You’re having a great day at the beach or the ocean, but your fingers slip, and splash! Down below, your smartphone goes into the salty depths — or hopefully just a few inches of salt water. Both scenarios can be devastating, so here’s what you need to do.
Try to find it first
Unless you are in a situation where it would be dangerous to retrieve the phone, you should try to locate your phone and get it out of the water as soon as possible. Here are a few ideas: If you can’t see the phone, try feeling the phone with your feet under the water, or grab a fishing net and scoop up the sand until you find it.
If you can’t find the phone, you should probably consider it a total loss. Contact your mobile operator and tell them what happened, and ask them to assign to your old phone number to a new device. Using remote management tools like “Find My” in the Apple ecosystem, you can report your device as lost or stolen, remotely deactivate it, or remove it from your account. If you have local or cloud backups (for android or iPhone), you can use them later to restore your data to a new device.
Tip: If you have AppleCare+ with theft and lossyou can make a claim for a lost iPhone, as long as you had “Find My” enabled on it.
Turn it off, dry the phone as much as you can
Once your phone is out of the water, shut it down fully. Use a clean towel to dry the phone as much as possible. If possible, remove the SIM card tray, any memory card trays and the battery if it is not built into the phone. If it is in a case that is not waterproof, remove the case as well.
If your smartphone is already in a waterproof case or waterproof and has not been in the water for a long time, turn off the phone and wash down the phone (in the waterproof case, if any) under clean fresh water (not salt water). Dry it with a towel and then leave it for several hours to dry off before trying to use it again. If everything works fine you should be good to go.
If your phone isn’t water resistant, you may have heard that drying your smartphone in rice helps, but it is just a myth† Rice won’t do anything, and leaving it there will give the salty water trapped inside the phone’s casing extra time to corrode the electronics. If you ever want to use your phone again, you’ll be in a race against the clock to take the phone apart and clean it before corrosion permanently damages the internal circuitry.
If possible, disassemble the phone
If you feel qualified and able to disassemble your phone, please use the right tools to open it as soon as possible. iFixit publishes free guides which contain detailed steps for disassembling many popular smartphone models.
Once the phone is opened, rinse the inside thoroughly with distilled water, gently wipe away any corrosion with a soft brush, then soak the phone in a bath of 90% rubbing alcohol for an hour and swirl it around a bit to displace any trapped water. Then allow all parts to air dry for at least 24 hours, then reassemble and verify that the unit works. If it works, you’re probably all set. Back up the device while it still works in case it fails again due to uncorrected water damage.
Otherwise, take it to a professional
Obviously, the above disassembly steps require a certain level of technical know-how and also the tools and parts to open a modern smartphone safely and without damage. So if you are not comfortable taking your phone apart, take it to a qualified smartphone repair shop as soon as possible. Tell them you dropped your phone in salt water and they need to know what to do. The phone must be immediately disassembled and thoroughly cleaned inside and out if you want to keep it.
If they don’t want to work on it right away and the phone is very important, take the phone elsewhere. If you have an iPhone, consider: make an appointment for example in an Apple Store.
An ounce of prevention
Presumably, Benjamin Franklin someday said“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That means if you take small steps to prevent problems before they happen, you can save yourself from a much bigger crisis later on.
In this case, your shred of prevention may leave your smartphone on dry land when you’re near the water. But apart from that, you can also put your smartphone in a waterproof case or dry bag before going near the ocean.
For example, this JOTO Universal Waterproof Phone Pouch is a cheap insurance against accidental exposure to water for your smartphone. Combine that with a floating belt, and even if you accidentally drop your smartphone in the water, you can scoop it up without it sinking to the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker. Good luck, and stay safe out there!