Liquid Damage Repair
It seems to happen to everyone sooner or later. Swimming pools, lakes, washing machines, and toilets claim the lives of MANY phones each year. But contrary to popular belief, a dip in the water is not necessarily a death sentence for your device. It's usually what you do after your phone gets wet that will determine whether it lives or dies.
The Rice Myth
So your phone got wet. Now what? Ask your friends, co-workers, or strangers via social media, and the answer will almost universally be “put it in rice!” Someone will surely chime in “rice worked for me!” or “my cousin’s brother’s son’s girlfriend put hers in rice after she dropped it in the toilet. It has worked great ever since!” Ask Mr. Google, and the answer provided will likely be the same. So the obvious question is: does rice save phones? And the obvious answer is: NO! The rice theory has got to be one of the biggest and most expensive myths to ever circulate the populace.
Does rice absorb water? Well, some… but really not that well unless the water is boiling. Pour a cup of cold water in a container of dry rice and see how that works for you. Come back a little later and you’ll most likely find wet rice sitting in cold water. Does rice absorb water vapor? Well, some… but tests show that the absorption rate is far less than just plain old open-air evaporation.
So why doesn’t (can’t) rice save phones?
There are two types of damage that can occur to your phone when it is exposed to water:
1) Immediate component failure. This is the “shorting out” that most people picture when thinking about dropping an electrical device into water. Most common in phones is a blown filter or shorted capacitor on the motherboard. Think of it like a fuse blowing – a physical part going bad where the only possible fix is to replace that part. All the rice in the world isn’t going to disassemble that phone and micro solder a new filter or cap onto the board.
2) Corrosion. Damage from corrosion starts the moment your phone is exposed to liquid and grows as the water dries. Corrosion is a chemical reaction that happens when metal (the copper on you phone’s motherboard) is exposed to acidic substances (electrolytes in the water). Corrosion causes multiple “shorts” on the motherboard as it grows and bridges the electrical paths between components. These shorts can only be relieved by physically removing the corrosion. In many cases, corrosion will quickly eat completely through the solder joints, causing components to lose connection or even fall completely off the board. All the rice in the world isn’t going to disassemble that phone and clean the corrosion from board or re-solder missing components.
So why did Bob's cousin's wife's sister's phone work after she put it in rice?
Honestly, she got lucky. Any wet phone that worked again after a sit in rice would have ABSOLUTELY worked again anyway. Putting a wet phone in rice is the same as doing nothing, and sometimes doing nothing just works. Sometimes only a small amount of water makes it inside. Sometimes the water only touches non-critical parts of the board. Sometimes the stars align. But when we’re talking about a several-hundred dollar phone, do you really want to leave it to chance?
So what do I do when my phone gets wet?
Save the rice for dinner! Rice is a total MYTH when it come to drying out electronics. Your phone is slowly dying while you are waiting to see if the rice is going to work.
1) Turn it off! Remove the battery if possible! If it is already off, don’t turn it on and don’t try to charge it! Really, think about it - you’ve got a very expensive electrical device, possibly full of water and you want to send electricity through it???
2) Do not attempt to dry it out! If all components survived the initial dunking, exposure to water will not hurt them. Read above – the corrosion that grows as the water DRIES is the enemy.
3) Get it to a technician - any skilled phone repair technician - while it is still wet. The sooner the better. Time is the enemy. We will only attempt to save a wet phone if we can get to it within a few hours. Longer exposure usually equals a lost cause. Read above – the corrosion that grows as the water DRIES is the enemy.