How to Save Your Wet Electronics

Does a spill spell the end of your smartphone? Tech Talker to the rescue with 4 easy ways to save your waterlogged device.

Eric Escobar
3-minute read
Episode #1


Hey guys, I’m Eric Escobar, your Tech Talker, with some Quick and Dirty Tips to navigate the digital world.

I’m sure just about everyone knows that you can’t drop electronics in water. But not many people know why, or what to do when this inevitably happens. 

What’s an Ion?

Actually, it isn’t the water that breaks electronics; it’s the small particles that are dissolved in water called ions. These particles cause electricity to go places it’s not supposed to go – this is called a “short” and it’s what ultimately causes your device to break.

Are All Liquids Bad for Gadgets?

Not all liquids are the same, ion-wise. Some have more ions than others. For instance, distilled water you buy from the store will have next to no ions, whereas sea water has a ton of them. This difference will determine exactly how bad it is to drop your gadget into the liquid. Say you dropped your phone in perfectly distilled water. It would probably work perfectly fine, although I don’t recommend making a habit of this! But if you wash your laptop in the Dead Sea, I doubt there’d be much we could do to rescue it.

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What if Your Gadget Gets Wet?

In a perfect world, you would keep your electronics dry, away from any liquids that could damage them. But of course, things happen. As odd as it sounds, I’ve heard of electronics going in pools, toilets, tubs, koi ponds, and even being left on the lawn to be watered with the grass.

So the damage is done, your phone or mp3 player has inadvertently become a waterlogged pool toy. What to do now? Here are 4 Quick and Dirty Tips to save your device from a watery death:

Tip #1: Turn Off the Gadget

The first and most important thing is to turn off your gadget and remove any batteries or power cords. If the power is off, there will be no electricity to short the circuit. This will improve the chances that your device can be recovered. 

Tip #2: Remove All Water

After the power is off, you should try to remove as much water as possible from the device, whether that means gently shaking it out, or maybe even taking off a few panels or pieces to get them really dry.

Tip #3: Submerge in White Rice

Next, get an airtight container and a lot of white rice. I know what you’re thinking: “Am I on the Nutrition Diva podcast suddenly”? Why white rice? Well for one, rice is great at soaking up water and it also happens to be a very common household item. These two things make it a perfect tool for absorbing all the water you can’t shake out or dry by hand!

Place your device and any pieces you’ve disassembled into the container with the rice and seal it up. The time you should keep your gadget in the container will vary depending on how severely it got drenched. If your phone decided to take a quick dip in the pool, a solid 24-hour rice soak should do the trick. If it made its way slowly through a cycle in the wash, you may want to keep it in there longer, up to a week. For an extra added boost, after the rice does its job, let your device dry in front of a fan so any remaining water evaporates naturally.

Keep in mind: The longer the rice has to do its job, the better the odds for your device. The earlier you take it out, the higher your risk of lingering water.

Tip #4: Q-Tips and Alcohol (Not Just for Parties Anymore) 

If you know that water is stuck in certain small parts of your device, dab a Q-tip into some rubbing alcohol (or vodka) and then apply it to the specific parts of your device. This will work well for the internal parts of many gadgets that have circuit boards. The alcohol will help to speed up the evaporation process that happens when your device sits out in the open air.

Hopefully these tips will help you to salvage your soggy electronics, should the worst happen to them. If none of these help, find a good repair shop and read up to see if your warranty is still in effect.

That’s all for today. If you have any questions about the topics covered in today’s podcast, email me at techtalker@quickanddirtytips.com.  Also, let me know if any of these tips have helped to recover your wet electronics. And if you have any tips of your own, post them below in Comments or on my Facebook page.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple.

Phone in Water image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.