Soaked Your Smartphone? Here’s How to Dry it Out the Right Way

By Chris Backe Keep Things Running, Phones, Tablets6 Comments

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Last updated: 27 August, 2016

You went and did it, didn’t you? Whether the waterproof case you bought leaked or you dropped it in the toilet while, er, slightly intoxicated, your phone got wet.

A bunch of tech blogs will tell you to stick your smartphone in a bowl of rice, so that the moisture in and on the phone can be absorbed. I can tell you from experience this works, but the success rate is not 100%.

The aim here is to be prepared with a few things in hand — call it a cheap insurance policy to save a piece of hardware worth several hundred dollars.

Here’s what you need to do.

Get Your Phone out of the Water

Simple, right? Eww, but I dropped it in the toilet! I need to get some rubber gloves on… No. Tough it out — every second of water exposure reduces the phone’s chances of making it. Wash your hands thoroughly later, but get it away from any more water.

If it’s raining, wrap it in any material that won’t let in more water (a plastic bag works in a pinch). And, obviously, get out of the rain as soon as you can.

Turn It off and Remove the Case, Battery and SIM Card

The case and any other accessories need to get out of the way ASAP – much like in the emergency room when your clothes get cut off instead of  carefully removed. Again, seconds matter.

Take out the battery and SIM card if you can — the last thing you want to do is risk losing your contacts and your phone. In the odd chance it was plugged in and water was spilled on it, unplug everything carefully. Water and electricity don’t mix.

Dry It off With a Lint-Free Towel

It’s time to coddle this piece of tech you’ve just abused. If you wear glasses or own a DSLR, you probably have a lint-free towel laying around; if you don’t, a paper towel or washcloth will have to do.

Find What’s Available to Help You Out

I’ve listed three options here, depending on how well you’ve planned and where you are:

Option A: carry a kit specifically designed to absorb moisture from a phone.

There are a few options on Amazon, including the Dry-All Wet Cellular Phone Emergency Kit.

Dry-All Wet Cellular Phone Emergency Kit

This kit, and others like it, use desiccants to absorb moisture and reduce humidity. You know those little bags in food that say ‘DO NOT EAT’? Those are desiccants, and help to prevent the food from going bad

You’re unlikely to find these while backpacking across Asia, so do yourself a favor and pick up a couple of these kits from Amazon or elsewhere. Think of them as a first-aid kit for your tech if you need to justify the minuscule weight.

By the way, don’t think for a second that you can cheat and use those little bags of desiccants you’ve been saving. For better or worse, these water-absorbing beads are one-time-use only – once they’ve been used, they’re basically worthless.

Option B: the old ‘smartphone in rice’ trick


Reports vary on its effectiveness, but a few small details can make all the difference:

  • Ensure your phone is off, taken apart as much as possible, and completely dry on the outside.
  • If you have a container with a lid, use it. Fill with enough uncooked rice to surround the phone on all sides.
  • Put the rice and phone under a lamp or light to encourage the evaporation process.
  • Give it 4-6 hours, or overnight if you can. While some phones won’t be revived no matter how long they sit in rice, the longer the better.
  • Before reassembling, check carefully to ensure no grains of rice remain in the phone. A toothpick or sliver of wood is the easiest and most available tool.

Option C: the ‘air it out’ method.

Let’s say the grocery store is closed or you’re out in the middle of nowhere. What then?

Look around the area for a place with air movement — hopefully you’re indoors or some place where there’s little chance of the phone getting wetter. Your main goal at this point is evaporation of whatever water’s still inside.

A fan is ideal, but even a cable box or TV has some air vents. While you don’t really want dirty air blowing on it, a quick wipe of the vents will help.

Be sure the phone rests at an angle – water should be flowing out of the device, not pooling inside of it. Put a paper towel or napkin underneath to absorb the water. The longer it can air, the better — give it overnight if you can.

