How To Save A Wet iPhone

Cases protect our iPhones from impact and software helps us find them when they get lost. But there is one enemy that it is nearly impossible to protect our phones from – water. Taking Apple’s masterpiece for a quick dip can turn it from the repository of your life’s information to a very well designed paperweight.

How To Dry Your Phone

There are no life ring apps that keep an iPhone afloat (image by Kalle Id CCbySA3.0)

If your iPhone does go for a swim, all is not lost. You might be able to revive it with some fast action. Remember, seconds count. Panic is your enemy. Every moment you spend mourning your loss is a moment that the evil water spends strangling your phone to death. Because panic will be working against you, let me give you some very simple instructions to remember.

  1. If you turn the phone on, you’ll damage it more. DO NOT TURN ON THE PHONE.
  2. Start drying your phone with whatever you’ve got, as fast as you can. Where there is water, there are towels. Use them. Use your shirt, use your friend’s shirt. Use whatever you can get your hands on that is soft and absorbent.
  3. Dry while you’re moving. You’re going to need to grab more stuff if you’re going to bring your phone back to life.
  4. Get uncooked rice and a plastic bag. Drop your phone in the bag, pour as much rice as you possibly can over the phone, then seal the bag.
  5. Pray, in the manner prescribed by your particular faith. If you are not the religious type, you can just pick a church that you drove past one time and pray like you think the people do there. But you might as well go on and pray, because you can’t do anything with your iPhone for 24 hours.
  6. You’ll want to try restarting your phone before 24 hours has elapsed. Don’t. Pray, then go somewhere and have several drinks. Ask someone at the bar to call a cab to take you home; your phone is not available to you.
  7. After your 24 hour period of penance and/or drinking is up, the moment of truth arrives. Was your phone underwater too long? Did you act fast enough? How do I know? I wasn’t there. Try powering up your phone.

From all I’ve read, there is about a 50/50 chance that your iPhone will come back to life if you follow this method after a near drowning situation. A lot depends on how long the phone was swimming and how fast you get your rice in to action.

Yeah, That Could Work. Or…

One day, someone said “I don’t know what that is. Maybe I’ll eat it” (public domain image)

I should acknowledge one other method that I read which may be more effective, but you’re much less likely to be able to follow.

This other method is exactly the same as the one I detailed except that instead of putting your phone in rice, you put it in a bag of silica gel packets. I’m sure you’re familiar with silica gel packets, they’re the little white packets labeled “Do Not Eat” that you find in the packaging for some products you buy.

Silica gel packets absorb more moisture than rice, but chances are you don’t have a big bag of them around the house. Let’s face it, it says “Do Not Eat” right on them. For most of us, that also means “throw this out”.

Prevention, And When Prevention Fails

My phone recently took a bit of a dip. I did my 24 hours of penance soul searching drinking and then took my phone out of the bag of rice. I pressed the power button. Nothing. I did it over and over and over again. Nothing. My iPhone was dead.

If you drown your iPhone, all is not lost. Apple will let you trade the old phone in on a replacement. Yes, you do have to pay them $269, but that was hundreds less than what my carrier, AT&T, proposed extorting from me.

The loss of my phone moved me.  I know I’m not the only one to ever drown a phone. I know the pain of realizing what my mistake was going to cost. So, in addition to teaching you how to dry your phone out after a disaster, I decided to give you a few simple steps to follow to keep you from drowning your iPhone in a washing machine. I also added some thoughts on the feelings you might experience if you do.

  1. Don’t be efficient with your laundry. If you put on a pair of shorts and discover a grease stain on them, remove the shorts, apply a pretreatment to the stain and put them in the hamper. Why take that moment to choose to do a load of laundry? let the pretreatment soak in. Tomorrow is a better day to do wash clothes than today is.
  2. Always search your pockets as you load dirty clothes into the washing machine. While cash and certain forms of identification will survive being immersed, other important things do not do well in a washing machine. Among the items that I’ve found that do not thrive in the harsh environment of the washer are pay checks and, more germane to today’s discussion, iPhones.
  3. When you are efficient with your laundry in spite of your best efforts not to be, don’t spend too much time patting yourself on the back. This kind of thing only delays the discovery that your iPhone is not in the pocket of the clean shorts that you’re now wearing.
  4. It is important to recognize that it is normal to think “aha, I was right, here it is” when you find your iPhone in the pocket of a garment that was submerged in soapy water. Your smug satisfaction at being correct will soon give way to horror when you realize what being correct means in this case. As you process your loss, you may feel a twinge of guilt at your initial satisfaction. This will pass.
  5. If all else fails and, despite your best efforts, you launder your iPhone, remember that the sooner you get it out of the water, the better. My experience with running my phone through the laundry this weekend taught me that if the phone reaches the washer’s agitate cycle there isn’t enough rice in the world to resurrect it. Don’t bother with the rice, just go to the Apple Store.

