How to Thoroughly Dry Out Your Wet Electronics

It’s summer. You’re out and about with your friends, enjoying the pool, the beach, or just a garden in the back yard, and someone decides it would be a great idea to push you into the pool or soak you to the skin with the garden hose. It’s all fun and games until someone soaks a phone, then you just get ticked off.

If the above has happened to you – or worse yet, if your electronic device of choice has taken a brief dunk in the nearby restroom – this article will show the proper procedure for quickly and thoroughly drying out your soggy electronics.

Note: The following instructions are a “your mileage may vary” operation.  Depending on how long your device was submerged or how saturated your device may be, this procedure may or may not work for you. However, using this procedure will likely be your best bet to get your device back into the land of the living and (hopefully) fully functional.

In order to dry out your wet device, be it a phone, tablet, radio, MP3 player, computer, etc., follow the steps listed below.

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If the device is still on when you fish it out of the water, turn it completely off. Even if the device is still functioning, turning it completely off may prevent any circuits from shorting out. This is NOT simply putting the device to sleep or turning off the display. Shut the device completely down.

If your device has a removable battery, take the battery out of the device. This will further protect your device from shorting out and getting irrevocably damaged. In most cases it’s not the water itself that kills a device, it’s the device shorting out because water is on the device while an electric charge is present.

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This is where things get difficult. You need to remove as much of the water as possible. You may need to wipe it with a cloth or shake the water out. You may also – depending on the device and how it is put together – need to remove some panels or pieces in order to expose the interior of the device where water may be hiding and either shake it out or otherwise remove the water. The following are other ways to remove water and completely dry your device.

  • Use a can of compressed air: You’ll need to be careful here, as compressed air likes to blow VERY cold and can momentarily freeze the surface of items it’s sprayed on. Any way you approach this, the device needs to be as water-free as you can get it before going to the next step.
  • Use a Hair Dryer: If needed, a hair dryer can be used to help accelerate the drying process, but ONLY with cool air settings. Do not bombard your device with hot air. You may cause further damage with the application of hot air. What you really want to try to do is force cool, room-temperature air into areas where water surface tension is causing it to stick to the device, forcing it out, making it evaporate. This is somewhat better than the compressed air, as a constant stream of swift blowing air can be directed at your device without the worry of quick-freezing parts of it.
  • Sparingly, Apply Alcohol: Using a cotton swab, wipe small amounts of alcohol onto the affected areas, and then blow on them to help the alcohol evaporate. Alcohol will remove water from a surface, but again, use caution and discretion. If you haven’t done this before, don’t do it. You may cause additional damage by getting components too wet if you apply too much alcohol. However, as alcohol evaporates faster than water, mixing the two may help remove water from stubborn places.
  • Cover the device in a Dry Drying Agent: The most common agent known to help here is white rice. While it is readily available and cheap, it may not be as effective as other drying agents. You can also use silica gel (often used for drying flowers. It’s best to use the same grit as found in those small bags you find in the box with your device). Silica gel resembles sand or another fine grain granule, and honestly, its likely going to be much more effective than white rice. Get an airtight container and completely cover your device in the drying agent. Leave the device in the container for AT LEAST 48 full hours. Your device may require a longer period of time in the drying agent depending on how long and how completely submerged it was. In some cases the device may need to sit for multiple days or up to a week – WITHOUT trying to see if it will turn on again. The thing to remember here, though, is that the longer you leave the device in the drying agent without trying to see if it will turn on, the better chance you have of it working when you reinsert the battery and/or turn it back on when it’s truly dry. If the device won’t turn back on after a week in the drying agent, its likely permanently broken.

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There is a high chance that your electronic devices might be damaged by the water. The best you can do now is to check your warranty and pray that it covers water damage. If the device is non-functional after all of the above, it may need to be professionally repaired, and your warranty may or may not cover the cost of the repair.

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Water damage is a risk when trying to mix summertime fun with electronics. Be aware of where you are, and try not to carry your devices around the pool or other large bodies of water. When you do bump into these situations, acting quickly and following the above procedure will likely provide you with the best chances for saving your device.

Image credit: Male hand inserting battery to mobile phone.

2 comments

  1. In the past I have has success with WD40 …. the water displacement formula #40 first developed for the space program back in the 1960’s.

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