How to Dry Off a Soaked iPhone (Don't Use Rice)

It fell in the toilet. Your clumsy partner knocked a glass of water onto it. You forgot it was in your pocket when you jumped into the pool. That’s just a few of the hundreds of ways your phone could come into life-threatening contact with liquid. Now what? Well, definitely don’t stick it in rice.

Fortunately, waterproofing has become mostly standard on modern phones. New iPhones, Samsung Galaxy devices, and Google’s newest Pixel phones all feature some degree of water resistance or waterproofing. How well a phone resists water is measured on an IP (or Ingress Protection) scale. If your phone is rated with a high number, like IP67 or IP68 protection, congratulations, it’s probably going to be fine if you drop it in the tub. If it’s got a lower rating, or none at all, you should prepare for the worst before you start chilling in the hot tub with your trusty Sidekick. And if your phone gets dropped into salt water or chlorinated water, it’s doubly important to dry it off right away regardless of its IP rating.

So when your phone decides to take a dive, as soon as you’re done freaking out, you’ll probably begin frantically tapping all the buttons, blowing on it, stuffing it into a sack of rice, or blasting it with a hair dryer to quickly get rid of all that water. While those are all well-meaning actions, guess what? Each of those is totally the wrong approach. Here’s the right way to rescue your water-damaged smartphone.

First, retrieve it as quickly as possible. If your phone is still in the bottom of the jacuzzi or the toilet, get it out ASAP. The longer it’s in the liquid, the greater the likelihood of damage will be.

Once the device is no longer submerged, power it off right away. Don’t try to press any of the other buttons or load any apps, just switch it off. Remove the case if you have one. If you have a phone with a removable battery, pop the battery out. You want to cut off power in the device as quickly as possible to prevent the possibility of a short circuit. Most of today’s smartphones don’t have removable batteries, but if yours lets you pop the battery out, do that.

Why No Rice?

If you search the internet or ask a friend, a common piece of advice you’ll hear is to stuff your device in a bag of rice. Don’t do that. Rice was never really a reliable option, but now companies are outright warning against it.

Apple officially pooh-poohs the rice option for dealing with wet phones on its Support site. While uncooked rice is absorbent, it’s incapable of collecting all the moisture hidden deep within your phone. Also, the rice gets mushy and sticky as it absorbs the water, and then you could wind up with gummy bits of rice stuck in your phone’s seams, speaker cavities, and ports.

What to Do

The only solid shot at rescuing your drowned device is patience. As Apple suggests, try keeping your phone in a dry area and gently tapping the device with the connection port facing down to jostle any drops out of there.

Do not blow-dry your wet phone or stick it in the oven. Excessive heat can damage the delicate electronics inside. What you should do is give the naked, case-free phone a quick wipe with a clean towel, making sure no water accidentally ends up draining into its charging port, SIM or MicroSD slots, or headphone jack (if your phone still has one). Chances are, you’re not going to be able to get the water out of there.

Don’t blast it with a can of compressed air, lest you blow water deeper into the phone or damage the sensitive bits inside the phone’s charging port. Also don’t try to blow any water out with your mouth; you’ll risk similar damage, and you’ll probably just get more spit in there.

Plan Ahead

Of course, for the accident-prone and careful alike, it’s a good idea to be prepared for this inevitable phone-soaking well ahead of any actual accidents. The smartest option is to keep synthetic desiccants (drying agents) on-hand. These usually take the form of those small, square packets that you find packed with electronics. You know, the “DO NOT EAT” stuff. These packets typically contain little beads of silica gel, which absorbs moisture around them. They work more quickly and efficiently than rice, and they are far less messy.

You might as well hoard the packets you’re already getting for free. Start now: Every time you see a loose desiccant packet in a box with a new hard drive, a pair of earbuds, or whatever, pull it out and save it in an airtight container. (You can also buy desiccant packets in bulk.) Dump them all into a plastic or glass container you’re certain has an air-tight seal. After you’ve collected a bunch of them, you have an emergency phone-rescue pod ready to go. Just drop the dunked phone into the container so it’s surrounded by packets, seal the container, and wait 24 to 48 hours. (Reminder: Do not eat the packets.)

The trick to all of these methods is that for the desiccant to do its magic, it needs to be in a sealed container so that it can absorb water only from your phone, and not from the outside air. Also, you need to have enough of the desiccant present to absorb all the water.

Following these tips, there’s a good chance your phone could survive its untimely spill. But if it spends an especially long time underwater, you could be out of options. In which case, maybe it’s finally time to get yourself a waterproof phone.

Updated Fed. 20, 2024 to reflect that Apple has outright warned against putting your phone in rice on its support pages. Again, rice is not a great option.

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By 111 Tech

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