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How to Dry Out Your Wet Electronics

You’re enjoying the pool, the beach, or just the backyard, and someone decides it would be a great idea to push you into the pool or soak you with the garden hose. It’s all fun and games until someone soaks a phone. If this has happened to you – or worse yet, if your phone has taken a brief dunk in the restroom – this tutorial shows how to quickly and thoroughly dry 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 fully functional once again.

FYI: What’s the difference between splash-resistant and waterproof? This guide explains all the water ratings.

Turn It Completely Off

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 circuits from shorting out. This is NOT simply putting the device to sleep or turning off the display. Shut the device completely down to have the best chance of saving it in the next few steps.

Remove the Battery, If Possible

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. Removing the battery will also help you eliminate water from the battery compartment much more effectively in the next step.

Good to know: some devices are meant to be near liquids, such as these waterproof Bluetooth speakers.

Get Rid of All the Water

This is where things get difficult. You need to remove as much of the water as possible from your device. You may need to wipe it with a cloth or shake it to force the water out. You may also – depending on the device and how it is put together – need to remove some panels or components to expose the interior of the device where water may be hiding, and either shake it out or otherwise expel the water.

The following are other ways to remove the water and completely dry out 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. Try blowing the air from a distance, and avoid using it directly on sensitive circuitry. 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, you can use a hair dryer 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 the water surface tension is causing it to stick to the device, forcing it out, and making it evaporate.

This is somewhat better than 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, apply small amounts of alcohol onto the affected areas, then blow on them to help the alcohol evaporate. Alcohol will remove water from a surface, but again, use caution and discretion.

Tip: sanitize and clean your phone using isopropyl alcohol.

Cover the device in a drying agent: The most common drying agent known to help here is white rice. While it is readily available and cheap, it is not as effective as other drying agents. Plus, it can clog small crevices, like the charging and audio jack ports, and mix with water to further harm your device’s internals.

It’s better to use silica gel (found in those small bags in shoe boxes), which resembles sand, and honestly, is going to be much more effective than white rice. Get an airtight container, and completely cover your device in silica gel packets. You don’t need to tear the packets open: simply covering your device with them will work. Alternatively, buy crystal-based cat litter and completely cover your device with it.

Leave the device in the container for AT LEAST 48 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, and you must resist the urge to see if it will turn on again.

The thing to remember here is that the longer you leave the device in the drying agent, the better chance you will have of it working when you reinsert the battery and/or turn it back on. Silica gel is extremely absorbent and will be able to remove all the water from areas like charging ports, audio jacks, speakers, and exposed circuits. If the device won’t turn back on after a week in the drying agent, it’s likely permanently broken.

Use your device’s speakers: This is helpful only after you’ve successfully managed to remove enough water to turn on your device. If your phone or laptop’s speakers still don’t sound as good as before, you can play a high-frequency sound for a few minutes or an hour to force any remaining water out from your speaker ports.

Last Resort – Check Your Warranty

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

Water damage is a risk when trying to mix summertime fun with electronics, or being generally careless around water. 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 of saving your device.

Image credit: Pexels

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Tanveer Singh

After a 7-year corporate stint, Tanveer found his love for writing and tech too much to resist. An MBA in Marketing and the owner of a PC building business, he writes on PC hardware, technology, video games, and Windows. When not scouring the web for ideas, he can be found building PCs, watching anime, or playing Smash Karts on his RTX 3080 (sigh).

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