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How to save a wet phone — and what not to do

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/30/2015 Jessica Naziri
Wet smart Phone © Getty Images/iStockphoto Wet smart Phone

LOS ANGELES — Splish splash.

It's your worst technological nightmare. It fell in the toilet. Your clumsy friend knocked a glass of water on it. You forgot it was in your pocket when you jumped into the pool.

You've got a wet smartphone you have likely spent hundreds of dollars on, and that carries your life in it.

Don't panic. There still may be hope. Just follow these steps and you'll have a good chance of breathing life back into your drowned smartphone. Be sure to read what not to do for some useful myth busting.

Step 1. Turn it off.

It may be your first instinct to test whether your gadget actually works. But just a few seconds could make a difference in whether it survives. As soon as it plunges into that toilet, fish it out and turn it off.

DON'T: Don't turn it on to check to see if it still works. Putting pressure on the keys could shift liquid farther into the device.

Step 2. Remove SIM card and peripherals.

Take off those covers, remove the SD Cards and SIM Cards — any possible thing that can be removed to dry on its own. The more areas of the phone that can air out, the better. Some phones, like the iPhone, don't have a removable battery. Unfortunately, you'll just have to skip this step and hope for the best if you dunk one of them.

DON'T: SIM cards can survive a bath, but definitely not heat. Don't stick your phone in the oven, even on low. The heat can warp your phone's circuits and melt its internal components. You shouldn't use a blow dryer either. A fan might help, but a microwave is out of the question.

Step 3. Suck out the liquid.

If you have a vacuum cleaner with small nozzle attachments you can use that, or use a straw to perform reverse CPR on your phone's orifices. Get an empty bowl and set it down next to you. If we're talking about an iPhone, you're going to want to focus on the earphone port, the earpiece, the microphone port and the charger area. Every time you suck in some liquid, spit it into the bowl to avoid swallowing any sort of weird mechanical chemicals.

One suggestion is to overcharge the handset so that the build-up of heat is gradual and not excessive, but this carries all the risks you'd expect with running a current through wet circuitry.

DON'T: Don't try shaking your phone to expel water. Instead, use a dry cotton cloth or towel to dry off the external portions of your phone a much as you can. It only increases the possibility of water getting inside the circuits.

Step 4. Rice and silica.

Just because your phone is dry on the outside, doesn't mean it's dry on the inside. To take care of that, fill a bowl with uncooked rice and bury your phone in it. The rice wicks away the moisture trapped inside your phone, ensuring that it is completely dry inside and out.

You can also fill a plastic baggy with silica packets (those little packets that you find in shoe boxes) and drop your phone in into it. Silica is a desiccant that sucks up water moisture, so it's perfect for drying a wet smartphone.

Another simple method is to place the phone in front of an air conditioner. The cold air won't damage the phone and the dry air from the air conditioner makes the water to evaporate quickly.

Whether you choose the rice method or the silica method, you'll have to leave your phone in the bowl or bag for about three days to make sure that all of the moisture has been removed.

Step 5: Turn your phone back on.

After you've waited at least 24 hours, it's time for the moment of truth. Reassemble your phone, charge it and try to power it on. Bending a pipe cleaner to brush against the edges of your gadget ports is also helpful to gauge the amount of moisture remaining. If it still looks wet, put it back in the bowl and wait another day. If it's totally dry, turn it on and see how it works.

Step 6: Is your warranty still valid?

Check to see if the liquid contact indicator (LCI), a small white sticker, turned red when it came into contact with water. Manufacturers place LCIs on their products to use as a litmus test when deciding warranty claims. In most cases, they can refuse to fix or replace your handset if the LCI has been triggered.

Let us know if you have any other tips for handling waterlogged gadgets in the comments below.

Follow USA TODAY contributor Jessica Naziri on Twitter: @jessicanaziri



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