Introduction: How to Save a Wet MP3 Player, Cell Phone, Camera, PDA, Etc.

Picture of How to Save a Wet MP3 Player, Cell Phone, Camera, PDA, Etc.

I'll get to why in a second, but if you do, you just lowered your chances of saving it. Take out the battery.

Most of us have managed to do it one way or another. You forgot to check your jean pockets before you washed them, you knocked your phone into the lake, dropped it in the toilet (let's hope you didn't flush it), or maybe you can't remember the exact details... but for some reason your camera smells like cheap beer and is dripping wet.

This instructable will guide you through the process of attempting to save your wet cell phone, PDA, MP3 player, camera* (See note). I'll use my MP3 player,since it's the last thing I managed to put through the wash...whoops. I'll shadow with a cellphone for those in that category (It went through the wash before, but I managed to salvage it). For all intensive purposes, assume when I say MP3 'player' or 'cell phone', I obviously mean your device.

I'm writing out the specifics about the how's, the why's, where's, and all that good stuff. I'll be the first to say, I'm all about the deet's (details). If you're not interested in a little more reading and a better understanding, you can just read above this dotted line in the steps, and ignore anything below it.

Yes, this line right here.
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If you have a accidental damage warranty, go talk with where you got it from and see if they do water damage! If you know you're screwed and your warranty is void or won't cover it--like when that little white dot on the inside of your cell phone (Water indicator) turned red--then you might wanna give it a shot.

Cameras are usually a lot trickier, mostly due to more moving parts, usually cramming everything to be as small as possible, moving parts (lens), and generally more fragile equipment. You can try getting a quote for fixing it, which if you have the money (or it's a pricey camera) I'd recommend since they'll be able to do a better job. If you can't afford it, give this a shot.

Step 1: Don't Turn It On

Picture of Don't Turn It On

Take the battery out, flip the "HOLD" switch on (if it's your music player), tape the power button to 'OFF' if you can't take the battery out, whatever you can do to make sure it doesn't turn on.

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If it went into the drink when it was on (i.e. cell phone was on when you put in the wash) or you already turned it on, you poor bastard, Not much you can do about that now. There's still hope though. It worked with my Sandisk MP3, Woo hoo!

If it was OFF when you got it wet, DON'T TURN IT ON. If you do, you just risked: short circuiting, increasing accumulation mineral buildup on connections, and all the fun stuff that kills your phone. Basically it's bad news bears.

"But I wanna see if it works anyway. I mean, maybe I don't even need to do anything" Yup, those are my words when I wondered about my first cell phone I put in the wash... now it just displays a white screen (Sweet).

Step 2: Tools/What You'll Need

Picture of Tools/What You'll Need

You can do this an almost infinite number of ways, some arguably better than others. I'll try to do my best of giving you the pros and cons of each, and namely show you how I go about it.

For this project, you'll need:

- Patience
- A soggy electronic device
- Jewelry screwdriver
- A relatively tidy workplace

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Optional Equipment
- A fan/Blow drier (Recommended)
- Tweezers (Recommended)
- Small Brush
- Compressed Air
- Paper towels/Q-tips
- Rubbing/Isopropyl Alcohol

Note: A lot of the tools are optional, however, they do make your work easier, as well as increasing the chances of getting your device to work again.

Step 3: Take It Apart

Picture of Take It Apart

Take it apart as much as you can. Remember how you do this, 'cause you're, obviously, going to put it back together in the end. Also, make sure you don't lose any of the screws (use a small dish if possible).

Be careful not to separate any cables/ribbons.
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Take off the clasps, covers, anything surrounding it; take it apart as much as you safely can. We're going for air flow, so get it as bare boned as much as you can without breaking it (This is where cameras are harder to do, since they're usually pretty well put together, but do the best you can).

For my MP3 player, that's unscrewing the screws for the back-plate. For my phone, the face-plates, keypad, and battery (which should already be out, if you were following along). Put all the small parts in a dish or safe place so they won't roll away or get lost.

My MP3 player still has another set of screws for the faceplate, yup take 'em out.

Step 4: Rinse

Picture of Rinse

Rinse your phone with water (distilled if possible) (or Isopropyl alcohol, but it has a very high risk of eating rubber seals**) or put it in a Tupperware container with water and gently shake it.

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"But I thought we were trying to dry it?"
Yup, sounds pretty counter-intuitive doesn't it?

When you dropped your PDA in the neighborhood pond , you might have forgotten about how nasty that pond really is (there's a reason even your dog won't drink that water). All that algae, mud, and whatever else smells fishy is in your phone. If it's still there when you turn it back on, it'll interfere with the conductivity of the circuits, so you wanna get it all out. Even if it you put it through the wash, there's still a good chance that it'll be "dirty" (Chlorine, Laundry Detergent Bleach, Iron in the water, etc.) and I'd recommend it. Distilled is best, but cold water works pretty well too.

Besides, it's not like it isn't already wet, right?

**Some people swear by Isopropyl/Rubbing alcohol in this step. The benefit of using this, is usually argued that it evaporates faster than water, gets it cleaner, and so on. I personally use water, because I don't like the idea of using chemicals if I don't have to (and again, possible buildup of residue/contaminants), but I'm sure that's an argument for someone who knows more about electronics and rubbing alcohol than I do. You also run the risk of damaging labels, ESPECIALLY plastic/rubber keypads, etc.

Step 5: Dry (Low Risk)

Picture of Dry (Low Risk)

Dry it as much as you can via paper towel, q-tips, a small brush, and dry it as much as you can.

If you want to use faster, but higher risk drying methods, move onto the next step.

Lay out some paper towel, prop it up on something if you can (airflow), and get as much as you can by hand. Get those Q-tips in the nooks and crannies, and soak up and get rid of as much moisture as you can.

Then all your parts out, put it in front of a fan if you can, and let it dry for 1-7 days, longer is always safer.
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I've heard success/failure stories on all of the below (as I failed the first time or so when I tried to dry out my phone).

When you have a lot of heat (Oven, blow drier, dry in the sun), you run the risk of all the things that come with it: melting things, overheating transistors, burning into an LCD screen. I'd highly recommend the slow and steady fan method, but these can work if you don't have the time.

--Laying it out to dry/Fan--
Set it in front of a fan for a 1-7 days (the longer, the more likely EVERYTHING is to be dry and thus work again). If you really can't wait a week, at LEAST wait a day.
Pros: No problems with heat, increased airflow by using a fan, BEST chance to save device.
Cons: Slow.
Risk: Very low.

--Tupperware with rice/paper towels--
Put it in a container, fill it with rice or paper towel for 1-7 days. After 1-7 days, take it out and make sure all the rice/paper towel is out of the phone.
Pros: No heat, the rice/paper towel help pull the moisture out
Cons: Slow, rice can get stuck in your phone and cause problems down the line
Risk: Low

Step 6: Dry (High Risk)

I've been told these do work. Although like I said before, I'd highly recommend the simple spread and dry over any of these, but seem to work for some people so it's worth mentioning:

--Blow drier--
Dry for 5-15 min on a lower setting (Low, Cool, Warm).
Pros: Fast, evaporates using heat.
Cons: Heat issues, higher chance there's still water in it, lower chance of recovery
Risk: Medium

Set on the rack for 30-60 minutes at a fairly warm temperature (70F-100F)
Pros: Fast, evaporates using heat.
Cons: Heat issues, higher chance there's still water in it, your roommates preheat to 475 and make cookies, lower chance of recovery.
Risk: Medium-High

--Dry in the sun/On the sidewalk--
Set in out on the sidewalk for 30-60 minutes.
Pros: Fast, sun helps evaporate
Cons: Heat issues (especially screen issues), rain.
Risk: High

Set in the freezer for a day
Pros: No heat problems, cold temps can help a little to pull the water out
Cons: You face a good chance of just freezing the water in your device, only to have it melt and ruin it later.
Risk: Very High

Step 7: Put It Back Together

Picture of Put It Back Together

Once it's as dry as you can get it, brush, blow, or wipe off any dust that might be on your device.

