What Works? Drying Out a Mobile Phone

Phones, as necessary as they seem to have become, are a constant bother. For something so advanced, phones are so easy to break – whether it falls out your pocket and smashes, stops working just before your contract is up, or gets water damaged, a mobile isn’t the most reliable piece of tech. That said, most newer models can seem to survive quite a bit of bashing, and I’ve had two phones that have survived significant water damage. Of all the ways to damage a phone, dropping it down the toilets seems to be one of the most common mistakes made, and two weeks ago I made that mistake!

As I’m paying for insurance, I knew I was going to get a new phone but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to save my old phone, even if it was just so I could back up my old photos and files – particularly all my photos from Barcelona. As the phone had only been down the toilet for a few seconds (In clean water, I’d like to add) I had high hopes it would eventually come back to life, but I wasn’t quite sure how I’d get it there.

Unlike the other What Works? posts I’ve written*, this isn’t a comparison because I actually have no idea which of the following things saved my phone. Really, this is just a list of things I’ve done to the two water damaged phones I’ve owned which haven’t then died. I’m sharing in the hopes that it will help someone, somewhere, might find it useful. So, here comes What Works? Drying Out A Mobile Phone!

Leave it for a year and a half

Yep. I’m sharing this because it worked, although it is the least helpful of my solutions. A year and a half ago, I dropped my phone from height into a bucket of water. Unfortunately, I was working really hard at the time and didn’t realise for at least twenty minutes that my phone was totally submerged in a bucket.
Initially, the phone would not turn back on, but after leaving it in a warm-ish cupboard for a day, it came back to life but with many issues. The screen flickered, the speaker still sounded like it was full of water, the torch wouldn’t work, the phone would hiss at me, and finally, once the phone was fed up of being on, the battery would get ridiculously hot and shut the phone down. I was forced to buy a new phone, but I had so many things I wasn’t able to save from the waterlogged phone, I decided to keep it. Even though I couldn’t access the pictures, it was a small comfort to know I still technically had them. I left it standing upright in a desk organiser, and for the most part, forgot about it.
Until I broke phone C, and thought turning phone A** on was worth a shot. To my surprise, not only did it turn on, but it turned on fully functional and with all my texts, files and apps still in place. So while keeping your phone upright for a year isn’t a practical solution, it does work. I used it for two weeks while I waited for my insurance company to replace phone C, and I’ll be keeping it as an emergency back up phone for the forseeable future.

Silica Gel

My first stop after dropping phone C down the toilet was silica gel. As often as I’ve found little packets of this stuff in shoeboxes, drawers and cartons, I’ve never really known what it is or what it was used for. Apparently, silica gel is used to pull moisture from things, and the theatre had a fair bit in stock to pull fluids from microphones. I chucked my phone into a box, along with a large pack of gel and left it for 4 hours.
The gel did seem to work, evidenced by the soggy packet and the small water spot in the box, and when I took my phone back at the end of the night it did turn back on. It was a promising start, and I feel if I’d have left the phone alongside the gel overnight, it would have been fine come the morning. As it happened, I took the phone home and left the gel in work, meaning I had to choose another overnight drying method. And I went with…

A dried out phone!Putting it in a warm cupboard

My biggest fear when it comes to waterlogged phones is the chance the phone will short itself and go on fire, so I wanted the phone far away from me, but somewhere warm and dry in the hopes any remaining water would simply evaporate away. It also seemed to sort of work a year and a half ago with phone A, so I left the phone near my boiler and went to sleep with high hopes. It didn’t work at all, and in the morning I could see the small pools of water that had condensed between the screen film and the glass. Though the phone turned on, and stayed on, the touchscreen was almost unusable, and the phone was getting extremely hot – the same issues I had when I did this with phone A. At this point I was nervous to charge the phone in a mains socket, but knew it couldn’t take another restart, so I left it out on a shelf, standing upright, with a portable charger.

The Shelf

Because I was scared of the phone overheating, I left the phone near an open window. I don’t know if I’d actually put my phone in a damp cupboard, or if standing it up allowed the water to escape, but when I checked my phone a few hours later there was a tiny amount of water underneath it and the screen was working fine. The shelf had done what I though the cupboard would, and got rid of the last little bit of water. The phone was still getting hot when I charged it though, so I tried the traditional method and stuck my phone in a box of rice – just in case.


Specifically, a tub of Thai Jasmine rice, because that was all I had. At this point, I finally realised that taking my SIM card out might help, and this time I placed the phone SIM card edge down, hoping the rice would absorb anything in there. I also left the phone on this time to see if the screen ever flickered, jumped or shut down. As phone A was working, I was in no rush to get C back, so I happily left it for two days. After these two days, the phone worked fine. The screen had stopped jumping, the phone didn’t get dangerously hot and everything seemed to be okay. As I was paying for insurance, I knew I may as well swap the phone, but I was able to transfer all the files I wanted to save (which took an age, my upload speed is awful) and wipe the phone with no problems.
However, with the phone being almost fixed after the shelf anyway, I can’t be 100% sure if it was the rice that finished the fixing process or just time.

If I dropped a phone in water again, I’d definitely go straight to the silica gel. It seemed to remove the most water in the fastest time, and if you’ve got it lying around it’s better than wasting your rice. You can purchase it from eBay for around £5, and I’m tempted to do so for when I drop something precious down the toilet again.
After that, leaving the phone in the air to dry itself out naturally seemed the safest, second option. Removing anything you can from your phone such as batteries, covers and SIM cards also helps, giving the water more areas to escape from. However, if your phone is saveable – and I would say most are, seeing as phone A was underwater for 20 minutes – patience is an important factor. If you’ve the luxury of time, giving your phone two or three days to dry out will help the process.
Have you ever dropped your phone in water? What did you do?


* I have actually written loads of What Works? posts, but I’d only posted one because I’m so bad at taking pictures – and then I cleverly deleted them all
**I broke phone B by throwing it at a wall when I was furious. There was no saving that one.

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A little-bit-of-everything blog by Katy, 29 from Liverpool. I'm not a hugely exciting person, if I'm being honest...

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