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

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

*****BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING, DO NOT TURN YOUR DEVICE ON*****
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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Warranties:
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:
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

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

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

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

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)

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

--Oven--
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

--Freezer--
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

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.

Step 8: YES!!! PRESS THE BUTTON!!! TURN IT ON!!!

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.)

--Reset--
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.

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    54 Discussions

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

    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?

    2 replies

    alright well NOW it won't turn on at all.all i get is a white screen.diagnosis anyone? my mp3 is an RCR (or is it RCV?i can never tell)i also noticed there is water on the side of the screen.i really don't want to put the billions of songs i have on my mp3 onto a new one.IT TAKES LIKE AN HOUR.(and staring at a computer screen for an hour putting songs back on is NEVER fun.)

    Throw it in a Tupperware full of rice for a day or two. The rice should be able to sap the moisture out pretty well, but there really aren't any sure fire methods.

    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 on.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 me.in the end it turned on but the touchscreen did not work.AND THATS MY STORY

    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.

    1 reply

    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?

    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

    1 reply

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

    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.

    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.

    1 reply

    Most likely, you can open it. http://www.anythingbutipod.com/archives/2008/03/sandisk-sansa-fuze-disassembly.php 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!

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

    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. 

    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!!!

    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.

    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!

    I just left my Nextar/Nexter Mp3 out in a cold rain storm, I'll reply in a week if it works, or just....cash 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....