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How to Get Water Out of Your Phone: 5 Steps to Save a Wet Smartphone

Accidents happen. Here's how to keep a klutzy moment from destroying your phone.

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Splash! Now what?

We use our phones to read news and books, catch up with friends, navigate directions, order food, take photos and videos, answer emails—the list is endless and constantly growing. Because our phones are always with us, there’s a real possibility that they might get wet. If your phone is exposed to water during a rainstorm or falls into a sink, toilet, washing machine or swimming pool, you’ll want to know how to get water out of your phone.

Many smartphones cost $1,000 or more. Knowing how to take care of these investments and how to clean your iPhone, how to fix a frozen iPhone, how to reset your iPhone and what to do if your iPhone is disabled are all important, but most important of all is knowing how to get water out of your phone. We talked to experts about the step-by-step process for drying out a wet phone so you’ll know what to do if it happens to you.

Water resistance

“One of the great things about modern smartphones is that many are water resistant,” explains Josh Wright, CEO of CellPhoneDeal. “This means, if you do happen to get your smartphone wet, it’ll more than likely live to see another day, but it’s very important to be careful with how you handle the smartphone when it does get wet.” Even though some iPhone models can survive after being at a depth of six meters for up to 30 minutes, you still need to dry out the device and get all the liquid out of your phone. Freshwater is the least damaging to your phone, while tech experts agree that a dip in saltwater or cola may mean the death of a phone due to their corrosive nature. If your phone gets wet, follow these steps.

Mobile phone on white table.Olena Ruban/Getty Images

1. Take it out and turn it off

“Get your phone out of the water as soon as possible. Every second your phone spends submerged in water reduces the chances that it will survive getting wet, so you have to act fast when accidents happen,” says Christen Costa, CEO and tech expert at Gadget Review. Immediately turn off the phone once it’s out of the water. It can be tempting to try to power the phone on to see if it’s working, but this can fry your phone. “Turning on the phone while it’s wet can cause damage to your phone’s internal circuit,” explains Anirban Saha, tech expert and founder of Techbullish. It’s important to restart your phone periodically, but this is not the time to do it.

Disassembled mobile phone, phone repair and maintenanceVictoria Kotlyarchuk/Getty Images

2. Empty it

Remove the case and any phone accessories (charger or headphones) from the outside of the device. This is an important step in how to get water out of your phone, because it prevents water from continuing to work its way deeper inside. Remove the battery and SIM card if possible. Although iPhones don’t have removable batteries, some Android phones do, so you’ll have to check your make and model.

Ready for the Seaside: Beach Essentials Still Life on Sand Including a SmartphoneFreshSplash/Getty Images

3. Dry it with a towel

Thoroughly dry off as much water as you can with a soft, lint-free towel, taking your time to remove all the water from the outside of the phone, drying the SIM and around the charging port. Emergency dry-out kits do work, but you can also opt to just air-dry your phone if you do so properly. Position your phone so that the charging port is facing downward, with a cloth or paper towel underneath to collect draining water—this is how to get water out of your phone speaker. Air circulation is crucial for a fast drying process, so you’ll want to place your phone close to a fan. In a pinch, you can place the phone next to a device that has exhaust vents, such as a television or computer tower, to take advantage of the warm air.

Note: You don’t want to use hot air (microwave, clothes dryer, hairdryer) because you don’t want the phone to overheat while drying out. If your phone is lagging after it turns back on, here’s how to speed up slow smartphones.

A mobile phone placed to dry in a bowl full of rice after the phone fell into water. Light wooden table background.Ivars Timcuks/Getty Images

4. Think twice about rice

Experts agree on using desiccants to dry your phone, but they don’t all agree that rice is a good solution to how to get water out of your phone. “Do not put your iPhone in rice, as it won’t help dry out your phone, and the rice can get stuck in the ports of your phone,” explains David Lynch, content lead at Payette Forward, a cellphone-education company with a YouTube channel with more than a million subscribers. “Even letting your phone air-dry is better than putting it in rice.”

Olivia Long, tech and gadgets expert at DroneGuru, agrees. “Whatever you do, don’t use rice! Rice can get stuck in the small crevices in your phone, and it can cause rust and other unpleasant reactions with your smartphone,” Long says.

