Cell phone water damage: Important tips to save your device

Did you drop your phone in water? Dropping your cell phone in water can happen to anyone. Whether it’s the ocean, the toilet, or coffee, it might not be too late to avoid severe water damage to your device.

According to one study, nearly 25% of smartphone users have damaged their cell phones with water or a liquid of some kind.

Additionally, according to cell phone repair shops, water damage is the number one cause of data loss. Nearly 65% of cell phone data loss is due to water damage. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of severe water damage and even data loss.

What to do after dropping your smartphone in water

iPhone water damage

1. Turn OFF your device

The very first thing you should do is quickly remove your phone from the water and turn it off. Do NOT attempt to turn it on to see if it still works. Turning on your phone can cause additional damage.

2. Remove case or accessories

If you have a case on your cell phone, it may be holding additional liquid or moisture. Remove your case or any accessories.

3. Water-resistant phones

If your phone is water resistant and you spilled or dropped your device in liquid other than water, both Apple and Samsung recommend rinsing it off in still tap water. Do NOT rinse it off in running tap water, as that can cause additional damage.

4. Wipe your device

Wipe your iPhone or Samsung with a lint-free cloth.

5. Remove additional liquid

To dry your phone, tap it lightly against your hand with the charging port facing down to remove excess liquid.

6. Remove Sim Card

Before removing your sim card make sure your device is externally dry.

7. Dry in front of a fan

Place your device in front of a fan blowing cool dry air directly into the charging port. If you do not have a fan, place your phone in an area with airflow. Don’t use a hair dryer or heat gun to dry out your phone.

Can I charge my phone after it fell into water?

If your cell phone has been exposed to water or liquid, do not charge it until it’s completely dry. Apple recommends waiting at least 5 hours before charging an iPhone with a lightning cable or connecting a lightning accessory. Charging your phone when wet may damage it. Turning on and charging your phone while it’s still wet can damage your charging port, battery, and even short your device.

Does rice really help a wet phone?

Do NOT put your wet cell phone in a container of rice. We’ve all heard someone say “put your iPhone in a bag of rice to dry out” Putting your phone in rice is a common myth that has gained popularity with the rise of smartphones. Rice is less effective at drying your cell phone than putting your phone in a well-ventinatled area. You are better off leaving your device in an area with airflow to dry versus inside a closed container with rice. Additionally, there is a risk of getting rice grain jammed inside your charging port.

We surveyed 35 people in the United States to see if they thought rice can help remove moisture from a wet cell phone. We were shocked to find that majority of the population believes that putting a cell phone inside of rice can help remove liquid or water. Nearly 70% of those surveyed, believed rice can help a wet phone. Only 35.29% of those surveyed reported rice cant help a wet device.

Survey: “Does rice help a wet phone?

35 people were surveyed on Instagram

Is my phone waterproof?

Most cell phones including iPhones and Samsungs are not waterproof rather they are water resistant. Though many people say it’s ok to take your new iPhone swimming, this is far from the truth. The current water resistance we have on cell phones is merely enough to survive a quick dunking in the pool versus swimming in it.

Most phones are splash, water, and dust resistant which were tested in a laboratory environment. The first water-resistant iPhone was the iPhone 7, yet we have users getting water damage every day even with newer more water-resistant phones.

iPhone Water Resistance

ModelWater resistanceIP Rating
iPhone 6 Plus & olderNoneNone
iPhone 7/ iPhone 7 Plus/ iPhone 8/ iPhone 8 Plus/ iPhone X/ iPhone XR/ iPhone SE (2nd gen)1 meter up to 30 minutesIP67
iPhone XS/ iPhone XS Max/ iPhone 112 meters up to 30 minutesIP68
iPhone 11 Pro/ iPhone 11 Pro Max4 meters up to 30 minutesIP68
iPhone 12 Mini/ iPhone 12 / iPhone 12 Pro/ iPhone 12 Pro Max/ iPhone 13 Mini/ iPhone 13 / iPhone 13 Pro/ iPhone 13 Pro Max6 meters up to 30 minutesIP68

Samsung Water Resistance

The following Samsung devices have an IP68 rating:

  • S22, S22+, and S22 Ultra
  • S21 5G, S21+ 5G, S21 Ultra 5G
  • Note20 5G and Note20 Ultra 5G
  • Note10, Note10+, Note10+ 5G
  • S20 5G, S20+ 5G, S20 Ultra 5G,
  • Note 9, Note 8
  • S10e, S10, and S10+
  • S9, S9+, and S9 Active
  • S8, S8+, and S8 Active
  • S7, S7 edge, and S7 Active
  • S6 Active

The following Samsung devices have an IP67 rating:

  • S5 Active, A52 5G, and A53 5G 

What is an IP water resistance rating?

