What do I do if my phone is water damaged and won’t turn on?

Having a water damaged phone that won’t turn on can be very stressful. Your phone likely contains important data, contacts, and photos that you don’t want to lose. The good news is that there are several things you can try on your own to fix a water damaged phone before taking more extreme measures like professional data recovery services.

Assessing the Water Damage

The first step is to assess the extent of the water damage. Was the phone fully submerged or did it just get splashed? How long was it in the water? The more water exposure, the more damaged the internal components may be. Carefully look over the phone and note any water in the ports, under the screen, or in the camera lens. Also check for condensation or fogging under the screen glass.

Minor Splashes vs Full Submersion

If the phone only got a little bit wet from a splash or light rain, there’s a good chance it can be revived. The water likely hasn’t penetrated deep into the interior. However, if the phone was fully submerged for any length of time, the internal circuitry is more likely to be extensively damaged from the water exposure.

Freshwater vs Saltwater

Whether the phone was damaged in freshwater or saltwater also makes a difference. Saltwater is much more corrosive and conductive, so saltwater damage generally has a more destructive impact on electronics. There’s still a chance to save the phone with saltwater damage, but the prognosis is worse than freshwater damage.

Time Matters

How long the phone was in liquid also affects the extent of the damage. A quick dip or splash can often be remedied. But if your phone was left in water for hours or days, the internal components are far more likely to be corroded or damaged beyond repair.

First Steps After Water Damage

Once you’ve assessed the type of water damage, take immediate action to potentially stop any further damage.

Remove From Liquid

If the phone is still in water, remove it right away. The less time it spends submerged, the better chance you have at saving it.

Dry It Off

Gently dry the exterior of the phone with a clean, soft cloth to soak up any external moisture. Don’t try to charge it or turn it on while it’s wet.

Remove Battery and SIM Card

If possible, remove the battery and SIM card from the phone to prevent short circuiting. This step may not be possible on phones with built-in batteries, like an iPhone. For those, just don’t attempt to charge or power on until completely dry.

Don’t Use Hair Dryer or Heat

Do NOT attempt to dry your phone with a hair dryer, heating pad, oven, or other direct heat source. Exposing the phone to high heat can damage the internal components that are already vulnerable from the water exposure.

Cleaning and Drying the Phone

Once you’ve done immediate water removal, it’s time to thoroughly clean and dry the phone before attempting to turn it on again.

Flush with Isopropyl Alcohol

Use 90% isopropyl alcohol and a soft brush to gently flush out the ports, buttons, and crevices. This helps displace any remaining water and dry out the interior circuits. Let the alcohol fully evaporate before moving on.

Absorb Moisture with Rice

Place the disassembled phone components in a bowl or bag of uncooked rice overnight, or for at least 24 hours. The rice will help absorb any residual moisture both on the surface and interior of the device.

Use Drying Packets

Silica gel desiccant packs also absorb moisture well. Make sure they are the indicator type, which change color when saturated, so you know when to replace them. Place them in a sealed bag with the disassembled phone for 24-48 hours.

Try a Phone Drying Box

Phone drying boxes utilize heat and airflow to thoroughly dry out phones and other small electronics. Follow the product instructions for optimal drying time, usually around 24 hours.

Drying Method Pros Cons
Rice Cheap and readily available Slow drying time
Silica Gel Packs Very absorbent Need a supply on hand already
Drying Box Quickly dries phone interior Additional cost to purchase

Inspection and Testing

Once the phone is completely dry, carefully reassemble it and inspect everything before powering it on. Here’s what to look for:

Check for Visible Damage

Inspect for any corrosion, mineral deposits, fogging, or other physical damage on the ports, screen, and other components from the water exposure.

Check for Trapped Moisture

Shine a flashlight into the ports and crevices to look for any trapped moisture or fogging that could short circuit the phone.

Power It On

Install the battery and SIM card, connect the charger, and attempt to power the phone on. Hopefully it springs back to life! If not, don’t lose hope yet.

Test Basic Functions

If the phone powers on, test out the basic functions – screen, buttons, charge port, speaker, microphone, camera, etc. Make calls, take photos, charge it, to confirm everything is working.

Backup ASAP

If the phone seems functional, immediately back up your data before doing anything else. You don’t know if or when it might stop working again.

Advanced Troubleshooting Tips

If your phone won’t power on or has problems after drying out, don’t dispose of it just yet! There are a few advanced tricks you can try to bring an unresponsive phone back to life.

Clean Electronic Connections

Use rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs to gently clean the battery, SIM card, and port contacts. Gently scrape off any corrosion or deposits from the metal contacts.

Check for Short Circuits

Examine the interior for any signs of short circuiting like scorch marks or melted plastic. This can prevent power flow even after drying out.

Replace Damaged Parts

If the battery, charging port, SIM card reader, or other key components are damaged, replacing them may get the phone working again.

Try Jump Starting

For phones that turn on but won’t charge, try jump starting by leaving it plugged into a charger for several hours. This may provide enough temporary power to the battery to get it charging normally.

When to Take It to a Professional

If you are unable to revive the phone on your own after trying the steps above, it’s time to seek professional help. Experienced phone repair experts have tools and techniques that could still save your phone and the valuable data on it.

Data Recovery Service

Data recovery specialists can sometimes retrieve data even from phones with severe water damage. This is an expensive service but may be worth it for irreplaceable data.

Phone Repair Shop

Phone repair techs have access to manufacturer disassembly guides and replacement parts. They may be able to diagnose and swap out any damaged components.

Phone Manufacturer Service

The phone manufacturer, like Apple or Samsung, may be able to attempt more advanced repairs since they have direct access to the full range of manufacturer parts and schematics.

Repair Option Average Cost Success Rate
Data Recovery Service $500 – $1500+ Moderate
Phone Repair Shop $50 – $250 High
Manufacturer Service $200 – $700+ Very High

Preventing Water Damage

While you hopefully can revive your water damaged phone, prevention is the best medicine. Here are some tips to keep your phone safe from liquid damage in the future:

Use a Waterproof Case

Protect your phone with a durable waterproof case when going near water. Make sure it is designed for full submersion.

Keep It Away From Water

Avoid setting your phone down near sinks or on pool deck edges where it could get splashed or knocked into liquid.

Don’t Use While Wet

Dry off your hands before picking up your phone when they are wet from washing or outside water activities.

Inspect Seals Regularly

For water resistant phones, inspect the seals around ports, SIM trays, and screens to ensure they are still intact and dust free.

Turn Off Before Liquid Exposure

If you accidentally drop your phone in water, immediately turn it off to potentially minimize damage from short circuiting.

Replacement Options

If your phone is beyond salvaging, all is not lost. Here are some options for replacing your water damaged device:

File an Insurance Claim

If you pay for mobile phone insurance, water damage is often a covered cause of loss. You can file a claim to get compensation for a replacement.

Use the Warranty

Water damage may still be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty if it has not expired. Contact them to see if you qualify for a repair or replacement.

Buy a Used Phone

You can find good deals on used phones in working condition on sites like eBay and Swappa. Just be sure to buy from reputable sellers with positive feedback.

Upgrade Your Phone

Look at the water damage as an opportunity to upgrade to a new phone model with updated features. Many carriers offer discounts and trade-in deals.


Dealing with a water damaged phone can be stressful, but don’t panic. In many cases, phones can be revived after a quick dip or splash if you take prompt action. Thoroughly drying the phone and cleaning the electronics can work wonders. For more severe water damage, seek professional phone recovery or repair services which may still be able to rescue both the phone and your important data. Hopefully with the right drying techniques and some persistence, your water damaged phone will be back up and running again soon.