This post tells you how to save your iPhone, iPad (Mini, Air), or iPod Touch after its been damaged by water.
Last week, my wife’s iPhone became a play toy for a little girl who decided it was a good idea to splash around with it in a dog bowl full of water. It was completely submerged and water got onto into all its ports and and buttons and when she tried to use if afterward it was behaving quite strangely. We were pretty bummed about what happened as we aren’t currently due for a phone upgrade and repairing an iPhone 4s would cost around $200. Fortunately, though, by using the method I describe in this post, we were able to save her iPhone and restore it to almost perfect working condition!
Step 1: Take the device out of the water – This may seem obvious, but time is critical here. The longer the device is submerged, the more time water has to get into places where it’s not supposed to be.
Step 2: Power the device off as quickly as possible – As your device runs, the presence of water causes electricity to bounce around and arc to places its not supposed to go, potentially frying its internal components. For this reason, it’s really important to power the device off as quickly as you can after removing it from the water. This is different than simply locking your device by pushing the lock button. Rather, you’ll want to hold down the lock button until you see the Slide to Power Off dialogue display and then use the slider to power the device off. But what if you can’t power the device off due to an unresponsive touchscreen or another issue? In the case of my wife’s iPhone 4s, shutting it down wasn’t an option. For whatever reason, as soon as she powered the phone off it would immediately reboot. In this situation, I recommend simply making the battery drain as quickly as possible until the device shuts down (turn wi-fi and bluetooth on, turn auto-lock off, turn screen brightness up, etc).
Step 3: Remove the device from its case – Once the device has been powered off, be sure to remove the protective case you may have on it as it can trap excess water and may not allow the device to dry as quickly.
Step 4: Dry off the device’s exterior and ports as much as possible – Grab the nearest rag, paper towel, t-shirt, whatever and get the exterior of the device as dry as you can. Next, take a cotton swab or small piece of tissue and get any liquid you see out of the device’s headphone jack, charging port, speakers, and buttons. One note here: avoid using heat (space heater, hair dryer, etc.) as this can cause problems rather than helping.
Step 5: Place the device into a zippered plastic bag and cover it with rice – This may be a surprising step to you, but rice does a great job of absorbing moisture from the air. You’ll want to put enough rice in the bag to completely cover the device.
Step 6: Wait, then remove the device and power it on – I recommend waiting 36-48 hours before attempting to turn your device back on. The longer you wait, the better the chance it will work properly. Once enough time has elapsed, power the device back on and test out its functionality. Things to check are if the touchscreen works, if the speakers work for playing back music, if headphones work when they’re plugged in, if making phone calls functions normally, if all the buttons and switches work, if wi-fi, bluetooth, and the cellular antennas all work, and if the ambient light sensor still senses light in the room correctly. This last one is the only thing on my wife’s phone that didn’t work correctly after spending over 48 hours in a bag of rice. To get around the issue, we simply disabled auto brightness in Settings.
If you perform all these steps correctly, you’ll maximize the chances that your iOS device will work correctly after being water damaged. Chances are, though, there will still be a few glitches that you’ll have to adjust to (e.g. the ambient light sensor on my wife’s iPhone). A few years back, I managed to drop my iPod Touch into a steaming cup of green tea. Even after taking the steps listed in this post, it was rendered completely inoperable. With some luck and some quick action, though, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to save your water damaged device by following these steps.