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Water damage

Dropping your gadget in water is a common problem. This page gives guidance about the best ways to save its life.

Summary

Large numbers of gadgets end their life in water. Even if only for a few moments, this can do irreparable damage. To summarise, your priorities should be:

  1. Quickly remove as much water you can with a towel or whatever else is to hand.
  2. If the water may have got into openings such as the charging or headphone sockets, vigorously shake it out.
  3. If the device still seems to be working to any extent, switch it off. If you possibly can, remove the battery.
  4. Place it in a warm dry place such as an airing cupboard for 24 or 48 hours with any removeable covers off or battery compartment open.

Speed is of the essence.

Note that simply placing your gadget in rice is about the worst thing you can do. If you doubt it, read this guide at iFixit.com. Couscous is said to be marginally less bad (except that it's liable to get into charging and headphone sockets) but a warm dry place is much the best.

Safety

Warning03.png
If a mains-powered device gets wet UNPLUG IT IMMEDIATELY! If the plug or your hands are wet, switch off the power by whatever means you safely can. Mains electricity and water can be a LETHAL combination!

Understanding the problem

Pure water does very little damage to electronics as it hardly conducts electricity. But few people choose to drop their gadgets into pure water.

The damage is not done so much by the water (even dirty water) as by the electricity passing through it. This rapidly causes corrosion. It can also allow the electricity to find damaging paths through sensitive electronic components.

What to do

The immediate steps are listed in the Summary above.

Once you have done that and provided there's a good chance your device has thoroughly dried out, you can try switching it on.

If it still fails to work or if you have any doubt as to how thoroughly it may have dried you will need to disassemble it. Hopefully you may then be able to see any remaining moisture, water marks or signs of corrosion.

You can now clean up any corrosion or discoloration with isopropyl alcohol and a stiff brush, such as an old toothbrush.

Pay especial attention to any contacts or connectors. Un-mate any internal connectors. If the actual contacts within them are not easily accesible then you can simply rinse them with isopropyl alcohol. Shake off the surplus (which should take any remaining moisture with it) an allow what remains to evaporate.


External links

iFixit has several good articles about water damage: