Do micro SD cards get ruined if they get wet?

Quick Answer

Micro SD cards can become damaged or ruined if they get wet or are exposed to moisture or liquids. The extent of the damage depends on factors like how wet the card got, what kind of liquid it was exposed to, and how quickly it can dry out. But moisture poses a serious risk of corrupting data on the card or causing a total failure. It’s important to handle and store micro SD cards carefully to keep them away from moisture. If a card does get wet, don’t try to use it until it’s completely dry, and even then the data may be unrecoverable.

Can a Wet Micro SD Card Be Fixed?

It may be possible to fix and recover data from a micro SD card that got wet, but there are no guarantees. Here are some steps you can try:

1. Turn off the device and remove the micro SD card

As soon as you realize the micro SD card has gotten wet, power off the device it’s inserted in and gently remove the card to prevent any further damage. Do not try to read or transfer data from the wet card.

2. Dry the micro SD card

Use a soft, lint-free cloth or towel to gently blot excess moisture from the surface of the card. Do not rub, twist or apply pressure which could damage the internal components. Allow the card to air dry completely for 24-48 hours before proceeding. Place it on a dry surface away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

3. Check for water damage

Inspect the card once fully dried for any visible corrosion, mineral deposits, or damage to the contacts. If the circuit board appears discolored or damaged, the card may be beyond repair.

4. Try reading the SD card on a computer

With the card fully dried, insert it into a card reader or SD card slot on a computer. See if the computer recognizes the card and can read any of the files. If so, immediately back up whatever data you can by copying it to another drive.

5. Attempt data recovery software

If the computer is unable to read any files, try using data recovery software designed for memory cards. This specialized software can scan the card and recover data even from corrupt or damaged cards in many cases.

6. Send to a data recovery service (if needed)

For wet cards that are unreadable by regular means, you may have to resort to a professional data recovery service. They have specialized tools and clean room facilities to repair storage media and attempt extracting the data at the lowest level. This can get expensive but may be worth it for irreplaceable files.

Best Practices to Keep Micro SD Cards Dry

While you can dry out and attempt to repair a wet memory card, it’s much better to prevent the card from getting wet in the first place:

– Store cards in a dry, sealed case when not in use.

– Keep cards away from liquids like water, coffee, and other beverages.

– Don’t use memory cards in wet environments if possible.

– Check the seal on devices like phones that accept cards.

– Eject and remove the card from devices before exposing them to moisture.

– Carry cards in a separate protective case rather than loose in a pocket, bag or wallet.

– Don’t handle cards with wet hands. Dry your hands thoroughly first.

– Keep liquids, even drinks, away from devices or areas where you use the memory cards. A simple spill can be disastrous.

The Risks of Exposing a Micro SD Card to Moisture

Micro SD cards contain delicate electronics and circuitry which can easily malfunction or short circuit when coming into contact with moisture, liquids or even very humid air. Here are some of the most common problems wet cards experience:

Corrosion –

The metal components and contacts will start to oxidize and corrode. This can quickly spread across the circuits and make electrical connections fail.

Mineral deposits –

As moisture evaporates, it can leave behind mineral residue from the liquid that landed on the card’s components. This can cause electrical shorts and physical damage.

Data corruption –

Exposure to moisture can scramble data on the memory chips, rendering files and directories unreadable. The damage may only affect certain areas of the card randomly.

Physical damage –

If enough moisture seeps beneath the SD card casing, it can cause the circuit board to warp, peel, crack or become fully severed. Any physical damage usually requires a professional recovery service to have a chance of salvaging data.

Mold growth –

If a wet memory card is sealed in an enclosed space for a prolonged period, mold can actually begin growing on the surface. Obviously this will make the card unusable.

Can Salt Water Damage Micro SD Cards?

Exposing a micro SD card to salt water can be even more damaging than fresh water. Here’s what the salt can do:

– Speed corrosion –

The dissolved salts will accelerate the oxidation process as metal components corrode. This can spread across the entire card rapidly.

– Conduct electricity –

Salt water is a much better electrical conductor than fresh water. Any moisture on the card can cause shorts, signal leakage, and voltage spikes.

– Cause mineral build-up –

As salt water evaporates, the leftover mineral deposits will be much thicker and more conductive than tap water residue.

– Lead to pitting –

Salt is abrasive and can physically “sandblast” the card’s delicate metal parts at a microscopic level as the grains dissolve and interact with moisture.

For these reasons, a micro SD card exposed to ocean water, saline solution, or bodily fluids has an even lower chance of being revived compared to fresh water damage. The corrosive effect is rapid and substantial. Make sure to never handle memory cards around salt water sources.

Factors That Affect Water Damage on Micro SD Cards

If a micro SD card does become exposed to moisture, the extent of the damage depends on a few key factors:

1. Volume of liquid –

The more fluid the card comes into contact with, the greater the risk of serious damage as moisture seeps deep inside the casing. A slight splash may only affect the surface, while submerging it can flood the interior components.

