Water can appear from the most unexpected places.
From water-and-light shows through to plumbing emergencies, it’s easy to find yourself caught in a shower which didn’t originate in the clouds.
This is bad news for many smartphones, which aren’t always designed to withstand falling into the sea while their owners try to take a beach selfie, or dropped into a toilet.
However, while we’ve all laughed at tales of handsets being fished out of dubious places, a wet smartphone is no laughing matter when it’s your own device.
Keeping a sense of perspective
To begin with, it’s important to slay a few myths.
No, your handset won’t automatically stop working if it falls in the sink while you’re washing your hair.
Yes, you can answer a call during a downpour without the device conking out.
And no, applying a protective case or screen cover won’t weaken its resistance to water. In many cases, these additional barriers provide extra protection.
However, it’s equally important not to feel complacent, especially since waterproofing and water resistance are very different things.
IP67 protection only supports immersion to a depth of one metre, which renders it unsuitable for use in swimming pools or even many hot tubs.
Indeed, adverts showing people taking underwater selfies have been banned by the UK’s advertising authorities for misleadingly suggesting devices can cope with chlorine and salt.
And handsets with an IP68 rating are only protected against freshwater – not against corrosive seawater, malty beer or even a freshly-brewed cup of tea.
So what should I do?
Assuming your wet smartphone is a result of relatively brief exposure to pH-neutral water, these are the steps you should take:
- Prevent further exposure. That’s easier said than done in a torrential downpour while wearing summer clothes, but if possible, stop the handset from getting any wetter.
- Turn it off. This is essential for preventing components short-circuiting while they’re waterlogged. If you can, avoid pressing the off button and simply pull out the battery.
- Remove any internal parts. Apple devices tend to be sealed units, but Android phones often support the removal of microSD cards and other components.
- Check the water damage indicator. This is a small white window, usually located inside the battery or SIM tray. If it’s pink or red, your phone has sustained water damage.
- Detach any plastic cases, screen protectors and cables, setting them aside. These will dry naturally and shouldn’t need further attention.
- Extract the SIM card and place it somewhere safe. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose that little plastic tab, storing phone numbers you’d never remember.
- Place everything on kitchen roll to absorb surface water. Gently pat down all six sides of the handset and every component you’ve managed to remove.
- Place the phone in a polythene bag or plastic tub, add silica gel, seal the tub and leave for 48 hours. Silica is renowned for its absorption qualities, pulling moisture out of the handset.
- Replace components, turn it on, test various apps and ensure it can still take pictures and make calls.
Anything I should avoid?
There are plenty of things you shouldn’t do with a wet smartphone.
Burying it in rice can cause starch to form, sticking to the handset and causing problems. If you don’t have any silica, wrap the phone in kitchen roll before adding rice and sealing it up.
Never blast it with a hairdryer or pop it in the freezer, since temperature extremes can ruin the sensitive components inside.
Don’t use compressed air to flush water out of ports – you’re more likely to force it further in.
Don’t try to extract moisture by sticking tissue or toilet roll inside exposed ports – they could disintegrate and remain stuck inside.
Don’t charge it until it’s fully dried out, since water and electricity aren’t the best of friends.
And never, ever attempt to cure a soggy smartphone by putting it in the microwave. It’ll be ruined within seconds, and probably catch fire inside a minute.