An IP resistance rating refers to a device’s dust and water resistance rating. The 6 in IP67 and IP68 refers to the dust resistance rating. And the 7 and 8 refer to the water resistance rating. The iPhones and Samsungs with an IP68 rating can withstand greater depths of water and for longer periods of time than IP67.

Devices rated with IP67 are expected to withstand 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. On the other hand phones with an IP68 rating are expected to withstand deeper depths for a longer period of time than IP67. However, there is no specific depth and period devices are tested for. It’s safe to assume cell phones with an IP68 rating have been tested up to 3 meters for up to 30 minutes.

Having said this, it does not mean your device is waterproof. Apple states “splash, water, and dust resistance are not permanent conditions and resistance might decrease as a result of normal wear.” With time your device may become more prone to water damage therefore precautions must be taken.

How long does it take for water damage to affect a phone?

The effects of water on electronics are usually fairly quick and in some cases instant. The time it takes water to affect a phone will vary on its water resistance rating along with the condition of the device. Devices that have a higher IP rating will take longer for water damage to have an effect.

If your device is damaged or has cracks the water may affect it instantly as the water resistance has been broken. If water gets inside the cracks of your broken cell phone it’s best to dry it off with a cloth and call a local cell phone repair shop immediately. Phone repair shops which specialize in water damage repair will be able to disassemble and remove any liquid from inside that can cause serious water damage such as corrosion.

Though most new cell phones are water resistant for up to 30 minutes at 3 meters, most cell phone repair shop owners believe the effects of water will happen in less than 15 minutes. We surveyed 34 cell phone repair shops in the United States to see how long it takes for water to affect a phone. To our surprise, 94% of those polled said it takes less than 15 minutes for the water to have some sort of negative effect on a cell phone.

This tells us that the negative effects of water may be much quicker than we are led to believe from the current IP ratings.

How long does it take water to affect a phone?Percentage Polled
Less than 15 minutes94%
4-8 hours3%
36-48 hours3%
34 cell phone repair shop owners were surveyed

Does cell phone water damage get worse over time?

Cell phone water damage does indeed get worse over time. The longer a phone is exposed to water or liquid the worse the effects of water damage will have on said device. When phones are exposed to long periods of liquid exposure it will cause corrosion and shorting. At times the water damage can be permanent if enough time has gone by. This can lead to a device that is unrepairable.

How can you tell if a phone is water damaged?

Did you recently expose your cell phone to water or liquid and aren’t sure if it’s water damaged? Here are several things to look out for when a phone is water damaged. Usually, it’s fairly easy to see if your phone is water damaged. Common signs are moisture under the screen or cameras, malfunctioning components, and even boot looping.

phone water damage

How to tell if a phone is water damage:

  • Liquid or spots under the LCD
  • Poor battery health
  • Muffled speakers
  • Charging port not functioning properly
  • Device boot looping
  • Moisture inside the cameras

Can you repair a water-damaged phone?

In most cases, water-damaged phones can be repaired however in most cases devices are only repaired for data recovery. According to Jesse at VCC Board Repair, “it’s often difficult to get these devices fully functional and have them be reliable.”

Even though in many cases water-damaged devices can be repaired to functional status, most repair shops agree they are simply not reliable in the long run. Most repair shops suggest replacing a water-damaged device and only repairing it for data recovery.

Additionally, water damage repairs tend to be on the expensive side. According to Mauricio, the owner of Mobile Techs, a cell phone repair shop in Tacoma, WA, the cost to repair a water-damaged device can range from $80-$300. Though costs really depend on what kind of liquid the device was exposed to, how long it was in the liquid, and what was done to the device after. For example, a water-damaged phone that was briefly put in rice and then turned on is one of the worst things that can be done and can cause additional damage.

Water damage repairs vary depending on how bad the liquid damage is. Repairs can be quick as 30 minutes or long as 4 hours if the water damage is really bad.

How to prevent water damage on your phone?

Though most phones are water resistant it’s important to take precautions to prevent any water damage. It’s always best to avoid direct exposure to water and other liquids. Additionally, damaging your phone or disassembling it can increase the risk of water damage. If you plan to bring your cell phone around water it’s a good idea to get a waterproof case to add a layer of protection.

To prevent water damage, avoid these:

  • Swimming with your cell phone
  • Using your phone in a steam room or sauna
  • Intentionally getting your phone wet
  • Using your phone in a high-water pressure environment such as a shower, jet skiing, or other water sports
  • Using your cell phone in extreme temperatures whether hot or cold
  • Dropping or damaging your cell phone
  • Disassembling your cell phone
  • Do not expose your phone to salt water

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