Your Worst Nightmare: A Water-Damaged iPhone

With the advent of the electronic age, everyone’s had water damage to a device at some point or another. Yet when it happens to an iPhone, it’s absolutely devastating. It’s your worst nightmare. Panic, tears, and yelling don’t help at all, but what will?

I didn’t think it would ever happen to me, as I’m always ultra-careful, although it seemed to happen to my teenage son every few months. One time he dropped his phone in his bowl of cereal, and another time it was in the kitchen sink. The inevitable finally happened to me one day when I was out with friends and my purse got knocked off the sink in the restroom, flipped over, and my iPhone slipped out of the pocket it was in and literally jumped into the toilet.

The iPhone had been completely submerged, so I knew it was water-damaged. It worked at first, then turned off, and I could literally see the water inside it. I knew it was cashed. I was camping, so didn’t have anything with me to try the tried-and-true methods of preventing water damage. The next morning it was still wet inside and while it turned on and off, the touchpad didn’t work at all, and neither did the Home button. It was because of all this that I learned what to do when your iPhone gets water damage.

Apple-Care program Doesn’t Work

Apple does not cover water damage in either their one-year warranty or their Apple-Care program. They want to make sure they aren’t covering that either, so have placed sensors on the phone to detect water damage. There is one inside the headphone port, another in the charger connector on the bottom, and a few more hidden inside as well. The sensors will turn half pink/half white with water damage. Some people have been known to put tiny little pieces of white paper over the sensors to cover the ones on the outside, but there isn’t anything you can do to hide the two internal ones.


The first thing you need to do is turn the iPhone off and disconnect it from any possible power sources. The next step is to place it in an airtight Ziploc bag with silica gel packets. Those are those little packets that ship inside things that could get water damage. They always carry messages telling you not to eat it and to discard it. A better decision than eating or discarding is to save it for emergency phone saving. If you don’t have any, they can be ordered online.


If you don’t have the silica gel packets or have to wait for your order to come in, in the meantime put your phone in a bag of uncooked rice. It works for the same reason that restaurants put rice in their salt shakers. It pulls the moisture out. Some people have saved their phones successfully with just the rice. The phone needs to stay in the rice/silica gel packets for at least seventy-two hours.

If after trying the rice and/or silica gel, the iPhone either doesn’t work at all or has certain functions that don’t work, it might still dry out, but the chances of that get more and more slim. That’s when you need to decide on replacement options. If you’re still a long way away from the end of your contract, you’ll need to decide whether you want to pony up a lot of cash for a new phone or not.

You can go into the genius bar at the Apple Store and see about a replacement if you decide you don’t want to wait. A replacement phone isn’t as much as buying one outright without a contract, but is also considerably more than buying an iPhone along with a new two-year contract. I actually went to several AT&T stores and an Apple store, and they were all out of iPhones, so I ended up ordering a new one online.


I just ordered a replacement iPhone outright, but you can also order a replacement phone for one that is still in warranty. Apple has their Express Replacement Service that allows you to order a replacement phone, and when you get it, return your old phone. It’s a $29 fee for phones under warranty, and if Apple decides your warranty is no longer valid, you’ll also pay an out-of-warranty service fee and replacement phone charge. I saved the $199 out-of-warranty fee by just ordering a replacement phone outright. I knew mine was beyond saving.

If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of holding onto a water-damaged iPhone, all is not lost. There are some options out there. There’s a good chance you’ll still be either going without an iPhone for awhile or will have to pay a stiff price to get a replacement, yet it definitely won’t hurt to go through the options. It won’t hurt to just be sure it really is a lost cause before you decide to turn it into a very costly paperweight.

Photos by DanielZanetti (Own work) and Silver Spoon (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons, orangefred via Flickr