Even if your waterlogged smartphone seems like it’s kicked the bucket, there’s a good chance you can still resuscitate it. But you’ll need to act fast: The longer the water sits inside, the greater the likelihood it will corrode the metal components inside for good.

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This is a DIY moment. While most people are conditioned to send back broken merchandise, your phone’s warranty probably doesn’t cover water damage. And you may not have much luck pulling a fast one on your phone company—most modern phones come with a “water sticker” that permanently changes color if it gets wet.

So, go ahead: get out that box of rice.

Step #1: Remove the Battery

interior of phone

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Immediately cut the power by removing the battery. We know it’s tempting, but resist the urge to power up your phone to see if it works—just turning it on can short out the circuits.

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If you have a GSM phone (the type AT&T and T-Mobile use), you’ll want to remove the SIM card as well. Use a pin or a special SIM card removal tool to pop open the SIM tray and remove the small card. Water could have gotten into this tiny opening, and you don’t want to risk having to replace your SIM, too. Even if your phone turns out to be beyond repair, the SIM should retain a lot of its onboard data, like the contacts in your phone book.

Step #2: Dry Your Phone

high angle view of silica beads on table

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Next, dry your phone off. This sounds like the simplest step, but it’s actually where things get tricky.

Don’t even think about taking a hair dryer to your handset. Added heat could cause corrosion if there’s any water on your phone’s hardware. That means no microwave, either. You’re only going to catch your phone on fire, which certainly will make it dry, but not very operational.

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.


➡️ Dry Your Phone Out With These Tools


Instead, start with a soft, microfiber cloth, the kind you use to wipe smudges off of your glasses. If you can remove the back panel of your phone, use a cloth to wipe down the components inside. And if you want some warmth to help coax out whatever water has not yet dissipated, let your phone rest on a windowsill in some sunlight.

You could also opt for a can of compressed air, an air compressor set to a low psi, or a vacuum cleaner (a wet/dry Shop-Vac would be perfect). The idea is to use air to push or pull moisture out through the same channels it entered.

Step #3: Use a Desiccant

Now, here’s the most important part: submerge your phone in a desiccant, or a substance that will induce dryness by absorbing water. That’s just a fancy way of saying grab the rice.

Leave the phone and its disconnected battery submerged in a bowl of rice overnight. According to Gazelle, a company that buys and sells pre-owned consumer electronics, instant rice (like Uncle Ben’s) is a better option than regular uncooked rice (the stuff that takes 15 to 20 minutes to cook).

In a May 2014 test, Gazelle drowned nine smartphones before attempting to save each one with a different desiccant agent:

After extracting as much water as possible from the device, using large quantities of a drying agent may help accelerate the drying process. If a drying agent is used, silica gel is the best of the options tested, followed by couscous and instant rice. Conventional cat litter, oats, and chia seeds are not recommended because of the dust and debris that they deposit inside of the phone. . . Uncooked white rice is not recommended due to its poor performance as a drying agent.

Silica gel, as the review notes, is the best option if you have some lying around. You’re probably used to seeing silica gel in the form of those little packets stuffed into the pockets of new clothes or shoes. But acting fast is far more important than avoiding a little rice or quinoa dust, so don’t waste time shopping for silica gel packets if you don’t already have a drawer full of them.

One last note: If your phone gets soaked in salt water, you should probably flush the whole thing in fresh water before it dries. When salt water evaporates, it leaves crystals that can damage a phone’s fragile components. Just be sure to remove the battery before flooding the device.

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