Many of us have accidentally spilled water or another liquid on our phones or other electronic devices with screens. When this happens, your first reaction may be panic as you wonder if your screen can be saved or will be permanently damaged. The good news is that in many cases, a wet screen can dry out and may work again. However, how likely the screen is to recover depends on a few key factors.
What causes water damage to a screen?
When liquid comes into contact with the internal components of an electronic screen, it can cause corrosion and short circuiting. The metals and electrodes inside the screen can oxidize when they react with water, which can disrupt connections and the touch functionality.
Water can also damage the backlighting system of LCD and LED screens. If water seeps behind the screen and into backlight components like the inverters or LED strips, it can prevent them from working properly to illuminate the screen.
OLED screens can also be damaged by water getting into the organic light-emitting diodes and causing them to degrade or fail entirely. Water can similarly seep behind the capacitive digitizer layer and damage the touch sensor gridlines.
Factors that determine if a wet screen will recover
There are a few key factors that will determine if your water damaged screen has a chance of drying out and working again or if it is permanently beyond repair:
- Amount of water exposure – The less water the screen comes into contact with, the better chance it has of drying out without issue. A quick splash or light spattering of water is better than being submerged.
- Water type – Pure freshwater has less damaging minerals and contaminants than saltwater, chlorinated water, soapy water, or beverages like juice or soda. These can all increase corrosion.
- Speed of drying – The faster you can dry the screen, the less time water sits pooling and potentially shorting connections.
- Screen type – Some types like OLED are more prone to water damage and less repairable than other options like LCD.
- Age and wear of device – An older, more worn screen has a higher chance of issues compared to a newer screen in good condition.
Drying out a wet screen
If your screen does get exposed to moisture, quick action is key to potentially saving it. Here are the steps to dry out a wet screen:
- Immediately power off the device and disconnect all power sources and cables. This can help prevent short circuiting or fires.
- Dry exterior and ports with microfiber cloth to soak up excess moisture.
- Use compressed air to blow out any moisture from ports and crevices.
- Place the device screen-side down on an absorbent, dry cloth or paper towels.
- Leave in a dry, well-ventilated area. Position near a fan to speed up drying time.
- Check on progress frequently. If moisture remains, replace damp towels with fresh dry ones.
- Allow to sit for at least 72 hours before attempting to power on again.
Avoid any heat sources like hairdryers or ovens when drying, as they can cause damage. Only resume use once fully dried.
Chances of screen recovery
The chances your screen will fully work again after water exposure depend on the factors discussed earlier. Here are some estimates on possible recovery:
- Splashed by a few drops: 90% chance of working normally after proper drying.
- Light spattering: 70% chance of recovery with quick action to dry.
- Soaked or submerged less than 10 minutes: 50/50 chance depending on depth and water type.
- Submerged more than 10 minutes: High likelihood of permanent damage even if thoroughly dried.
Even if screen appears to work at first after drying, full functionality may not be restored. Issues like dead pixels, touchscreen glitches, distorted backlighting, fogging or condensation under the screen may show up later after moisture was trapped internally.
Signs your screen suffered permanent water damage
In some cases, even drying out the device fully may not resurrect a water damaged screen. Here are signs the screen itself likely sustained permanent damage:
- Visible water droplets or fogging/condensation trapped under screen
- Corrosion visible around edges or spots on screen
- Cracked glass from rapid temperature changes or impact
- Distorted, discolored, or blacked out display
- Display remains fully unresponsive
- Persistent flickering, freezing, or distortion
- Touchscreen unresponsive or working intermittently
- Backlight or LEDs not fully functional
If these problems remain after thorough drying, or new issues emerge later after it was dried, it’s a sign of irreparable damage to the screen components. A replacement or professional repair may be needed.
Professional repair options
For a water damaged device that fails to recover with drying, seek professional repair services. Here are some options:
OEM manufacturer repair
Companies like Apple and Samsung offer mail-in repair services through their official channels, either directly or via authorized service providers. Pricing is usually hourly for labor plus parts.
Third party repair shops
Independent phone and electronics repair shops offer services for damaged devices. Pricing is usually cheaper than the manufacturer, but quality can vary.
Mail-in repair services
Services like iCracked, UBreakiFix and others allow you to mail in your damaged device and will provide an upfront quote for parts and repair pricing. Convenient but can be slower.
DIY screen replacement
Replacement screens can be purchased from online retailers to attempt repairing it yourself. Only recommended if you have experience with electronics repair.
Preventing water damage
To avoid needing water damage repair in the first place, some prevention tips include:
- Using a waterproof case for phones and devices
- Avoiding use around water like pools or sinks
- Never showering or bathing with device
- Storing in dry areas away from sinks or leaks
- Using moisture absorbing packs near devices
- Exercising caution when consuming beverages near device
Water and electronics don’t mix, but with quick action a wet screen can often be revived with proper drying. The less water exposure, faster drying, and newer condition of the device all increase the chances of a full recovery. If drying doesn’t restore function, professional repair services can determine if replacement of screen components is needed to get your device working again.