Salvage Liquid Damaged Phones with These 5 Replacement Parts

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How to Salvage Liquid Damaged Phones with These 5 Replacement Parts and Tools

Dropping a mobile phone cannot only be an unpleasant expense when replacing the device, but also hugely irritating when it's dropped in liquid, leading to a loss not only of the phone itself, but also the contacts stored on the SIM. With a bit of quick thinking, however, the phone and details can sometimes be salvaged.

What to Do if a Phone Is Dropped in Water

The way a mobile phone is constructed means that the device will be relatively water tight, allowing use in humid, damp, or rainy conditions. Large amounts of water, however, will damage the phone, so if it is dropped in a puddle, a glass, a toilet, or is drenched by a spilled drink, follow these steps:

Quickly remove the phone from the water

As has been mentioned, phone cases are tight to protect the innards from the elements, but this does mean that it is difficult to remove moisture once it has invaded the seals. The faster the phone is out of the liquid, the greater the chance of salvage.

Make sure it is off

The most damage is due to electrical short, so resist the urge to turn the phone on to check if it still works.

Remove the battery

This is a vital step. Many circuits will survive immersion as long as there is no power source, so to ensure this, take out the battery.

Remove the SIM

Often it is the data stored on the phone that is more valuable than the phone itself, so remove the SIM and pat it dry. SIMs, due to their construction, can survive water damage without anything more than a removal of surface liquid.

Gently hand dry the phone

Get as much liquid off the phone as possible by shaking it, using a soft tissue or paper towel to soak up and gently remove excess moisture by hand.

Take it apart

Separate all covers and removable components to open up as many slots, gaps, and crevices as possible – the more areas that can be dried, the more likely it is that the phone can be saved.

Use a vacuum cleaner

Delicately hoovering the phone with a small vacuum nozzle will lift the moisture away from the device. Do not hold the nozzle too close to the phone as it may create static electricity, but instead hold it steadily, a few inches away, for at least 10 minutes for each area.

Draw out the remaining moisture

A substance with a high absorption affinity should be used to help draw out the moisture. Something usually present in every household would be a bag of uncooked rice. Therefore, drop the phone and parts into a bowl of dry rice, making sure they are covered, and leave it overnight. Be patient and leave it as long as possible to fully extract all trace of liquid.

Emergency triage

If it is not possible to use a desiccant, place all the parts on an absorbent material. Check the material every few hours, and replace it if there is any sign of moisture.

Dealing with Corrosive Liquid Incursion

Salted or treated water, such as pool water or hot tub water, will very quickly corrode the electronic components of the phone.

Sea water or pool water accidents

Counter intuitively, if a phone falls in salted or chemically treated water, use more water to rinse it off. If salt crystals form, they will cause further, and possibly irreparable, damage to the device, so use tap or bottled water to sluice out the salt.

Follow the same steps as for fresh water

As the phone has now had any salt or corrosive liquid washed away, it would now be appropriate to follow the steps as were mentioned in the section dealing with what to do if a phone is dropped in water.

Tap it gently

If the phone has suffered from salt water crystallisation, gently tapping the board and chips with a plastic object will cause small vibrations which should detach some of the particles. In order to minimise the danger of cracking any of the components, tap very gently, repetitively, in multiple locations. Pay particular attention to the areas around the chips, and clean off any oxidisation with an appropriate solvent.

What Not to Do

Although removing any liquid is vital to salvaging a phone, there are certain actions which will only further damage a phone's components and functions.

Do not heat

Most mobile phones come with instruction manuals warning against excessive heat exposure – this also applies to drying them out.

Do not turn it on

Do not, under any circumstances, switch the phone on until it is fully dried. It may cause the phone to short circuit and will render the phone unsalvageable; to remove temptation, take out the battery.

Don't heat the battery

Do not try and dry the battery in an oven, with a hairdryer, or in a microwave. Heat could actually cause the battery to leak or explode.

Don't use a hair dryer

Do not be tempted to use a hair dryer on the phone as this will not only warm up the component parts, but will also push the moisture further into its innards.

Don't use a microwave

Do not put the phone – or, indeed any electronic device or unit constructed with any metal parts – into a microwave as not only will it destroy the phone circuits, but it could potentially cause the microwave to explode.

Replacement Parts and Tools

Given the ubiquitous presence of mobile phones in modern lives, there is a high risk of accidental liquid damage in even the most banal of circumstances. It would therefore be advisable to have a few tools and parts to hand in case of need, particularly as only rapid action can hope to salvage a phone from liquid damage.

Precision screwdriver set

A set of precision screw drivers is always useful. With a variety of fittings, they are invaluable for taking a wide range of electronic devices apart for repair or salvage.

Desiccant

Although a bag of uncooked rice is most commonly used, a bag of silica gel is arguably more effective. Unfortunately, as they are most often found in tiny pouches with new leather goods, sourcing enough gel at short notice is unlikely.

Spare battery

As a damp electrical source is dangerous as well as useless, a spare battery – as well as being useful for emergency re-powering – could also be handy when there has been liquid damage.

Vacuum cleaner

Pushing moisture further into a phone with a hair dryer has already been mentioned as a bad idea – a vacuum cleaner with a set of small nozzles and delicate attachments will always have its uses.

Compressed air

Making sure that the can is absolutely vertical, using a can of compressed air to direct, via the nozzle, into crevices of the keypad, speaker and microphone can help to remove any excess moisture. Do not hold the can at an angle as it will produce freezing liquid, as will a can held upside down or sideways. Move the phone rather than the can to reach the desired nooks and crannies. Also, if the can becomes very cold, put it to one side and wait until it returns to room temperature as, just like heat, cold air can be damaging. Compressed air will remove surface moisture – deeper residual moisture will need to be tackled with a vacuum cleaner and desiccant.

Conclusion

The chance of salvaging a mobile phone from liquid damage is often a matter of speed. If the phone has been dropped in salt water or chemically treated pool water, it is important to sluice off the corrosive liquid with fresh or bottled water. A SIM card tends to recover well from liquid damage. A battery, however, if activated, will cause a short circuit in the electronics and may short out and permanently destroy all component parts, so it is vital to remove both the SIM and the battery immediately when attempting to salvage a phone. A hair dryer, or indeed any heat, should never be used to dry a wet phone, but a hoover and a bowl of uncooked rice, utilised in turn, will draw water away from the circuit board rather than sending it further in or baking the components.

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