A BlackBerry, an iPhone and an Android device go for a swim – what to do when your smartphone gets wet

Yahoo! News - Testing the Limits of Drying
By Joseph Holder on 11 Jun 2011 04:00 pm EDT
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Water and electricity do not mix. All those electrical components and doodads inside your BlackBerry are carefully insulated… with air. Air is a wonderful insulator; it doesn’t conduct electricity. Otherwise, we’d all get horribly shocked every time we went to unplug a lamp. Water conducts electricity; poorly, but it does. When your smartphone gets dunked in water, all those carefully insulated bits and pieces can short out and damage your BlackBerry.

So what is there to do if your BlackBerry (or other smartphone for that matter) gets wet? I’m not talking about a few sprinkles of rain; I’m talking full-on, dropped it in the river wet. Should you turn it on right away? Put it in the oven? Let it dry overnight? The folks over at Yahoo! News were wondering the same thing. Would any smartphone come back to life after going for a swim?

Don't turn on a wet BlackBerry

Yahoo! News tested an Android device, an iPhone, and our beloved BlackBerry by fully immersing the devices in water for a minute (I had to watch with my hand covering my eyes). The advice they give for what to do next is spot on. DON’T TURN ON YOUR BLACKBERRY. Sorry I had to go all caps lock on you there, but it’s important. Turning on your smartphone after it's been in water could wreck it as all the water inside can create multiple short-circuits.

Allow the phone to air-dry, letting most of the water drain out. Pull your battery. Remember, that water is death to your powered BlackBerry. The potential for damage is greatly reduced if there’s no power in the device. Next comes a tip that has been around for ages: bury your BlackBerry (and battery, SIM card, battery door, etc.) in rice. Plain ol’ rice.

The idea is that the rice will draw out and wick away any moisture inside your device. Whether or not this is effective probably depends on a great number of factors, and may not work for all circumstances. What has never been in doubt is the build quality of your average BlackBerry. Of the three smartphones Yahoo! News tested, only one was able to power on after two nights in rice. Guess which one. (Hint: it was the BlackBerry).

Reader comments

A BlackBerry, an iPhone and an Android device go for a swim – what to do when your smartphone gets wet

71 Comments

1st

If that is the way that you treat your BlackBerry, I hope that you don't drop your first born in the tub and let it sit in the water like that. Shame on you. Your hand should be in that jar so fast to rescue it, your hand may fall off.

Now please don't hurt the BlackBerrys. They need TLC !

im running a bb shop here in indonesia. have many many customers dipping their bb into: sewer (the sewers here mostly are wet, full & jammed), closet (just don't think about it when u r helping them do the bb), coffee mug & so on. for sticky liquid its harder. but for most users that pull out the battery quick. i just disassemble the bb, let it dry in front of a fan for mininum 1 hr & assemble it again. for most the batt just gotta be replaced. find a guide to disassemble in youtube keyword eg. "blackberry 9700 disassembly"

I've used the rice trick and it really does work. Be sure to use dry rice and not already cooked rice, though! :P
Great article :)

Hahaha, it would be a sight seeing a drowned BB in a pot of rice that's coming to boil. Out of the oven and into the fire comes to mind.

i am planning to buy bb z3 and heard that it does not have gorilla screen , is it a tough phone ?Will it work if it is dropped accidentally etc. thanks in advance .:)

Don't know about phone. (The one the went in a pool a few years ago - dumb phone) was dead.
A Samsung digital camera wife was wearing went into Zambezi with her when hippo attacked the boat we were in. Both wife and camera were rescued. We pulled out memory chip (out of camera, not wife) and the battery put both behind a refrigerator where the air was warm. Actually the memory card worked right away in another camera. Our camera came back to life in a couple days and has been working fine ever since.

Used rice before when i got caught in a downpour playing golf. Had a Storm 9530 at the time and the screen started to have "dead spots" took the battery out immediately. Stuck the phone in rice when i got home over night and next morning phone worked great. Great little trick. Also if u go out to eat, some places keep rice in their salt shakers to keep moisture out.

My brother just recently dropped his bold 9780 in the pool and it was in there for a gd amount of time. I thought his bb was done for but no joke he took the battery out n left everything in a big bowel of rice for 3-4 days and his bb works perfectly fine! I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it all for myself. I used his bb to test it out and apart from one little water mark on his screen his bb works great! At first it wouldn't ring or vibrate but now it does. ;)

Your brother is very lucky. Because I dropped my blackberr in a toilet and took it out whit in 2 second and than took the batery out but it dit not work very good any more. The track bal stopped working so when I tried to fix that my blackberry died :(

this is funny b/c i spilled a huge glass of water on my torch a couple nights ago and it sat in the water with the power on for several minutes. i immediately turned it off and took out the battery. i let it sit out in the sun for several hrs the next before attempting to install the batt and try to power it on. it works perfectly! i havent experienced any ill side effects. thx for the article!

Do not attempt to turn it off. Go straight to the battery pull. Pushing any button activates circuits including the power button.

The DO NOT TURN ON thing makes no sense since all phones are on anyways at the time is dropped in water.