(You can use isopropyl alcohol to clean your screen as well if you want).

Assuming you remember how you took it apart, put it all back together, put the battery back in.



Yes, you can finally turn it on.

Hopefully you've managed to save your phone, save face, and hopefully some frustration of having to shell out another $100 bucks for new one. Let me know if you have anything to add, or awesome recovery stories!

If all went well, you saved it, woot WOOT!!! You win!
If not, you have a couple options.

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--Charge it--
Your battery might be dead, try plugging it in for a while and see if it works

--New Battery--
Sometimes, the battery gets wet and goes shot. If you're willing and it's worth it, look into buy a new battery (store, ebay, etc.)

If you can, try to reset your phone to factory settings or something equivalent.

--Wait longer--
Remember when I said 1-7 days? Maybe not all the water is out and you fried your motherboard... whoops. If you didn't fry or short circuit any of the connections, you still might have a chance.
Great example: my brother's phone didn't work at first when he tried it. After forgetting about it and leaving it in a box for a few months, it managed to turn on and almost worked well enough to use again for resale... almost.

--Admit Defeat--
It's not always gonna work. Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do (if you lost it in the lake, or somehow managed to flush it down the toilet... you poor, poor unlucky bastard) and buy a new phone. Often times, Ebay will have some great phones (if you have a SIM card, you don't even need to get it activated by your carrier!), or worst case scenario, you go to your local wireless store and hang your head in shame.


yshihoin1 (author)2013-10-05

what do you do if it was already air dried before you rinsed it?

jim5150jvc (author)2011-06-20

I always thought the best thing to do in this situation would be to spray the heck out the insides with WD-40. That way, it would help displace not only the water molecules (the WD stands for "water displacement" fyi), but also have a better chance of also removing any electrically-conducting ions that would have deposited themselves on exposed electrical parts. Of course, you cell phone will probably have that distinctive WD-40 smell for the rest of it's life; and dust tends to stick to WD-40. But this might not be too much of a problem since the cover of the phone prevents most of the dust from entering anyway.

What do you guys think of this? am I totally off my rocker?

coolrobot (author)2010-10-09

yeah,i dropped some water on my ipod touch(without knowing) and it somehow went inside(i think by the dock connector) so i turned it turned on,everything worked fine,then after a few seconds the vol. up button reacted as a on/off button as well as the power button.i got scared so i put it on top of a heater and left it there for about2 mins(hoping to dry the water inside),andguess what?it didn't turn on.i put it outside for a couple of mins(winter) so it would stop being hot.yeah,it got cold and still didn't turn on.i left it there for 2 days(on my desk) without touching it and hoping my parents wouln'd kill the end it turned on but the touchscreen did not work.AND THATS MY STORY

jcreitz (author)2010-05-22

If you dropped your phone or device in SEA WATER or any salt water, a thorough rinse is essential: otherwise the salt will corrode and ruin everything metallic in the phone, including the electronics.  I would recommend a wash and a rinse in distilled water.

thebriguy (author)jcreitz2010-09-19

And don't forget about SWEAT (basically salt water) - I work hard outside and sweat so much that my clothes were sopping and it got into my phone! I opened it up and it did turn the moisture sticker pink, and my phone didn't work.
I dried it out, but didn't rinse it - but got it to work. It has problems now though. It makes peoples voice sound crackely and it turns itself off when I slide it open or closed. I never thought of rinsing it out.
Do you think a rinse of some sort would be prudent at this time?

