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Wet cell phone? Deal with It with Rice

The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

Several times in previous columns I have addressed the subject of the best way to deal with a wet laptop. While I am loathe to bore the readership by repeating myself, I can justify doing so this time because it was not her laptop that my girlfriend got wet but her smartphone. The advice for salvaging a wet laptop or a wet cell phone is about the same. You should understand that the instant electronics are exposed to excessive moisture they may already be damaged beyond recovery, and my advice may not help; however, if you are standing there holding a wet phone you are not going to make things any worse by following these guidelines and trying to recover it.

First, obviously, get the phone out of the water or out from under the wine glass and grab the nearest towel, toilet paper, newspaper or shirt tail. Dry the phone as much as you can while maintaining its orientation.

If the phone fell into the toilet face down, I recommend keeping it face down in order that any moisture will not migrate to other parts of the interior. There is some difference of opinion on this procedure, because some experts recommend shaking the phone to remove moisture. I do not.

Turn the phone off at once! If your phone has a removable battery, take it out. Likewise if it has a removable SIMM chip, take that out. Ditto if your phone has a memory card.

Now head to your larder or the nearest grocery store for a bag of white rice; one or two kilos should be plenty. Next get to the kitchen for a bowl or saucepan big enough to hold your phone. Pour half of the rice into the bowl; next add your cell phone, without stirring and while maintaining the same orientation, then cover it with the rest of the rice. It would probably be a good idea to add your battery and memory card into the mix, because these might have some moisture inside. Place your bowl of cell phone pilaf in a warm (never hot!) dry place and do not touch it for a week. I also recommend telling your cook not to prepare any other rice dishes this week.

Few people have several kilos of silica gel sitting around the house, so that is why I recommended white rice as a drying agent. Rock salt is considered less effective than rice as a desiccant, but would probably do.

After a week it is time to remove the smartphone from the rice bowl, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. Before replacing the SIMM card and battery, you might want to simply connect the phone to its charger to see if it appears to be responding at all when you press the power button. Reinstall the SIMM card and battery then see if the phone will power up. If the phone fails to work after this procedure, that often means it was already D.O.A. before it went into the rice, but you made the best effort you could to save it.

There are some more rules that ought to be covered by simple common sense, but I am still going to list them:

Do not try to disassemble a wet phone or laptop. If the moisture got in, it can find its way out the way it got in. All you will do with a screwdriver is make things worse.

Do not put a water-damaged laptop or cell phone in the oven, on top of a radiator, in the refrigerator, microwave or clothes dryer. Stay away with the hair dryer! Just be patient, and do not touch anything for at least a week.

Finally, if you are ever so unlucky as to kill a five-hundred-dollar smartphone and it is still under warranty, remember that when dealing with the vendor, honesty is the best policy. Most of the expensive smartphones have accelerometers to record if the phone has ever been dropped too hard, and moisture detectors to reveal if the phone has ever been wet inside. If you fib, the manufacturer will know you were untruthful.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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