What to do if you drop your phone into water

If you’ve just given your mobile phone an accidental bath, swim or trip into the toilet, here’s your best bet for recovering your device.

Nobody plans on dunking their phone into water, but it often happens. Here’s what you need to know to help revive your phone, as well as some tips on avoiding the issue in the first place.

Before we start, it is worth pointing out that in some cases, even a short trip into water is enough to entirely kill a smartphone. The steps below are worth trying if you’ve accidentally dunked your phone, and all they’ll take is a little time, but they are not guaranteed in any way at all. Prevention is still the best cure in cases like these -- and we’ll get to that below.

Step One: Switch off the power

The single most important thing you can do with a phone that’s just had an accidental immersion is to pull the power. If your phone has a removable battery, pop the back off and yank out the battery as fast as feasible. If not, you’re going to need to power it down manually.

Your best bet here is to hold down the power button on the side or top of your phone until the phone itself powers down. If the phone isn’t too wet you may be able to use the onscreen selector or slider to power down when you press on the power button, but don’t waste too much time trying to get that to work. The faster you can get your phone into an unpowered state the better.

Why power down your phone? Because the primary source of damage comes from water entering the inside of your phone and shorting out any number of connections and causing other issues when that happens. The sooner you remove the power from the equation, the less chance of damage to your phone.

Step Two: Remove as much water as feasible

Some water from your phone will simply drip out thanks to gravity, but that’s not likely to be enough to ensure safe operation of your smartphone. What you need to do is remove the water that may have entered the inside of your phone, and this takes time, patience, and preferably some kind of desiccant to absorb the water.

You can purchase commercially produced smartphone sleeves with chemical desiccants inside them, but if you’re not in a position to quickly procure one of those (or didn’t plan ahead per se, and that’s likely to be most of us), the classic solution here is to place your phone in a bag of rice for at least 24-48 hours.

Don’t be tempted to check in just a few hours "to see how it’s going", because what you want here is a phone that is as dry as feasible. If you have the time to wait, longer than 48 hours could be preferable to ensure as much water makes its way out of your phone as possible.

Step Three: Cross your fingers and power back up

Once you’re happy that as much water is out of your powered-down phone, the next step is to switch the phone back on. That’s a step that’s best done with just the battery rather than having it plugged into a charger, because if there’s still water present, having mains power available could end badly for your device.

Depending on the length and nature of the immersion, you may end up with a working phone again, or may find a device that still won’t power on at all. There are, sadly, no hard and fast rules for recovering a water damaged phone.

Can I get my water damaged phone repaired?

It is potentially feasible to repair a water damaged phone, but this is a highly variable matter depending on which components have actually been damaged. In most cases, you’ll have to pay for any repair work to be done.

Will my warranty cover water damage to my phone?

Almost certainly not. To make matters worse, most smartphones have water immersion sensors that are triggered if your phone gets overly wet, so taking it back to your manufacturer if you know it’s been water damaged usually won’t work for getting a free repair.

Immersion, outside specific phones that tout their waterproof status, such as the Sony Xperia Z5 family or the Samsung Galaxy S7, isn’t seen as normal smartphone use, so it isn’t covered.

Even in the case of "waterproof" phones, you need to be aware of the limitations of that waterproofing. Phones with inherent waterproofing are tested in clean fresh water, so if your phone falls into the bath, pool, sink or surf, the additional chemicals present may in fact void warranty even for a "waterproof" device.

Will my insurance cover water damage to my phone?

Many household contents insurance policies specifically omit smartphones from their coverage due to the relatively high likelihood (from the insurance company’s point of view) of damage to smartphones and the often high costs of repair. However, again, you’ve got little to lose by checking your policy, or in some cases, the specific policy for your smartphone that may be offered as part of a different policy or via your credit card provider.

The worst they can do is knock back your claim, but remember to be upfront. The same sensors that will tell a manufacturer that a phone has been for a haphazard bath will be apparent to an insurance repairer, and that could quickly lead to you becoming liable for all costs.

My phone is around water all the time. What can I do to protect it?

You have a couple of choices when it comes to making your phone more durable in the face of possible immersion.

There are at the time of writing only a handful of phones that have waterproof ratings. Sony’s Xperia Z5 phones are rated for waterproofing, as are Sony’s Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. As noted above, that’s for immersion in fresh water in lab conditions, so swimming with them isn’t advised. If you know you’re regularly going to be rained on, however, they’re a solid choice. For more on how phone waterproofing ratings work, read our guide to waterproof IP ratings here.

It is feasible to have other phones not specifically rated chemically treated to be at least water repellent, but this is a process with some risks. For a start, because it’s a third party treatment there’s often little in the way of warranty from the third party repellent spray provider. Spraying your phone with a coating may in fact invalidate your existing phone warranty with your phone manufacturer, because it’s certainly not an approved modification, so if something else goes wrong, whether it’s an overheating issue or a gunged up headphone jack, you may find yourself out of support options even if you haven’t got your phone wet.

There are also a number of smartphone cases that sell for popular phone models -- most notably Apple’s iPhone line and Samsung’s Galaxy phones -- that fully encase your phone and offer water and drop resistance.

They can be fiddly to place on your phone, and in every case they add considerable bulk and reduce the style of your device. Again, most don’t add waterproofing warranty to your phone, but where they are beneficial is that you can easily remove them when you’re in a less risky situation for your phone. As such, if an unrelated issue pops up, you can simply present your device for an in-warranty repair without stress.

I’ve tried drying out my phone, and it’s still dead. What can I do?

Sadly, as noted at the start, there’s no guarantee that a phone immersed in water will do anything but die.

Thankfully many phones back up a lot of their data to the cloud -- and this is certainly a step you should consider anyway, because it also covers you for such eventualities as theft or loss of your smartphone -- so the next logical step is to consider buying a new phone either outright or on contract.

Mobile Phone Finder can assist you in finding the perfect phone for your needs from every model available on contract in Australia, as well as comparing the cost of a contract versus buying outright and using a prepaid SIM. You can access Mobile Phone Finder here.

Alex Kidman

Alex is the Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for the best part of two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    MarikaMarch 21, 2016

    We Have a Huawei P8lite smartphone and it fell in the toilet and has been in rice and silica dessicants for 3 days. It cannot switch on. Should we try to charge it in off mode or we do more harm to it?

    • Staff
      BrodieMarch 31, 2016Staff

      Hi Marika,

      Running an electrical current through wet circuitry is never a good idea. Considering you’ve given it a significant amount of time to dry, you should be clear to attempt charging. Considering it’s been without charge for three days, charging it may be the only way to test whether it’s truly dead or not.


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