jcreitz (author)2010-05-22

Use compressor or compressed air to thoroughly blow everything out of the insides.  Depending on the conformation of the device, ie. airflow, you can cut your drying time from 7 days to a day or less.  Risk: low

thebriguy (author)jcreitz2010-09-19

make sure your compressor has a water catch on it/line drier. Otherwise it may spit water :-(

slacker13121 (author)2010-07-11

If you just take out the battery and put everything in a bag of rice, the rice will soak up all of the water in your device. I had to leave my phone in for about 2 days. Works like new now.

mladyraven (author)2010-07-10

OK, I have a Sanza Fuze 8G MP player. I was multitasking and threw the sheets into the wash with my player and headphones in them. Found them when I went to get the clothes out of the machine. I cannot open this machine. I checked around and it does not seem as if it can be opened. I use this every night for sleep. It was off when it went into the water. I did touch the side to see if it would go on.. just for a second. The screen stayed black. Any suggestions what I need to do if anything to save it. Can I use brown rice? Blow dry the entire Fuze? How long should I wait before trying to recharge? Thanks I really cannot afford to replace at this time so any suggestions would help.

skinn076 (author)mladyraven2010-07-10

Most likely, you can open it. I'd only recommend only taking the initial cover off to let it dry. Keep the battery out and dry it for few days. Your best option is probably just air-drying, but rice would work--just use your common sense and make sure grains wouldn't get stuck in it. Wait a few days, turn it on, give it a charge and with a little luck it'll come back to life. If not, there are usually some pretty good deals for refurbished ones online. Google shopping is a great place to look for 'em. Hopefully it works for ya!

-max- (author)2010-06-25

LOL!!! "(lets hope you didnt flush it)"

ANDY! (author)2010-05-24

 Do not eat- silica gel works. Rice in a pinch

clichej1 (author)2010-05-22

why not putting your device in a ziploc bag with an hygroscopic substance after opening it. (doing carefully so that you dont get chemicals in your device)

The hygroscopic substance will dry out the humidity in the bag forcing the water in your device to evaporate. 

Jazzajon (author)2010-05-13

My 15 year old son left his sony ericson phone in his pocket when it went into the dirty laundry. My wife then put it through our Bosch washing machine at 40 degrees.  Whe we found it we took the phone apart and put it in a bowl and covered it with  uncooked rice. We then left it for a day and a night in our heated airing cupboard.  The rice absorbs all the moisture through osmosis.  The phone, once we recharged the battery, works perfectly.  PS throw the rice away after don't cook with it!!!

ddpedersen (author)2010-05-13

The problem with water is that it can take a week or two to fully dry from all the small nooks and crannies in your device.  If you don't let it dry long enough, it could short our your phone, and then it is really finished.

If you can take your phone fully apart, soak the circuit board briefly in alcohol, then remove and put in front of a fan.  The idea is to displace any water with alcohol, and then dry it quickly.

As long as you don't leave the rubber seals in the alcohol for an extended period of time, it should not do that much damage to them.  You can always use a coat of light oil to preserve the seals if you are really concerned.

Note: Never put the screen in alcohol, if your screen has water in it, you should just buy a new one.

Jebotepatak (author)2010-05-12

I had a 1Gb Sony mp3 player i thought i lost it till i realised it was in between the body and trunk in the car mind you it was filled with water...i just opened it up let it dry for a good 4weeks then turned it on n wallah everything works from uploading software to uploading music ..its a mystery ..i guess SOny is really well made!

Micksta (author)2010-05-11

heyyy!!!!! i used to have that sansa!!!!!

AshleySix (author)2009-12-01

I just left my Nextar/Nexter Mp3 out in a cold rain storm, I'll reply in a week if it works, or out the twenty bucks used to buy it? Lol, I knew not to turn the thing on, but wasnt sure what to do with it in general after taking out the battery. It has water in the screen too, since it is cracked. Maybe it's time to get a new one anyway....

zack247 (author)2009-11-05

i once had found an old nokia phone lying in the street. it was completely saturated, but it still worked after a little drying out, and my many attempts to find a charger. it seems to me that nokias are pretty strong! they can take anything you throw at them. (or you throw them at, i got really mad when i couldn't find a charger, so i threw it at the wall, and it still worked)

skinn076 (author)zack2472009-11-06

I love Nokias! Mine has been through the washer at least 3 times. I only wish I could still use my old brick on the Verizon network.