They probably used whatever function powers it down thus naturally activating a circuit to do it. That may be what killed it since you can't do a battery pull.

My 3 year old went Shaq with my old 9700 in the toliet, I pulled out the battery, the sim card, and memory card. I didn't do the rice trick but sat it on a towel for like 8 hrs and worked fine ever since.

It was moderately interesting, reading the original article:

"The results of our experiment weren't encouraging: the BlackBerry that Becky tested did restart, with no seeming long-term damage.

But the iPhone and the Droid were dead. After two days in the rice and a full battery charge, neither phone came back to life."

I would use Silica kitty litter that is available everywhere as that will pull water way faster than rice.

yes much better. i use silica packets that come with most everything u buy. its free. just save them. i have a gallon jug 3/4 full of the stuff.

i have a 9700 AND a PB. also i'm ready to get a new 9930 when it comes out. but what i have to say here is: STOP SUCH SELF-CHEATING GAMES!

admit it, blackberry is no compete with iphone or android in the app market. it's not an opinion, it's statistics. if you like your blackberry because of the way it is, awesome, good for you. so do i. a blackberry is efficient, cut and dry. that's all i needed for my life.

BUT YOU DON'T NEED TO LIE TO YOURSELF THAT YOUR PHONE IS BETTER THAN THE ONE THAT YOUR WIFE'S SISTER'S HUSBAND'S GOT!

for weeks the crap just fills up this site. c'mon, make some sense. android phone is a platform, not a make. how do you compare make/make/platform? stop cheating yourself. just take a black/white nokia and it powers on like a boss, whenever you wanna do a water contest.

Amongst his rant he did point out that there is no such phone as an Android - that is just a platform. Maybe many Android based phone models by different manufacturers could have survived the water dunk.

A huge majority of Android handsets are made by HTC and cover multiple carriers, what would interest me is how the Motorola (the second largest producer of Android devices IIRC) Defy on T-Mobile would handle this test.

No WinPhones?

I really don't keep up with statistics on production but I believe both Samsung and Motorola are pretty much tied for second place on Android device production. LG, Sony, and many others fighting for third...

I used to have a Moto Cliq and really liked it's build quality but the dead end OS really annoyed me too.
My "behind the times" 9700 is still kicking with the best running BB 6 and I love the phone, it feels great, it works great, and never had a major problem I couldn't fix.

A while back I dropped my Storm 9530 into my pond. I pulled it out within 2 minutes and immediately pulled the battery. I let it dry for about 4 hrs then put it in a bag of rice for 2 days. Put battery back in and everything worked ok. There were a few funky things on the screen but they went away within a week.
A year later I fell off my boat and my Storm was in 10 ft of water for at least 10 minutes. Nothing could bring it back to life....I had to use my insurance.

I've dropped my phone in the toilet before and placed in in a bag of rice. This method of drawing out moisture really works. My BB works perfectly to this very day. And NO, i did not eat the rice afterwards ;)

i still prefer an alcohol bath and THEN a day or two in the rice or silica gel packs (get them at your local pharmacy or shipping place). And get pure alcohol as close to 100 % as you can get!

I accidently put my Storm, inside its leather case, through the wash. It just couldn't take that spin cycle....lol....I didn't realize until I heard it banging around in there, and it was too late. WAY too late......Now I have a Curve, and I like it much better, so...all's well that ends well.

If they can make cameras waterproof, how a waterproof blackberry. Make that shockproof too!

A lot of people have their phones on all the time unless the battery kills it and as such the hopes of bringing it back to life diminishes. Looking at my panasonic ft3. Our smartphones could look good still. I'll be happy with the extra size since a lot of people put cases on their phones anyways (not that I bother) :p

Had something like this happen to my old 8310 after which I quickly disassembled and just laid it on my desk over a paper towel for a day.

The battery was toasted but I had a spare which I popped into the phone and it powered up without a single issue.

IMO, the old 83xx series of 'Berries are tanks. It's almost impossible to destroy them even on purpose.

When it comes to my Bold 9700, thankfully it has not experienced a "water landing" just yet. :-)

Part of that was how light they were, I recently picked up my old 8330 and thought the battery must be out it was so light compared with my newer BB. It's like a light kid falling versus a heavy adult.

Rice? I'd pull the battery, dry that, and then dunk the phone in alcohol and slosh it around a while. Then shake it out and disassemble it as much as possible, rinsing again with alcohol and drying everything manually. Leave it in a warm, dry place, but not in the sun, that in itself could destroy the phone. If your oven can be set so it's 100F (38C) and will not get hotter than 110F at the rack even when the element is on, then it should not cause damage, but don't put it in there too long or if it's still dripping alcohol. Put something under it to keep alcohol from dripping onto the element. Never put the battery in an oven or in direct sunlight.

The idea of letting it dry slowly with water remaining on the circuits doesn't seem very good-- that can cause corrosion. The alcohol should get rid of most of the water, then evaporate quickly.

Everclear :) Cheap, 95% alcohol without any methanol or acetone as may be in rubbing alcohol.

