Repairs: Water Damage

We are in Hawaii, let’s face it, phones are going to get wet.

Whether from ocean water or pool water,

the chance of a liquid damaged phone is pretty high.

What happens when you get you phone wet?

How do you keep it from happening?

If it happens, how do you fix it?

The first step is prevention. If possible don’t even get your cell phone near water! Keep it away from the ocean or pool. Take it out of your pocket before using the bathroom or doing laundry. Keep it off of the kitchen sink. Remember, not all liquid damage comes from submersion. Rain, sweat, humidity or any exposure to moisture can cause damage. So don’t have your phone in the bathroom while you take a hot shower – your phone will get the same treatment as that foggy mirror. Keep it out of your pocket or waistband when exercising – try an armband

I know, I know. It is hard to leave your phone behind. Especially with the great cameras they have these days. Can’t miss that beach selfie for Instagram. So if you bring your phone near water, protect it! Buy a waterproof pouch or case. Or, worst case scenario use a zip-lock bag. Just do something. But remember, these methods are not fool proof. Always test your waterproofing first. Put a dry paper towel in the case, seal it, and drop it in water. If the towel comes out dry it passes the test. Also make sure you dry off a wet case before removing the phone.

Most waterproof cases are intended to protect, not to make your phone SCUBA ready. Be sure to read the instructions. Check to see what the case is tested for and intended to do. Make sure to seal all openings. I have seen quite a few phones that were soaked while in waterproof cases because the seal was broken or the case was not properly closed. Many cases are no longer waterproof after being dropped. Impact can damage the seals. So be sure to re-check the case if it suffers trauma. And be sure to check that seal over the headphone jack on your Lifeproof case before you go jumping into any swimming pools.

What can you do in those unfortunate situations where your phone does get wet?

First turn it off and remove the battery if possible. Remove any SIM or memory cards. Water plus electricity can equal a short or fried parts. If it was dropped in salt water rinse it in fresh water. The salt can damage the electronic components.

Next, dry it out. Try a vacuum hose to suck out water. Avoid heat (hair drier) which can damage electronics. Put the phone in a sealed bag or container with dry, uncooked rice. Wrap it in a paper towel to keep grains of rice out of ports. Or use packets of silica gel (you know the “Do Not Eat” packets that come with your new shoes or purse). Leave the phone here for at least 24 hours. There are also products made specifically for drying out wet electronics.

Next, only once the phone is dry (so check ports for any signs of moisture) power the phone on. If the phone comes you, woo-hoo it worked. If not it could be the battery, try turning it on plugged into the charger without the battery. If it comes on, you need a new battery. This is pretty common with water damage. If not, come in to Tech Armor, it could be your screen or other parts. We can check and replace any damaged parts for you.

Just remember, although your phone may be working there are no guarantees after liquid damage. There may be corrosion in places that cannot be reached or minor damage that can worsen over time. We do what we can by cleaning the device and replacing damaged parts, but you may still see problems in the future. I have seen water damaged phones last days and I have seen them last years.

What exactly happens on the inside of the phone when it gets wet?

Why does liquid damage it?

You have probably heard people talk about the water sensors in phones. They are little white stickers that turn red when exposed to water. A few can be seen without opening the phone, they are in places like the headphone jack or charging port. Knowing which sensors were "tripped" can help you determine how deep into the phone the water reached. More water equals more chance of damage.

Like I mentioned earlier water + electricity = bad. Water conducts electricity and any power running through a wet phone can cause electrical connections that were not meant to happen. This can short circuit the device’s components causing malfunctions or damage. The phone can also corrode or rust. Corrosion is especially a risk with saltwater damage. Corrosion eats away at the metal in the phone and prevents proper connections from being made. If you notice any white, green, or orange dust in or around the ports, that is corrosion. Any corrosion will need to be removed and cleaned off.

Now our “don’t try this at home” or “attempt at your own risk” section. You can take the phone apart and attempt to remove the corrosion. The best method I have found is using a toothbrush and Isopropyl alcohol with a minimum 70% alcohol concentration. If you do attempt this make sure the phone is 100% dry before attempting to restart it. But hey, if I were you I would just take it to Tech Armor.

So recap, when it comes to water and phones:

  • Step 1 – avoid water

  • Step 2 – waterproof

  • Step 3 – power down and dry it out

  • Step 4 – take it to Tech Armor

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