Ebay has a ton of chargers if you're still looking.

 My Nokia has been in the toilet, run over by a truck, buried, had a power surge, and yet it still lasts two weeks on one charge.

Bright Shadow (author)2009-11-05

 Heh... I dropped my PSP in the toilet, (stupid headphones) and did almost everything you said not to.

Something tells me it can't be saved.

skinn076 (author)Bright Shadow2009-11-06

Sometimes that happens... it's worth trying everything and waiting a couple days, but it's not a cure-all. Best of luck.

reggaebaybee (author)2009-09-02

what if you dropped your phone in sea water and you were told there is nothing to do about it and you left it lying around for maybe 7 day before you react to it too late to use these methods??

reluttr (author)reggaebaybee2009-10-04

Try soaking it in isotopic alcohol for a few hours, then allow the device to dry for a few additional days. It should wash out all the salt with the least chance of damaging anything that wasn't already damaged.

skinn076 (author)reggaebaybee2009-09-02

I'd make sure to take out the battery and rinse it off with tap water since it has salt water all over it before you really do anything. I'd probably give it a shot. Worst case scenario nothing happens and you have to get a new one anyway, best case you just saved your phone and the pain of having to re-enter all your contacts!

senario 158 (author)2009-05-03

i got confused and almost put it in the microwave & then i got it.

senario 158 (author)2009-05-03

thanks! my iphone 3g went through the washer and i almost returned it until i read this!!! thanks!!!!!!

taterkiller (author)2009-04-29

hey skinn076 is water damage covered for the creative ZEN

skinn076 (author)taterkiller2009-04-30

No clue, but I doubt it. Check your warranty info to be sure. Probably your best chance is if you somehow have a product replacement or insurance plan of some sort. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

anayar2 (author)2009-02-28

thanks for the advice, i tried it, but my MP3 player (Sansa 2 GB) was still out after trying the steps. i tried putting it in front of a fan for a week, but when i plugged it in and switched it on, my player decided to say au revoir. is there anything i can do to still save it, or should i go get a new one??

anayar2 (author)anayar22009-04-01

Thanks for the good instructable and your responce... im not too sad though cause i got a great deal on a ipod touch off craigslist but thanks a bunch anyways!!!

skinn076 (author)anayar22009-02-28

That's actually the same player I did it with. Unfortunately, there's probably not a whole lot of hope for you. If you're pretty patient, you could probably try another week and see if there's any luck.., but sorry to say, you'd probably be best off buying a new one. At this point, I'd probably try one of the riskier methods (e.g. Sitting in a bed of rice, Hair drier, sun exposure, etc.), although it's unfortunately a pretty slim chance that it'd work at this point, so I'd probably try those, but get a new one pretty soon. There are some pretty good deals for Sansa's on, (I managed to snag an 8 gig for $50 on, or you can wait a week or so until one comes up on the "Daily Deal'. Let me know if there's anything else I can help you out with! I'd be more than happy to share my experience with other online stores, sansa, other MP3 player companies, and any other questions or comments! -Eric

Mario1 (author)skinn0762009-03-02

The funny thing is that you say that hair dryer is risky ... I reflowed my xbox360 ram chips with a heat gun :D

skinn076 (author)Mario12009-03-03

Touche. I usually try to err on the side of caution, but you do make a pretty good point. It's more that I feel a hair drier is a mostly unnecessary risk. In respect to your argument though, it's not like they weren't soldered with heat in the first place ;-)

shemayil (author)2009-03-25

Hai I recently got a palm z22 to organize my life. It was really helpful until after a week it got wet in my bag. I didn’t know initially it is wet. So I tried to use it the next day it was not working. So I try to charge it. Still it was not on. Then I saw that inside the palm cover is wet. So I used blow dryer on low heat setting. Then I tried to on the power button. I got little success. It was on but the screen resolution is very low. I can barely able to read it. Then I reset it. Still it was in the same condition. I let it dry as it is for a day. Then I opened only the back and blow dry it again. Still it was the same condition. The battery is fused to the back cover. I haven’t tried to open the front. Today I am trying to charge it to see whether that will solve the problem. My question is what I can do to get the screen resolution back?

