your device with uncooked rice to absorb all the moisture from your phone. Think about it for a second. Rice is usually packaged in paper bags which means, if it were to absorb water, it would naturally be wet from the moisture in the air. Uncooked rice doesn’t absorb water, which is why it needs to be boiled in hot water to cook. Rice doesn’t work and neither does saltine crackers, cat litter, or rolled oats.


Douglas Polk Douglas Polk

@askmetafilter

Douglas Polk is a Macintosh technician who occasionally offers tech advice and participates in discussions on AskMetaFilter.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Dropped my iPhone in the water. How best to save it? via AskMetaFilter. 

"As a Macintosh technician for the past 13 years, I have to thank the internet for perpetuating the..."

Rice-as-miracle-absorbent myth; it makes my job ever so much easier as the inevitable kernels that have gotten inside confirm for me that the machine has been exposed to water or other liquids.

Desiccants, like rice, do nothing that will help your machine. The damage is caused by water in contact with logic boards and other components, where it causes corrosion. There is no absorbent on Earth that will cause drops of water to magically transition to vapor.

The only thing rice does is make it worse, as when it gets inside where it can contact the wet components, it then absorbs the rice, and holds it nice and snug against all those corroding components. The water might have merely evaporated, but now it's locked inside a wet rice kernel, stuck against the board.

 

Raju PPRaju PP

@rajupp

Raju is the founder-editor of Technology Personalized. A proud geek and an Internet freak, who is also a social networking enthusiast.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from How to Save and Repair Your Mobile Phone After Water Damage? via Technology Personalized. 

"One of the biggest myths about remedies for wet smartphones is..."

Heating the device. Do NOT heat the phone: In order to quickly dry the phone, you might think of using a hair dryer at high speed or a vaccum cleaner or direct sunlight. This is a strict No-No. AVOIDING the phone getting heated up is the key to save your wet phone.


Charlie OsborneCharlie Osborne

@SecurityCharlie

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer, and former teacher. She's spent years traveling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher. She's been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charlie currently works as a journalist and photographer -- with the occasional design piece -- and writes for ZDNet, CNET, and SmartPlanet. She has particular interests in social media, IP law, social engineering and security.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Save my smartphone: How to resurrect your wet iPhone and other handsets via ZDnet. 

"One thing you should never do to try to dry out a smartphone is..."

Don't use heaters, blow dryers, or microwaves.

You might think a quick and hot dry would work. But please, stay well away. If you choose to use a hairdryer, or a home heater, or a oven dry setting, you risk frying the smartphone's components completely.


Marie BrewisMarie Brewis

@MarieBrewis

Marie is Group Managing Editor of PC Advisor and Macworld, with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree under her belt, a regular contributor of reviews, tips and tricks. Her speciality is Android, and what she doesn't know about phones and tablets isn't worth knowing.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from How to dry out a phone, smartwatch or activity tracker via PCAdvisor. 

"The following rules for what not to do when fixing a water-damaged phone, watch or fitness tracker are common sense, but it's worth pointing them out..."

Don't throw your soggy device against a wall in the midst of a tantrum. All hope is not yet lost.
Never put a water-damaged device in the tumble dryer (even if it's inside a sock or a pillow case).
Don't leave your wet device on the radiator.
Never heat up your wet device with a hair dryer.
Do not put your wet device in the freezer.


Pro Gadget ClinicPro Gadget Clinic

@ProGadgetClinic

Pro Gadget Clinic is located north of Atlanta near GA-400. We are family-owned and operated business that provides professional cell phone, tablet and computer repairs, and brand name accessories. We specialize in iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, PC, Samsung and LG smartphones, tablets and computers. We also purchase broken or used iPhones and iPads for cash.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from My Cell Phone Got Wet. What Can I Do? via Pro Gadget Clinic. 

"There are quite a few common myths about drying out a wet phone..."

Using a blow dryer: Excessive heat from the blow dryer can cause further damage to the phone's internal components, cause adhesives to melt, and accelerate the affects of corrosion. Even if you set the blow dryer on the lowest (cool) temperature setting the phone could be further damaged because the force of the air from the blow dryer can push moisture and dust particles further inside the phone.

Also, avoid submerging the device in rubbing alcohol. To start, this method assumes you use 99% isopropyl alcohol which, is not commonly sold. The rubbing alcohol sold by most drugstores is usually around 70% strength. But even if you have 99% isopropyl alcohol, leaving your phone submerged in alcohol can cause the adhesives that hold phone's components together to break down. We have also found that alcohol can damage the internal speakers.


Joel Johnson Popular MechanicsJoel Johnson

@PopMech

Joel Johnson is a feature writer for Popular Mechanics and other tech publications and Principal at Special Circumstances, a consulting studio in Brooklyn.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from How to Save Your Wet Cellphone...With Rice! via Popular Mechanics. 

"When it comes to myths surrounding wet phone rescue, the most important thing to remember is..."

To avoid heat. That means no hair dryers, ovens, microwaves or extended periods in direct sunlight. While heat will certainly evaporate the moisture, it could also warp components and melt adhesives. Those fragile glues are also why you'll want to avoid dunking the phone in rubbing alcohol (an oft­-prescribed tip on the Web). Alcohol is a solvent and can dissolve the internal adhesives.


Leomar UmpadLeomar Umpad

@TechRecipes

Leomar Umpad is a supply chain operations manager by profession and a technology-lover and a writer by heart. He has the passion to teach and inform. He shares insights via Tech-Recipes.com.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from How Do I Save a Cell Phone Dropped in Water? via Tech-Recipes.com. 

"Among the many myths suggesting various tactics to dry out a wet phone..."

Never use a blow drier or put your device directly near a heat source such as your furnace or in direct sunlight. The extreme heat may damage and warp your phone’s internal parts.


Leo B. iCareRepairLeo B.

@iCareRepair

Leo B. is a cell phone repair technician at iCare Repair. He has great passion for mobile technology and is always a proud owner of the latest HTC phones.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Caution: 5 Things Not To Do With a Phone Dropped in Water via Living with Beth. 

"One of the biggest myths about drying out a wet phone is..."

The freezer trick. The suggested strategy is: Stick the waterlogged phone in the freezer. Wrapped in paper towels to avoid frost damage, store the wet phone in the freezer. This will result in reduced conductivity of the water molecules, and thereby prevent short circuits when the phone is in use.

Fact: This is only a temporary solution and can even cause further damage to the device. When the ice melts, you’re left with the same problem. Plus, it can mess up the fragile LCD screen.

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