Seriously, I've spilled water all over a laptop, took it apart and rinsed it with alcohol, let it dry, and it was fine.

i remember when my ol' 8330 went for a swim in the lake during my cousin's wedding. Had to have been in there for at least 5 minutes. i freaked, but pulled the battery as soon as i fished it out. let it air dry for 2 days and it worked like it had always worked.

Ever since i have boasted horror stories that would normally destroy other phones that both my 8330 and 9800 have endured, emphasizing how sturdy blackberry products are.

love this article.

More pseudo-science from Yahoo News. Apparently the writer does not understand that water, itself, does not conduct electricity at all. Distilled water is a very good insulator. It is the impurities in water that conduct electricity and what will cause your phone to either not come back from the dead or experience a slow death. That's probably why most of the phones in the test didn't come back to life.

So, always add an extra step to get those nasty impurities off the electronics of your phone by giving it a thorough wash in distilled water before putting it in the rice or silica gel. Instant rice does a much better job than regular rice, by the way. Be sure to wrap the phone well in a paper towel to keep those little rice bits from getting into your phone.

Oh...do yourself a favor, and buy a new battery. The last thing you need is a water damaged battery catching fire in your pocket.

My Storm2 was fully submerged in water unintentionally recently. I immediately pulled the battery, placed everything on dry towels. Removed the sim card, etc., and placed everything in plain uncooked rice, turning it every hour for about four hours. Then removed the phone and used a vacuum hose (not letting it directly touch the phone) for 10 minutes then replaced the phone in the rice. Kept in the rice overnight, for extra measure a second night with silica gel. After two days everything worked great except for being unable to charge the battery (new) while it is the phone. I purchased a battery charger and an extra battery. Everything is working fine. Now waiting for new BBs to be released to use my update for a new phone.

I dropped my blackberry 9700 in a deep puddle once. Picked it up and worked it for 3 seconds until I pulled the battery and let it air-dry for about 2 hours. Put the battery back in and it worked normally except the call end key wouldn't work so I tweaked the keyboard by putting a tissue paper inside.

Bottom line. Blackberry's survive water immersion.

My wife is a florist,over the last 5 years she dropped 3 dumb phones and 2 Storms into a buckets of water and they all fried. Thankfully I am and extra battery kind of guy so we replaced the battery on the Storms and Verizon couldn't tell what happened. As you know there is an ink spot on the battery that will smear if it gets wet, voiding any warrantee. Recently she defected to the DroidX, guess what, she dropped into a bucket of water. Dutifully she pulled the battery and noticed it was all dry inside. She waited for a bit then put it all back together, it worked, it still works. No deception required. Im not a troll, but to be fair I know the DroidX is at least somewhat waterproof, the Storm is not.

So what you are really saying is, you committed fraud on Verizon, which eventually makes MY costs go up? Congratulations. You are a fine, upstanding citizen :-)

(said tongue in cheek, although I DO have Verizon)

Yes, thats what I said. Im a bad man, a bad, bad, man. I dont even like apple pie, I prefer sour cherry. Thats how sick I am.

I used to work at A Rogers Wireless Store and the best way I found was to take the phone apart best you can, put everything in a bag full of rubbing alcohol and shake. The Alcohol dissipates all the watter then drys quickly. Most of the time I found you could turn the phone back on right away.

This is very true...

I have recovered two devices (The Curve 8310 and Bold 9700) by fully covering the device and battery with plain rice and not forgetting the container should be Air Tight for 2 days at least...

I only had to get a new battery for the 8310 since the battery was out of shape due to the water getting in.................

I went kayacking and forgot my Storm was in my pocket. It was soaked. I towel dried it, pulled the batter, the back door and the SD card, and put everything in a a bag of Dry-All for 48 hours. (www.dry-all.com I don't work for the company). The phone booted up just fine. I couldn't believe it. In fact I was so sure that it wouldn't work, I went out and bought a Samsung Charge. When the Storm worked, I was delighted to return the Charge which couldn't even last 9 hours on standby and light usage.

My 12 year old daughter decided to use her 1-month old 9300 in the bathtub while we were gone. She called from a different phone and I told her to pull the battery and I would work on it when I got home. Since I already had the torx bits to take apart the wife's 8900 (different story!) I disassembled the 9300, wrapped the individual parts in paper towels and covered it all in rice in a zip-lock bag. I learned about wrapping it in paper towels from having to pick the rice out of the nooks and cranies of some other phones.
Long story short, after letting it dry in the rice for two days, I put it back together and it worked fine...still working as a matter of fact.

Cheapest protection: zip-lok bag. We used them in S.E. Asia in the 70's for our wallets and paperback books because we were very likely to get caught in a rain storm while working the flightline (Guam too). There are products available on the marker, but the good old zip-lok bag is still the cheapest insurance for your BB or other electronics!

Water doesn't kill the electronics, minerals do.

Simply remove the device from the water, flush with 100% rubbing alcohol, dry for a couple hours and you're done.

Rice is fine, but won't remove the minerals which due to surface tension of the drying water causes them to collect around the legs of the IC's and can create shorts between the pins. Flushing with pure alcohol will greatly reduce the chances of this happening and lower the drying time from days to hours.