Can screen water damage be fixed?

Electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops are very susceptible to water damage, especially on the screen. When a device’s screen gets wet, it can cause issues like discoloration, distortion, flickering, dead spots, and can even make the whole screen stop working entirely. Many people wonder if screen water damage can be repaired or if the device just needs to be replaced.


In most cases, screen water damage on devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops can be fixed with the right repair techniques and parts. Some options like water-damage stickers, screen replacements, and moisture extraction can often get a device working normally again.

What causes screen water damage?

There are a few main ways that water damage can occur on a device screen:

  • Dropping the device in water – This could be dropping it in a pool, toilet, bath, puddle, etc. Full water submersion causes immediate and extensive water damage.
  • Spills and splashes on the screen – Common liquids like water, coffee, soda, etc can splash onto a device screen and seep down into its interior.
  • Rain or other precipitation – Getting rained on while using a phone outdoors, for example, can also allow moisture in.
  • Condensation buildup – If a phone is moved from cold to warm areas quickly, condensation can form on its screen and interior components.

Once liquid makes its way under the screen glass and reaches the sensitive electronic components powering the display, water damage occurs. The level of damage depends on factors like how much liquid got in and which components were impacted.

Common screen water damage issues

Here are some of the most common screen issues that arise due to water exposure:

  • Discoloration or distortion – When water seeps down to the screen’s backlight, LED, or LCD components, it can cause the display to start showing discolored or distorted patches.
  • Flickering – If connections to the screen are impacted, the display may start flickering or blinking erratically.
  • Dead spots – Portions of the screen that no longer light up at all are known as dead spots, which are often caused by water short-circuiting connections.
  • Unresponsive touchscreen – The digitizer layer that makes the screen touch-sensitive can also be damaged and prevent touch commands from being recognized.
  • Full display failure – In worst cases, the entire screen will go completely black and become unusable if critical components short out.

These issues can range from minor annoyances to complete failure to display anything on the screen. The extent of the damage determines how repairable the device may be.

Can rice help dry out water damage?

A common home remedy many people try when their device gets wet is letting it sit in uncooked rice. The thinking is that the rice will help absorb or draw out any moisture that got inside the device. However, there are a few issues with using the rice method:

  • Rice absorbs very slowly – Rice only absorbs minuscule amounts of water at a time. It can take weeks for rice to make even a small difference.
  • Rice does not do anything for corrosion – Even if rice can absorb some moisture, it does not stop corrosion and mineral buildup from occurring on electronic components.
  • Moisture can become trapped – Any openings or ports on the device where moisture got in can allow that water to become trapped inside, away from the rice.
  • May cause additional damage – Rice particles and dust can get lodged in small device openings, causing further issues.

While the rice trick is very popular, it is not actually an effective drying method according to most electronics and repair experts. There are much better options available for properly drying out a wet device screen and components.

How to dry out and repair screen water damage

To fully dry out and properly repair water-damaged device screens, more advanced repair methods should be used. Here are some effective ways to fix screen water damage:

Water-damage indicator stickers

Many modern electronic devices have water damage indicator stickers inside that change color if they come into contact with moisture. A trained repair technician can open up the device and check these stickers to determine if internal moisture is present and which components may have been exposed.

Isopropyl alcohol wash

Washing the device’s internal components in 99% isopropyl alcohol can help rapidly displace any standing water and moisture buildup. This removes water much quicker compared to rice.

Ultrasonic cleaning

After disassembly, an ultrasonic cleaner uses high-frequency vibrations to agitate remaining water out of small crevices and components. It creates bubbles that displace adhered liquid when they collapse.

Ultrasonic Cleaning Pros Ultrasonic Cleaning Cons
Removes lodged moisture and particles Cannot be used on certain plastics
More effective than isopropyl bath alone Requires full device disassembly
Improves cleaning under connectors, IC’s, etc Equipment costs are relatively high

Vacuum drying

A vacuum drying chamber uses negative pressure to help pull any moisture trapped inside tiny interior spaces. It essentially “sucks” out leftover water vapors.