Lynch recommends saving desiccants that are often found tucked inside vitamin bottles and shoe boxes. In a pinch, any desiccant—even rice—is better than nothing. Other options are crystal cat litter (not clay!) or unflavored dry oatmeal or couscous. The instant types of these starches work best, as they’re designed to absorb water quickly.

Whatever you use, you want to completely surround your phone with it, either in a bowl or a sealed Ziplock. How long to leave a phone in rice or desiccant depends on how much water got into your phone. You might need to repeat the process with fresh desiccants for several days. In the meantime, read about smartphone security so you’re ready when your phone comes back to life.

sunARIMAGD/Shutterstock

5. Wait and test

Lynch offers the following steps for what to do next.

  1. Wait for your phone to dry out. Apple says to wait at least five hours before trying to charge a wet iPhone, but you may want to wait even longer than that. Give your iPhone as much time as you think it needs.
  2. After you’ve let it dry, try turning it on again and see if there are any signs of life. If your phone turns on, back it up immediately. This may be your last chance, as the water damage could still cause a problem later.
  3. If your phone won’t turn on, or shows any signs of damage, reach out to a professional for help. Keep in mind that Apple doesn’t cover liquid damage to an iPhone under the one-year limited warranty.

Fully drying your phone is the most essential step, but it can take a day or more, depending on whether your phone was splashed with water or fully submerged. Learning what iCloud storage is can make sure you always have a backup of your most important photos and documents kept on your phone.

outdoor bath with smart phone and glassessuken/Getty Images

How to prevent your phone from getting wet

Keeping your phone dry means you never need to learn how to get water out of your phone! If you live near the beach or spend time on boats, investing in a waterproof case for your smartphone isn’t a bad idea. The cases can be bulky, so they’re not for everyone, but if you plan to take photos on the beach, around the pool or on the ski slopes, the extra size might be worth it.

  • This pouch is great for any type of beach activity because it fits Android or Apple devices, including the pro size. You can also wear it around your neck during activities and resume using your regular case when you’re done. There are lots of pouches to choose from, and some are big enough to also hold watches and keys.
  • Otterbox and LifeProof (now one company) are consistently ranked among the top cases, and their waterproof case is no exception. It comes in a variety of colors and sizes to fit most phones.

If you don’t want to buy a special case, you can also use a Ziplock bag, but be sure to use the ones for freezer use because they have a tighter seal than those for snacks or sandwiches. Another DIY option is a plastic jar with a tight lid. A family-size peanut butter jar can hold several phones, keys, cash and other small bits for a day at the beach. Check out these other reusable household items for more ideas.

Hand holding wet smart phone in forestJohner Images/Getty Images

How to be prepared to get water out of your phone

There are products designed to help dry out your phone, but it’s better to have them on hand, because if your phone gets wet, you’ll want to get it dry as quickly as possible.

  • These silica gel desiccant packets are terrific because they change color to let you know when they’ve absorbed all they can, and they’re also rechargeable.
  • DampRid is a lifesaver in humid areas and helps keep closets, basements, bathrooms and laundry rooms from getting musty due to excess moisture. Their products work to dry out a cell phone too. You can put the wet phone with these tabs or this hanging bag into another airtight container and let the moisture be absorbed.

If your phone is beyond saving, learn how to recycle your cell phone to handle the problem sustainably.

Dish employee Johnson Chuong takes apart an iPhone to fix a cracked screen on site in the Chronicle building in San Francisco, California, on wednesday, may 11, 2016.San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images/Getty Images

When to seek professional help

There are many ways we shorten the life of our phones, and not properly drying them out when they get wet can end a phone’s life quickly. “If your Smartphone was submerged in deep water for some time, there is a high chance that water has already entered inside the circuits of your smartphone,” Saha says. “Using simple methods would not be helpful. A professional would be able to remove any excess water by disassembling the smartphone’s internal components where water might have entered.”

Aimee White, tech expert and co-owner of Keyboard Kings, has experience removing water from tech gadgets and devices. “If your cellphone was submerged for more than 10 seconds in water, especially salt water, then we recommend taking the device to a professional company to be dried properly,” White says. “These companies have their own mobile-specific drying devices that have a very high success ratio.”

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Jaime Stathis
Jaime Alexis Stathis is a nonfiction writer who covers humans, wildlife, technology, social justice, and everything related to being a human being on a constantly evolving planet. Jaime is working on a novel about a heroine who saves herself and a memoir about caring for her grandmother through the dark stages of dementia.