Salvaging a Wet Cell Phone

In a disaster a functioning cell phone may be your lifeline to assistance and key to your communications plan. In a disaster, there is also an increased likelihood that a cell phone could get wet or even submerged. If this happens, all is not lost. There is still a good chance that you can get your cell phone functioning again.


Remove battery as soon as possible! Do not turn the phone on — even just to test!

If water has reached the circuitry, it will short out and probably fry the components if you turn it on.

The chances are that your warranty has been voided by getting the phone wet, so you probably have little to lose by trying to recover the phone.

  • If the cell phone has a removable flash memory card, remove it.  Data recovery software and data recovery services are available to recover data from damaged storage media. Follow the directions under “flash drives” if you decide to attempt to recover the card yourself.

  • Remove battery covers and any shell parts that are removable.

  • If device was in contact with salt water, mud, sewage, or other contaminants rinse thoroughly in clean water.

  • Drain out water, and air dry for a while.  It is OK to use a fan, but avoid applying heat, as with a hair dryer on any heat setting and avoid too strong an air blast - it may blow water deeper into sensitive parts.

  • Avoid extreme heat that may melt or damage components.

  • Seal the phone in a container with a canister of silica gel desiccant, or bury it in a sealed container of dry, uncooked rice for 2-3 days. Do the same with the battery and flash memory card.

  • Once phone is thoroughly dry inside (may be difficult to determine) reassemble phone, replace flash memory card (also dried) replace battery and test. If phone does not work remove battery as quickly as possible and try drying again. Also, battery may need to be recharged.


Hint: In a disaster, text messaging service is sometimes restored before full voice service.

The reason is that text messaging uses less bandwidth than voice transmissions. In a disaster, limit your cell phone use to essential calls and messages. Circuits are likely to be overloaded.