2. Type of liquid –

Chemically reactive or corrosive substances like salt water, soda, alcohol, etc. will rapidly damage circuits and components compared to relatively inert fresh water.

3. Drying time –

Leaving the card wet for a long time allows damage to spread as metal corrodes and minerals deposit. Prompt drying minimizes the exposure period.

4. Power state –

If the SD card was inserted in a powered-on device during exposure, moisture ingress can immediately cause shorts and electrical arcing damage.

5. Design of SD card –

High quality, name-brand micro SD cards typically have more protective housings that seal out small amounts of moisture better than cheap, no-name cards.

So even a quick splash of tap water on a powered-off device may let a good quality card escape with recoverable data. But immersing a cheap off-brand card for 30 seconds while running can permanently destroy it.

Tips for Drying Out a Wet Micro SD Card

If your micro SD card did get wet, follow these tips to dry it out as effectively as possible before attempting data recovery:

– Remove it from the device immediately and power the device off. Keeping it inside will allow moisture to spread to the pins and device slot.

– Do not try to read the card or access files until it’s dry. This can short circuit the card and make data recovery impossible.

– Lightly blot moisture from the card using a soft cloth. Do not rub the card.

– Point a fan directly at the card to speed up drying time. Keep the fan a few feet away on low speed to avoid blowing the card around.

– Place the card in a sealed container with a desiccant pack like those found in product packaging. The beads will actively absorb any remaining moisture.

– Let the card dry for at least 48 hours before trying to access the data. Longer is better.

– Visually inspect that all moisture beads have fully evaporated before reinserting the card anywhere. Look for any remaining damp spots.

– Try reading the card on a computer before using it again in the original device, in case moisture caused problems with the device’s SD card slot.

Can You Fix Corroded Micro SD Card Contacts?

If a micro SD card was exposed to moisture long enough for the metal contacts to corrode visibly, fixing the corrosion is unlikely to salvage the card or data. However, you can try cleaning the contacts gently using these steps:

– Use a cotton swab dipped in 90%+ isopropyl alcohol to lightly clean the contacts. Rub side to side, not in circles.

– Do not scrub hard enough to scratch or gouge the contacts. The goal is to dissolve corrosion residue, not polish the metal.

– Check if the cleaning helped remove all discoloration and oxidation from the pins. Reapply alcohol and wipe again if needed.

– Insert the card and try reading it. The data itself is likely still corrupted or damaged beyond this point though.

– If cleaning fails to help, do not attempt electrical jumpers or repairs yourself. Bring to a professional recovery service instead.

Corrosion is usually a sign that moisture reached the card’s interior circuits, likely damaging components and data chips beyond the point of DIY repair. But gently cleaning the contacts using alcohol is worth attempting before seeking professional recovery.

Can You Recover Data from a Dead Micro SD Card?

It may be possible to recover data from a micro SD card that suffered complete failure due to water exposure or physical damage, but requires professional help. Here are some recovery methods:

– **Chip-off** – Carefully removing the memory chips from the damaged card and reading them directly using specialized tools.

– **Logical repair** – Using advanced scanning tools to repair corrupted filesystem tables and directories on failed media.

– **Low level data reading** – Bypassing the card’s onboard controller and directly accessing raw flash memory contents.

– **Microsoldering** – Repairing broken solder joints on the card’s circuitry, if damage is simple enough.

– **Head swaps** – Installing working read/write heads recovered from other damaged cards of the same type.

– **PCB repairs** – Fixing damaged card Printed Circuit Boards through jumper wires and components replacement.

– **Clean room transplant** – Moving memory chips to an identical working card’s PCB.

This requires an experienced SD card data recovery technician working in a dust-free cleanroom environment. DIY attempts often make data truly unrecoverable, so leave it to the pros if the card is dead.

Tips to Keep Micro SD Cards Dry and Protected

While recovering wet SD cards is hit or miss, you can take the following precautions to avoid water damage in the first place:

– Store unused cards in a sealed plastic case or bag. Include a desiccant pack if possible.

– Carefully seal devices like phones, cameras or drones that contain an SD card and check for gaps.

– Never change cards near moisture sources, especially salt water like the beach.

– Keep food and drinks away from devices or work areas with memory cards present.

– Eject and remove the card before going near water, to prevent device slot issues too.

– Carry only what you need – leave spare cards protected at home when not in use.

– Back up important card data regularly so it can be restored if the card fails.

– Use quality name brand SD cards rather than cheap no-name cards more prone to water damage.

– Let wet cards dry for 48+ hours before re-use, to be safe. Immediately backup data if readable at all.


Micro SD cards and water do not mix! Moisture can quickly seep into the interior of an SD card and cause corrosive damage to the delicate electronics inside the casing. This can result in anything from corrupted data to a completely dead card. Although data recovery is sometimes possible if the card was dried quickly, water damage is best avoided by keeping SD cards properly stored and handled. Follow the tips in this article to maximize the lifespan and reliability of these tiny storage devices. With proper precautions, your irreplaceable photos, videos and other data can remain safely protected from loss.