Mineral displacement

Water mineral content that gets left behind can also cause electrical shorts and corrosion. A mineral displacement bath uses chemicals that remove mineral deposits and prevent further corrosion damage.

Screen replacement

For significant display damage like dead pixels or a cracked LCD, a full screen replacement is often needed. This involves swapping out the damaged screen for an entirely new display module.

Professional data recovery options

For customers whose device has screen water damage and will not even turn on anymore, professional data recovery services may be required. These companies use specialized tools to extract data before attempting any repairs.

If the main logic board is damaged and needs to be replaced, the data will likely be lost if it is not first offloaded by an expert recovery service. A few options include:

Chip-off data extraction

The memory chip is carefully removed (a “chip-off” process) and placed in a reader device that can access its raw stored data. This is one of the most effective ways to recover data from even seriously damaged devices.

JTAG data recovery

The Joint Test Action Group (JTAG) interface built into many electronics can provide a way to communicate with the chip and read data when normal access is not possible.

Microsoldering repair

If moisture is causing shorts or damage to solder connections on a device’s logic board, microsoldering is a delicate repair process that involves re-flowing solder joints to restore connectivity.

Home moisture sensor monitors

One way to help prevent or minimize future water damage incidents is to set up home moisture monitoring in areas like basements that are prone to flooding. A few sensor options include:

Wireless sensors

Self-contained battery-powered sensors can be placed in different rooms and transmit moisture data wirelessly to a central hub. This allows home moisture to be checked remotely.

Wired sensors

Wired sensors hardwired into a home’s electric system may provide more accurate continuous readings but lack the convenience and flexibility of wireless models.

Water leak detectors

Leak detectors designed for under appliances and plumbing fixtures can detect water leaks as soon as they start and cut off water supply to prevent flooding damage.

Moisture Sensor Type Pros Cons
Wireless Convenient placement anywhere Prone to intermittent signal loss
Wired Reliable always-on monitoring Fixed installation locations
Leak detectors Real-time leak alerts Only detect already occurring leaks

Waterproof cases help prevent water damage

One of the most effective ways to directly prevent water damage to your devices is to use a waterproof case. Options like these help protect your electronics:

Waterproof phone cases

Cases designed to totally seal out moisture allow you to use phones when swimming, at the beach, boating, etc. without risk of water getting in.

Water-resistant pouches

These flexible pouches can be fully submerged and help protect items like phones, tablets, cameras, wallets, and more when doing water activities.

Hard-shell dry boxes

Made from rigid, durable plastic, dry boxes provide complete water protection even when fully underwater, keeping contents dry and accessible.

Waterproof backpacks

Special waterproof backpacks have become popular for keeping gear safe and dry during activities like kayaking, hiking in rain, cycling, and more.

Dirt- and water-proof cases

For outdoor sports and activities, these cases withstand splashing and also prevent damage from impacts, debris, mud and other outdoor elements.

Water Protection Type Best Uses
Phone cases Pools, beaches, boating
Pouches Kayaking, camping, hiking
Dry boxes Underwater filming, fishing
Backpacks Cycling, sailing, rafting
Protective cases Outdoor sports, adventures


Water damage is one of the most common ways that device screens can be damaged, causing issues like distorted images, flickering, dead pixels, unresponsive touch controls, and complete display failure. While the rice method is often tried, it is ineffective at actually repairing internal water damage.

Professional repair techniques like isopropyl alcohol washes, ultrasonic cleaning, vacuum drying, screen replacement, and board-level repairs are needed to fully address water damaged screens and internal components. For extreme water damage, professional data recovery services may be required to extract data before repairing the device.

Prevention is also key. Using waterproof cases for electronics can prevent most water damage in the first place. Installing home moisture sensors in flood-prone areas provides early alerts when leaks occur. With the right repair techniques and prevention strategies, screen water damage does not have to become a death sentence for expensive devices.