Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saving a wet cell phone

Last week, my wife did a load of laundry. In the process, she accidentally laundered her cell phone. If you don't already know, this is a horrible way to clean your cell phone. Running a phone through the wash most likely means that the phone is ruined. In our case, the phone initially worked well enough to retrieve the contacts from the phone, but it stopped working very soon thereafter.

We had to get a new phone. Therefore, we placed an order with Verizon, extended the service contract and we waited for three days for the phone to arrive. Two hours after my wife activated the new phone, it slipped out of her pocket into the toilet. What an unfortunate deja vu!

We immediately started scheming. Could we return the phone to the company with a request for a new phone that works? After all, we just got the phone, and shortly afterwards, it stopped working. Maybe they have some policy that covers this. But, the phone wasn't defective. Dropping the phone in the toilet was clearly our fault. That option felt wrong even if the customer is always right.

I conducted a Google search to see what I could do to save the phone. The first hit on my search was an immensly helpful guide from Wikihow. Based on the advice I found there, here were the steps I followed:

Remove the battery. Submerged cell phones stop working because the circuitry is damaged by misdirected electricity. The water helps short out the circuitry, but this only happens when there is a supply of electricity to the cell phone. For most phones, the battery is the only source of electricity. That's why the first step is to disconnect the battery.

Dry the phone completely. Cell phones are complicated objects with crevices that are ideal for hiding water. This means that drying the phone completely is a difficult task.

Vacuum, but do not blow dry.
Wikihow advises people to vacuum the phone, rather than blow dry. Blow drying the phone can cause a build up of static electricity, which can damage the circuitry by itself. Suction from a vacuum does not have this effect.

Use a desiccant (a substance that induces or sustains a state of dryness).
I rarely find myself inducing something to be dry, and when I do, a towel usually suffices. Needless to say, we did not have any industrial desiccant lying around the house. Wikihow suggested using uncooked rice to draw the remaining water out of the cell phone.

To summarize, I disconnected the battery, vacuumed the phone, and submerged the phone into a bowl of rice overnight. The next morning, when I connected the phone to the battery, the phone turned on and was no worse for the wear. Next step: watch out for puddles!


  1. My Friend used Dry-All for cell phones. HE dropped his phone n the toilet. He used dry-all available at dryall.com. his phone works great now.

  2. put it in a jar of rice.


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