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Ask the Expert: Cellphone Water Rescue

Ask the Expert: Cellphone Water Rescue


Gadget expert Amy Rice tells us what to do when our smartphone goes for a swim.

Water: cellphone's greatest natural enemy. And in the summertime, water is ubiquitous. Pools, lakes, heck, even the toilet bowl could spell the demise of your favorite accessory. So, should your smartphone decide to go for a swim, try some of these great rescues from gadget expert, Amy Rice:

"The first step is to remove it from the water as fast as you can. The longer your phone stays underwater, the more likely you may have to replace it. If your phone is someplace dangerous (like a clogged toilet), then take your time and find a safe way to retrieve it. You may still have a shot at saving it.

Then immediately power down the phone. Shutting the phone off protects it from short circuiting. On an iPhone: Hold the Lock button and the Home button simultaneously for five seconds for a hard shutdown. For the Android: Remove the battery to shut down instantly.

The next step is to take off the case, and remove the battery, SIM card, and memory card. You want to make it easy for water to leave the phone. Make a path for it to get out by opening or removing all obstructions. If the phone fell in dirty water or the ocean, you may try running it under clean water. Don’t worry, your phone was already full of water, so you’re not making it wetter – just cleaner.

Try forcing out as much water as possible. Tilt it, shake it, blow air through it, or use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to suck out the liquid. The best way to save your phone is to open the case so air can get in and water can get out. (You can visit to find instructions for opening your specific phone.)

"If your phone is still wet inside, you’ll want to speed up the drying process to help reduce the damage to your phone. Here are three options to try:

• Air it out: In dry climates, good air circulation may be all you need. In tests, open-air drying worked best. A fan may improve airflow through the phone’s ports.
• Warm it up: If you can reliably warm it to 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit (but no more!), you will dramatically speed evaporation. Apple lists the maximum tolerable temperature as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, so be careful!
• Absorb it: If you are someplace that’s too humid for open-air drying, you may want to use a drying agent to soak up the moisture. Don’t bother with the 'rice trick.' Gazelle tested it, and uncooked white rice is the least effective method for absorbing liquids.

Instead, try these new options:

Silica Gel. The best common drying agent is silica gel, which can be found in the pet aisle of your grocery store as 'crystal' style cat litter. You can also use the silica bags that come in shoe boxes and purses.
Couscous. If cat litter isn’t your bag, then head to the pantry to see if you have any instant couscous or instant rice, both acceptable substitutes for silica. In tests, these absorbed water much faster than conventional white rice.
Open Air. Gazelle compared the water absorption of eight different materials (including silica gel and rice), and none of these materials was as effective as leaving the device in an open space (such as a counter top) with good air circulation.

The last step is to do nothing. Seriously, resist the urge to turn it on. Give your phone a few days to dry. Water may be trapped in tight spots or absorbed into your phone’s circuit boards. Once your phone is dry and reassembled, it may turn right on. If not, there are some final things to try:

• Charge it: A few hours of charging may get it going.
• Sync it: One test iPhone appeared dead but could still sync, allowing us to recover data.
• Swap the battery: Two drowned iPhones came back to life with a battery swap.
• Keep your cards: Your SIM and SD cards contain your contact lists and some of your data."

Of course, should all else fail, you can always try to trade in your defunct friend for some cash at which you can then use to find a certified pre-owned phone as a replacement.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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