How To Rescue Wet Gadgets

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So you did it. Or maybe you did it again. Dropped your favorite gadget in a sink or a toilet. Or you spilled an entire 40oz on it. Oops. That doesn't mean you can't save it though. Here are a few tips that might just bring it back to life.

Step 1: Cut the power

As soon as you realize your gadget has been doused you need to get the electricity out of it, and fast. Damage isn't generally caused by water itself, but by the electrical shorts that it creates. If you gadget has a removable battery, pull it out fast. If it doesn't turn off the power immediately. If the power is off by the time you retrieve it, resist the urge to turn it on to check it. You're going to be without your gadget for a couple days. Accept that now.


Step 2: Strip it down

Remove everything that can come off the gadget. Back covers, SD cards, SIM cards, headphone port coverings. Everything. The more you can strip it down the better. Don't break it, but you want to open up as many points for air to get in and water to get out as possible.


Step 3: Suck it out

If you have a vacuum cleaner with a narrow nozzle attachment, that's ideal. You want to try to get as much of that moisture out as possible. Suck from each port for at least five minutes.


Not long ago, I dropped my phone in a bowl of soup. I'm not proud of it, but it happened. I didn't have a vacuum nearby. I had to suck the soup out of the earphone port, the ear piece, and microphone ports with my mouth (spitting it out into a second bowl). Am I proud of this? No. Did it save the phone? Yes.

Step 4: Dry it off

You will see a lot of sites that tell you to put your gadget into a bowl of dry rice. That works okay, but I'm going to share with you my secret weapon that works better than anything I've ever tried: Rice Krispies. Yes, the breakfast cereal. They suck up liquid much faster and more aggressively than uncooked rice. Grab a fresh box, jam your device in there, and leave it for 48 hours. Rotate the device every now and then.


Step 5: Give it a shot

After 48 hours or so, remove your phone from the Rice Krispies. If you see any sign of moisture still in there (fog on the screen, for instance), put it back in for more time. If, however, it looks bone dry, put the battery back in, and (hopefully) turn it on. With a little luck, your gadget will be up and running again.


Untested methods:

  • I cannot personally vouch for this method, but some recommend soaking the device in very pure rubbing alcohol. Using pure alcohol in the 90-percent range, the theory is, alcohol is non-corrosive and evaporates faster than water. This is true. However, a lot of phones and tablets have oleophobic coatings, which alcohol will quickly degrade. So, it might not be worth the risk.
  • We've heard some people recommend putting the phone in the silica gel packets—you know, the do not eat pouch packed with your snacks and furniture. Thing is, the silica's powers of desiccation are all used up by the time you open a product—it's already reached is maximum absorption point. And who saves those things, anyway?
  • There is, however, a newish product on the market called the Bheestie Bag. It's something you buy ahead of time if you're going canoeing or are especially accident prone. It claims it can dry your gadgets out seven times faster than home remedies. But we've yet to test it. And seriously, my Rice Krispies trick is awesome.

Do not try:

  • Hair-dryers, ovens, toasters. No, stupid, don't do that. You will melt the components. If you want to use a hair-dryer on the "no heat" setting (so it's just a fan), fine. But you're better off with a vacuum.
  • Microwaves. NOOOOOOOOOOO! What are you even thinking?
  • Shaking it. Might seem like a good idea when it first happens, but the water may only be in the outside chambers of your gadget. Shaking it can drive the water deeper. Don't. Just use a towel to dry it off.

That's what we do over here. If you have some ideas of your own, let us know!

Image credit: Shutterstock/silver-john