Quick action can help you save the life of your iPhone if you get it wet. Quick action will also help get a grease stain out of a favorite pair of shorts. Remember, somewhere in the urge to save your shorts is the potential to drown your phone in the process.




13 Comments on “How To Save A Wet iPhone”

  1. Blogdramedy says:

    So THAT’s the reason you’ve been missing.
    Crying into your beer watching a bag of rice expand.

    We all want to live your life. *grin*

  2. shoutabyss says:

    Are you saying I should stop doing the breaststroke with my phone?

    One time, true story, I tipped a glass of champagne on my computer keyboard. Do not ask what I was doing at the time. It was a private moment.

    The first .1 second was spent turning the keyboard upside down. I then grabbed a towel and rubbed it from the bottom up. (Still talking about the keyboard.) In less than a minute I had the screws out and the unit disassembled. I quickly absorbed all possible moisture from all layers of electronics using a gentle dabbing motion. I followed this with a blow dryer on a low setting using gentle sweeping motions. Finally, I waited 24 hours for everything to dry.

    Long story short, the thing never worked again. Good times.

  3. Is that silica the same stuff that is found in disposable diapers? I’ve used rice before on a watch with a cracked face, and it worked a treat, but I wouldn’t have thought of the gel packs. I usually eat them as soon as I get them, so they’re never just lying around.

  4. I, and my daughter, have previously dropped phones in the toilet, and saved them by taking them apart and drying quickly (when I say “taking them apart” I of course just mean the back, the battery, the sim) and then putting them in the airing cupboard over night – I don’t think you have airing cupboards over there much? If you don’t know what they are, they’re like a linen closet, but the hot water/immersion thing is in there too, and the shelves are slatted so towels and linen stay warm and aired. Anyway, our phones were Blackberrys, not iphones, and it worked to save them, but then several months later they stopped working and the shop opened them up and showed me how something was corroded which can apparently happen on Blackberrys as a slow process after a water soaking.

  5. Linda Sand says:

    I wonder if it would have helped to dip the phone in clear water so as to remove the soap before drying. I know seconds count but dried on soap an’t be good, can it? I thought I’d mention that just in case you get the urge to research that for us.

  6. Merilee says:

    Ironically, my iPhone fell out of my pocket this morning and into the basin around one of my apple trees that was filled with water. I grabbed it, flipped it out of its cover, dried it as fast as I could with my shirt and ran into the house where I stuck it in a Ziplock with rice. After a few hours it was fine. I think I caught it in time. I hope…

  7. Amy Reese says:

    It is one of worst fears, Oma, to lose my iPhone. My precious. I tried the rice trick with a flip phone once, back in the day. I didn’t put it in a bag. I guessed I missed that step. Anyway, it didn’t matter. It was a goner. At least there’s the glorious iCloud which backs up all of our stuff, right? Although lately, I can’t remember the password. There’s always something. Thanks all your advice. I’m glad you have a phone again.

  8. Pie says:

    That wasn’t a wet iPhone, Oma. That was a tossed around the soapy drum and battered by a rinse and spin iPhone. It was never going to end well. Only you could set the bar so high that dropping a phone in the toilet is now a mere trifle.

    I did wonder whether sticking a wet phone in a bag of rice really works. Looks like it doesn’t. If it happened to me, I think I’d start crying (placing more liquid on the already damaged goods), down some vodka to console myself, then take my pathetic, wet package to the Apple Store.

  9. Dan Hennessy says:

    Tragedy ! I’ve been crying after reading this post . So sad ! How can you go on living ? ( Oh , yeah . $ 269 ) . I’ll keep this in mind if i ever decide to get a cell phone .

  10. xacrest says:

    The rice worked for me – but then it was all pretty fast when I dropped my then-new phone (Samsung Infuse) into a thankfully clean toilet bowl. After the initial two seconds of hesitation going ‘it’s just water, it’s just water’ I got it out, panicked, dried it, took it apart, panicked, put it in rice overnight, panicked some more… and voila, my phone is going to be 3 in a couple months 🙂

  11. spencercourt says:

    “Cargo shorts” are the answer. Put the phone in one of the pockets that has a button, so it cannot fall out. As soon as I get home, the phone comes out of the shorts and onto a table, so it can never be accidentally washed. But if instead of getting wet, i just fell and broke it…. then I’m only out $19. That’s what I paid for my LG which I use with Tracfone service.

    At home, I use VOIP for calling. There’s a Google add-on to GMail which allows you to call any land or cell phone in the U.S. for free and the other party does not have to have the add-on, unlike Skype.

    Check it out here:

  12. Sadly I recently had to do the rice trick. Believe it or not I save those little silicone pouches that come in all my vitamins in one big baggie for just such an emergency. Of course when the time came I couldn’t remember where I put it so the rice did the duty. And it did. It worked and all was not lost (actually nothing was lost).

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