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What should you do after your phone goes for a swim?

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As far as I know there hasn’t been a study to confirm this, but I’m pretty sure water damage is the leading cause of panic among smartphone users worldwide. One minute, you’re having a great day, and the next, your phone is sitting at the bottom of the toilet and your world comes crashing down.

All those photos of your cute baby... So what do you do when you accidentally spill your grande latte all over your screen? Is there any way to rescue a drowned phone?

Sometimes. Maybe. If you act quickly.

The biggest problem is that most water contains ions that make it conductive, which means it can mess up where power is being routed in your phone and short-circuit essential components. In a short circuit, there’s a connection being made that allows a quicker, easier path for current to flow. That can fry some parts, since they aren’t designed to handle that kind of jolt.

And it can quickly drain your battery in a way that can cause long-term damage. So if your phone is wet and it’s still on, the first thing you should do is turn it off. That way, at least you’re not actively sending a current through all that circuitry.

And if the screen went black, resist the urge to turn it on to see if it’s still working. Once your phone is off, you’ll want to use a cloth to dry as much of the water as you can. Letting the water dry naturally isn’t a good plan, because it can react with parts of the phone and cause corrosion, which wears away the components and can cause permanent short circuits and irreversible damage.

Plus, the longer the phone is wet, the more time the water has to seep into it and get to the most sensitive electronics. If your phone was truly soaked through, odds are you’ve already got water in places you can’t reach. You’ll need to make sure all of that water has dried, too, before you turn it back on.

That’s why you might have heard people suggest putting your wet phone in a container of uncooked rice for a day or so. The idea is that dry rice grains are a desiccant they attract and absorb water. Leave a container of rice open in a humid environment for a while and you’ll see what I mean.

Just maybe don’t eat it afterward. When you put your phone in a tightly sealed container with rice, you’re hoping that the rice will pull the moisture from the trapped air, allowing the water in your phone to evaporate more quickly and leaving you with a nice, dry phone. Some people swear by this, and rice-drying is definitely better than blow-drying your phone.

The hot air might get rid of the water, but heat generally isn’t very good for electronics. Rice isn’t the best desiccant around, though. It’s just convenient because most people already have some in their house.

There are lots of other substances that are much better at wicking moisture, like the little silica packets that say “Do Not Eat” on them, or even cat litter. So if your phone tends to get a lot of unscheduled baths, you might want to hoard all those little silica packets and put them in an airtight container for a rainy day. But even with the best desiccant, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to rescue your phone if the water has done its worst.

So if this does happen to you a lot, you might just want to invest in a waterproof phone or case. Or, if you’re more interested in experimenting with with things like desiccants and circuits, you can check out supports SciShow, and we think you’ll like their interactive quizzes and lessons in astronomy, physics, geometry and more.

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