phone dropped in beach

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.

How to save a wet phone in three steps

  1. Switch off the power
  • Turn off. 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.
  • Power buttton. 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.

  • Remove as much water as feasible
    • The power of gravity. 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 and patience.
    • Desiccant items. 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.
    • Be patient. 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.

  • Cross your fingers and power back up
    • Switching on the phone again. 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.

    How can you protect your phone from water?

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

    • Waterproof phones. 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.
    • Water repellants. 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.
    • Waterproof cases. 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.

    Consider getting a waterproof phone

    Below is a list of water resistant phones and their current IP rating.

    Phone model IP rating
    iPhone 8 IP67
    Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus IP68
    LG G6 IP68
    Sony Xperia XZ Premium IP65/68
    Alcatel Go Play IP67
    Samsung Galaxy Note 8 IP68

    What you need to know about waterproof phones and IP rating

    Frequently asked questions

    Picture: Shutterstock

    Alex Kidman

    Alex Kidman is a multi-award-winning consumer technology journalist and the Tech & Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for more than two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts. He has written for just about every major Australian technology publication, and is a former editor of Gizmodo Australia, PC Mag Australia, and CNET.com.au.

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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?

      • finder Customer Care
        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.

        Thanks,
        Brodie

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