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What Damage Is Caused by Dropping a Cell Phone in Water?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Dropping a cell phone in water can cause two types of damage; if the phone is on, an electrical short can occur, and whether it is on or off, when the water evaporates, it can corrode components in the phone. The same issue holds true for other kinds of electronics. Someone who drops a cell phone in water should immediately power it off and remove the battery, and must allow it to dry completely before attempting to turn it on again.

The first problem arises when the electronic circuits in a phone are active because it is turned on. Even in sleep mode, the phone's circuitry is still powered to allow the phone to wake up when activated by the user or incoming data. When water hits the circuitry of the phone, the electricity in the phone takes the path of least resistance, which happens to be the water. Water is an excellent conductor and will readily carry the current, creating shorts that damage the systems inside the phone by overloading them with energy.

If a phone is powered off when dropped, it is still important to take out the battery and dry it completely. Even it is off, it can still incur some electrical damage, depending on the systems it uses; for example, the battery may supply an internal clock that keeps time. If the battery compartment is not user serviceable, it may be necessary to take the phone to a service center.

The next issue is corrosion. Unless a cell phone is dropped in distilled water, the water will contain corrosive impurities that can eat into the components if the water evaporates slowly. Phones dropped in salt water or other waters with a high mineral content should actually be flushed with distilled or fresh water before drying, since deposits of salts can form on the circuitry. The phone's owner can put the device into a desiccant, like rice, which will absorb water and help dry out the phone quickly as possible.

After dropping a cell phone in water and drying it, it is important for the owner to make sure the phone is completely dry before replacing the battery and powering it up. Any moisture inside the phone can create a short as soon as the phone is powered on, damaging and potentially destroying the circuits inside. It is a good idea to leave a phone fully submerged in desiccant for at least 24 hours before checking it to determine if it has dried out.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By bagley79 — On Aug 31, 2012

@nextcorrea-- My son has a cell phone that is waterproof. He can completely submerge his phone in water and it works just fine. He likes to show this to people who don't believe him.

I know he pays quite a bit more money for this phone, but he has had to replace more than one cell phone that he dropped in water, so he doesn't mind paying the extra money for it.

If you are looking for a cell phone like this, you can check with your provider. I think all of them have them available, but most people aren't aware they even make them.

By LisaLou — On Aug 30, 2012

I wish the rice had worked for me when my phone got wet. It wasn't submerged in water but got wet on a water ride at an amusement park.

At first I thought it was going to be OK, but it started calling random people on my contact list and doing all kinds of weird things. I don't know if I waited too long to try the rice, because it was a few days before I was back home again.

This phone was only a couple months old but I didn't have insurance on it so I had to go back to an old phone. From now on I am very careful when I am around any kind of water with my cell phone.

By andee — On Aug 29, 2012

The rice tip worked for me. This is what the guy at the Verizon store told me to do when I walked in with a phone that had been dropped in water. You could still see the moisture in the phone so he could tell right away what had happened.

I took the battery out and left the phone in the rice for at least 3 days. The rice will suck any of the extra moisture right out of there. I was so relieved when I put the battery back in and my phone worked OK.

By anon284227 — On Aug 08, 2012

Thanks for the tip. My phone is in rice. I used a vacuum to blow excess water out after shaking it first. How it got submerged, was I picked a huge bunch of chard from the garden, picked up my cell, and filled my laundry tub with water. Three hours later when cleaning the chard, I put my hand deep in the water and there lay my cell in my hand. I could well imagine the look on my face. I googled soon as I could. I'll check in two days.

By nextcorrea — On May 04, 2012

Someone needs to make a cell phone that is completely water proof. Like so water proof that you could use it under water. Doesn't that make sense? Wouldn't you buy something like that?

By truman12 — On May 03, 2012

Some mobile providers offer cell phone water damage repair. It can be worth it if you have an expensive phone.

I dropped my phone in a toilet a few months ago and they were able to fix it. It costs me some money but not as much as I would have spent on a new phone.

By whiteplane — On May 03, 2012

Usually when you drop your cell phone in water it is ruined, especially if it gets completely submerged. But not always. I have seen a few of them come back from the dead. Here is a cool little trick for reviving them.

Take your wet cellphone apart. Remove the battery from the phone and put them both in a sealed bag filled up with dry rice. Let it sit for a day or two. The rice will draw out any water in the phone and maybe, just maybe it will be salvageable. Sounds crazy but I have seen it work.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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