Fact Checked

What is a Water Damage Sticker?

M. Rosario
M. Rosario

A water damage sticker is a small, sticky label used to indicate if an object, typically an electronic gadget, was submerged in water. It is often found inside cell phones, where exposure to liquid can cause the device to malfunction. The sticker works by changing color when it comes into contact with moisture.

In most cases, a water damage sticker is a circular or oblong white sticker. It is usually found on the phone's battery or battery compartment. When it comes into contact with moisture, a dye chemically reacts and changes the sticker's color or pattern.

A water damage indicator may be located on the headphone jack of an electronic device.
A water damage indicator may be located on the headphone jack of an electronic device.

It's almost a rite of passage shared and dreaded by many cell phone owners: accidentally dropping the cell phone in water. Whether it's from spilling a drink on the phone, dropping it in the bathtub, or jumping into a pool without removing the phone first, almost anyone who has ever owned a cell phone has experienced hurriedly rescuing a phone, only to find it soaked. The common reaction is to take apart the phone and let it dry. Even if the phone seems thoroughly dry, however, a black or red water damage sticker can still indicate that the phone needs to be repaired. That is when the owner heads to the nearest service center to have the phone checked.

Cell phone providers generally use the water damage sticker to determine the reason for a cell phone's failure. Providers will normally void a phone's warranty because it is believed that a cell phone damaged by water is the user's fault. A number of warranty contracts, however, provide coverage even if the sticker was activated.

Some cell phone owners claim that the water damage indicator can be too sensitive to moisture. There are reports of the water damage sticker being activated just from sweat or even excess moisture in the air. This could lead to frustration, especially if the sticker was triggered some time before the device broke down.

Owners sometimes try to change the sticker's color to make it appear as if the phone has not been exposed to water. This is frequently done through chemicals applied to the sticker, by covering the sticker, or by replacing the battery. It should be noted however, that tampering with a water damage sticker, either by altering its color or preventing it to function properly, is usually considered warranty fraud.

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Discussion Comments


If your warranty doesn't cover water damage, keep in mind that components are usually inexpensive and fairly simple to replace (especially in the case of cell phones). Most cell phones have at least three and sometimes more stickers that can get activated. If only one is activated, it may be possible to replace the affected component or components with parts that don't cost much.

One of the great things about the Internet is that it doesn't matter much if good replacement parts are available where you live. You can find them in a hurry and even do some comparison shopping for the best prices on the Internet.

Worried about poking around inside that phone of yours? A quick search will bring to instructions on how to replace parts quickly. Such repairs are common and hobbyists who fix their own things tend to share advice.


It is rare for a water damage speaker to be tripped by anything but submersion in water. Humid climates have reportedly caused those stickers to activate, but electronics manufacturers certainly understand their products won't be used exclusively in dry climates and compensate for that fact.

Regardless, it is annoyingly common for cell phone users in particular to drop a phone in water and ruin it. The article has it right -- should that happen, do not turn on your device as that could cause a lot more damage. Take it to a factory-authorized repair shop and have it fixed. You will save money.

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    • A water damage indicator may be located on the headphone jack of an electronic device.
      By: Kevin Woodrow
      A water damage indicator may be located on the headphone jack of an electronic device.