Ah, winter – Everything’s so white. So pretty. And so frickin’ slick and wet, it’s almost enough to keep any gadget-lovin’ person at home.
Unfortunately, I didn’t yesterday. Somehow I managed to invoke some cartoon mojo when I stepped outside, because I wound up doing some furious foot action on a patch of ice – you know, the kind that has you hanging in mid-air for a solid moment before ker-plunking onto your butt. Yep, I pulled an epic Wile. E. Coyote. Luckily I didn’t sustain any real injury to my person, just a sore derriere and a bruise to my pride. But it still hit me where it hurt because my iPhone tumbled end over end (I swear, it happened in slow-mo) into a pile of melting snow.
Friends, let me tell you – Something interesting happens in the face of tech tragedy: simultaneous disbelief (“You’re okay, i4. It’s just a little snow. See? You still work just fine”) and fear (“OMG! Adriana, what are you doing? DO NOT BOOT UP while wet! Shut it down, shut it down!”).
To be honest, the latter is the better way to go. Not the crazy yelling at yourself part, but the shutting it off part. You see, the thing with snow is that it melts into water. And water can kill your electronics. I know, I know – way to state the obvious, Ms. Tech Blogger. But in a panic, it’s hard to think straight. And yes, this can happen to anyone. So if it happens to you, here’s what you do:
(1) Shut it down. And do not freak out. You absolutely, positively don’t want to do what I did, which is hit the button to wake the phone, even if you’re just checking to see if it still works. Hitting the sleep button won’t do it either; you need to shut it down completely, and of course, do not plug it in. (If we had a removable battery, I’d even say you should take it out, just to eliminate the possibility of a current connecting in there. But we don’t, so at least turn it off.) This is such a crucial step. Even if your device isn’t broken, some wetness in there could short circuit something internally. And a fried logic board or other disaster is not something that is recoverable. (The wetness issue can be so grave, in fact, that Apple even included a water damage monitor inside the phone. Yeah, apparently this type of thing happens a lot.)
(2) Let it dry – at least overnight, if not longer. The one benefit of winter is that most people in cold climates have their heat cranked on. And all that hot, dry air can really help evaporate the wetness.
How long it takes to dry a phone can vary as much by device model as well as the circumstances surrounding the incident. Did you drop it in a pile of snow, in a puddle, in the toilet? In other words, was it introduced to a little moisture, or was it submerged? You need to give it a chance to dry out, preferably overnight as a minimum.
As for how to dry it, the methods can vary a lot. I’ve heard of people using everything from hair dryers to ovens. (Yikes!) Although it seems to work for some people, one of the biggest risks with hair dryers is pushing water further into the handset. And personally, I’d never put an expensive device in the oven, ever. So the two methods that seem the safest are air drying and the rice method, which involves sticking it in a couple of cups or more of uncooked rice (preferably in a sealed bag or closed container) to draw out the moisture.
(3) Leave it alone. I know you’re worried. And you may be waiting on pins and needles, to see if your little pet gadget is okay. But trust me, you don’t want to risk powering it on too early and shortting out your iPhone. Once you’re sure it’s dry, you may even want to hit the headphone jack and dock port with some compressed air, for good measure.
(4) Turn it on. Eventually, you’ll have to turn it on. But don’t do it unless you’re sure it’s bone dry, inside and out. If you are, then it’s time for the moment of truth. Go ahead and hit that button.
While there’s no guarantee that your device will be recoverable, if you follow these steps, then at least you know you did everything a normal end user could do. (Hardcore geeks might even try disassembling the device and drying out the components, but that would take a pretty extreme level of super user.)
For the rest of us, the hardest part in all this might be the waiting. Smartphone owners tend to depend on their devices like no other, so I know it’s tough to sit idly by. But you’ve got to give it time. And crossing those fingers wouldn’t hurt either. That’s what I did. And lucky for me, my phone powered back on a day later, no worse for wear.
Ever drenched a phone of your own and resurrected it? What drying method did you use? Let us know in the comments below.