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Whichever Option You Choose…

Reassemble it, turn it on, and give it a test charge. Do a test call, tap the screen, and check carefully for discoloration. If it makes a call and the screen shows no discoloration, breathe a sigh of relief — you’re practically home free.

I’ll note that these tactics can also work for tablets and laptops, though laptops seem far less likely to survive any sort of submerging or more than a few drops of water. Where phones and tablets have a few places for water to flow in freely, a laptop is basically a sieve.

If it’s time for a new phone, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is certfiied IP67, a fancy way of saying it can survive 30 minutes in up to a meter of water. The iPhones aren’t waterproof, but there are plenty of cases that are.

Photo credit: Mark Ou (phone in rice), Abhishek727 Mishra (Motorola Defy underwater), Amazon (screenshot of Wet Cellular Phone Emergency Kit)

About the Author

Chris Backe

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Chris Backe is the avid traveler and blogger behind One Weird Globe, dedicated to highlighting offbeat destinations throughout the world. He's written over a dozen books and itineraries about Korea and Thailand beyond the blog, and considers technology an absolutely essential part of traveling.


    1. Dave Dean

      You shouldn’t, no. Hair dryers create static electricity, force dust and other particles into the phone, and can be pretty hot if you hold them too close to the device. All in all, it’s a bad idea.

  1. Avatar

    This article is horrible. There was ZERO research put into that and is clearly lacking any degree of experience.

    You want the secret to repairing a phone with water damage?

    Assuming that none of the components were fried due to a short-circuit, you should immediately power-off the device, disassemble it as much as necessary, and let it dry out for a while. I’d also recommend using ~99% isopropyl alcohol to help speed-up the process of removing moisture.

    After you’re 100% confident there is no moisture left in the device, look for signs of corrosion.

    If everything looks acceptable, then go ahead and try to power it back on. Hopefully, it works.

    If it didn’t work, then a component was damaged/destroyed and power is not running through the device properly due to an open circuit.

    There are 2 options now:

    1) Buy a new phone. You screwed up.

    2) Find someone who knows how to troubleshoot circuits in order to identify the component that is damaged. With luck, it’ll be something like a capacitor. If you’re extra lucky, the guy who’s identifying the faulty component may also be capable of replacing it for you.


    Those people are idiots.

    1. Dave Dean

      Usually I wouldn’t approve comments calling people idiots — there are plenty of other places you can be obnoxious on the Internet, but this site isn’t one of them — but apparently I’m having a moment of weakness. So, let’s address your points one by one.

      This article is horrible. There was ZERO research put into that and is clearly lacking any degree of experience.

      Whether the article is horrible or not is a matter of interpretation, but the author states in literally the second paragraph “I can tell you from experience this works, but the success rate is not 100%.” I know reading comprehension is hard, but I’d kinda hope you’d read past the fourth sentence before going off on a rant.

      “You want the secret to repairing a phone with water damage?”

      Sure, we’d love some secrets on doing that. Unfortunately your “secrets” — turn it off, disassemble it, and dry it out, are almost exactly the same things that the author wrote in nice big headings in the original article. Using rice isn’t the preferred option — that’s why we suggest using dedicated desiccant kits instead — but since this is a site specifically for travelers, and we’re very aware that getting hold of those kits, or indeed isopropyl alcohol, isn’t always practical or possible on the road, we include uncooked rice as an option that may be easier to obtain in an emergency, and will have at least some benefit over doing nothing.

      If these measures don’t work, then yes, you’re off to a repair store, or will have to buy a new phone. We didn’t include those rather obvious measures in the article, since the title is “Soaked Your Smartphone? Here’s How to Dry it Out the Right Way” and not “Soaked Your Smartphone? Here’s How to Get it Repaired or Buy a New One”.

  2. Avatar

    I dropped my phone in water. Took it apart and dried it off. I did use a hair dryer and then put it in rice overnight. It works today.

    1. Dave Dean

      You’re lucky with the hair dryer, but it’s great that it worked and you have a functioning phone again! 🙂

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