skinn076 (author)shemayil2009-03-25

It might have been the blowdrier; heat can affect the LCD display. I wouldn't hold my breath, but here are a couple things I'd try if I were you: 1. If you can, try adjusting the resolution brightness within the phone setup/settings 2. Make sure the battery terminals (copper/brass Battery to Palm connection) are clean and dry. 2. You could try replacing the battery to see if the resolution improves. 3. You could wait it out and see if it gets any better. 4. Ensure that the screen is dry. There might be a small piece of glass/plastic over the LCD display that has water trapped in it. You could try and see if it dries and improves, or you could use the blowdrier on low/cool on the screen (there's a slight risk that your screen might turn darker/black).

shemayil (author)skinn0762009-03-30

hi, I opened it twice fully. there is no water inside.but i saw some metals are little rusty. the screen is not readable. Is is possible to repair or replace the screen? How much will it cost? Otherwise i am planning to go for another pda.Could you please help!!

shemayil (author)skinn0762009-03-26

hi, thanks for the reply. How do we open the front screen. I open the other 3 sides. but i couldn't open the top side with the connector. i think the battery is attached to the back cover. please help me!

Captmeach7 (author)2009-02-07

My girlfriend dropped her phone in the toilet and called me freakin out. It was mid summer and very hot, so I told her to take the phone and lay it on the dash of her car. I told her to roll up all the windows and leave it alone for as long as possible. All the moisture dried and the phone powered right up. If it didn't work, sprint honors water damage for phones so it didn't matter. This happened last June and she is still using the same phone.

Mario1 (author)Captmeach72009-03-15

so she speaks with a phone that was dropped in a TOILET ??? i would of sell this phone as soon as possible :D

Captmeach7 (author)Mario12009-03-15

well if you keep it clean regularly toilet water can have less bacteria than other water. but yeah the phone was dropped into non urine water and wiped and dried afterwards. she wouldnt be chewing on it.........i hope.

skinn076 (author)Captmeach72009-02-08

Hm, that's one technique I've never heard to be honest--nor the comment about Sprint. Thanks Captmeach!

ReCreate (author)2009-02-24

I will test this method with my Garmin legend Etrex GPS(get it ,get it?)
its water proof

skinn076 (author)ReCreate2009-03-03

I suppose I can't really argue that!

ReCreate (author)skinn0762009-03-04

ha yeah i can take that think in a swimming pool and it still works perfectly fine! I have submerged it in water many times and it still works perfectly fine for me

Mario1 (author)2009-03-02

Well... i dropped my telephone (se k310i flashed to se w200i) it didn't wanted to turn on i did a lil session with the good 'o' hairdryer and it works with 2 "small problems...

1'st the joystick can't go up and right
2'nd when you press 7 it types 7* when you press 8 it types 80 when you press 9 it types 9# o yeah... and when you press 5 nothing happens :) .

@ the beginning i wasn't able to turn it on because it typed 14 instead of 4... and my pin code is 4146 ....

skinn076 (author)Mario12009-03-03

Heh, I remember having a phone pretty similar to that. I'm glad to hear it's still (kinda) working!

temp (author)2009-01-23

Sweet phone

skinn076 (author)temp2009-03-03

Thanks, it's actually an old phone, Nokia 3220. I tell ya, that phone took everything I could throw at it (even the washing machine). I wish I could still use it on my Verizon plan, but such is life.

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