Fixing my Evo – How to deal with a water damaged cell phone

Several people asked me to report on the status of my Evo 4G.  For those who don’t know, I dropped it in water about a week ago. The happy news is that my Evo survived its quick bath. Because I couldn’t wait for my phone to dry out and was eligible for an upgrade, I already got a new phone. So I will sell my Evo on eBay. And yes, I will be very clear about what happened to it.

As far as how I saved my phone, that was pretty straight forward. This isn’t the first time I dropped a cell phone in water, and I am familiar with what to do. If you look on the web, you will find a consensus on what to do. I simply followed that consensus.

Here are the steps:

1. Get the phone out of water. Immediately.
2. Pull the battery out. (If you don’t have access to the battery, power the phone down as fast as you can.)
3. Wipe off as much water as you can. Both inside and out. Q-Tips and cotton balls can be helpful here.
4. Leave the phone open, battery out, so as much of the phone as possible is accessible to the air.
5. Put the phone to dry, near a fan, air-conditioning, heater (not on the heater you don’t want to do more damage.) And leave it there.
5(a.) Some people prefer to use a desiccating agent. I use uncooked rice. Those little packets that come with your shoes or in medicine bottles work too. If you like to go that route, put your phone in a container with the agent. Then leave it there.
6. Seriously. Leave it there. I know it is painful and you want to see if your phone works. But I fried my iPhone by turning it on 8 hours after I put it away to dry out. That isn’t enough time. The phone needs to have time to completely dry out. So wait.
7. After at least 3-4 days put your phone back together, hold your breath and turn it on.
8. If it works, congratulations. If it doesn’t work, I’m sorry, you lost the water-damaged cell phone lottery. If it works but then all of a sudden you hear a fzzt sound, you won and then you lost, because your phone wasn’t dry and you fried it by turning it on too soon.

Note the at least 3-4 days. I left my Evo for 4 days. If you can leave it longer, leave it longer. Especially a phone like the iPhone which cannot be opened.

What if you dropped your phone in another liquid?

It is better to drop your phone in pure water. Of course, it is better not to drop your phone in water at all, such is life.

The steps are very similar to those above:

1. Get it out of the liquid.
2. Pull out the battery (or turn it off if you can’t access the battery)
3. Wipe it down and clear out as much liquid as you can.
4. Rinse it in pure water.  Yes, that’s right, rinse it. You can’t hurt it any more than you already have. This is just a quick rinse.
5. Consider putting it in an alcohol bath, preferably 95%  alcohol. The alcohol can help remove any microscopic items that might be in the phone. Alcohol can also help dry out the phone. Don’t leave it in the bath very long. Just a brief bathing.
6. Wipe it down, get out as much liquid as you can.
7. Put it aside and leave it for at least 3-4 days to dry out.
7(a.) You can use a desiccating agent as above.
8. Put it back together, turn it on and see if it works.
9. Jump around happily or start cursing.

It didn’t work, now what?

If your phone is beyond repair, you are wondering how you can replace it without buying a phone off-contract.

The first thing you should know is that most cell phones have water-damage indicators.  The phones have areas that turn pink or another color if they get wet. If you do send your phone off for warranty repair without explaining what happened, don’t be too surprised if you get a call that the phone was water damaged and you have to pay to fix it.

Do you have insurance on your phone? Does it cover water damage? If so, go ahead and collect on the fact you got insurance, and get yourself a new (or refurbished) phone, depending on your policy.

No insurance? Call your provider, explain what happened and find out the cost to fix the phone or get a refurbished one.

You also might want to check and see if you can just extend your contract and get a new phone. A lot of providers will allow you to upgrade after a year on your contract anyway. In some cases you might find you are better off getting a new phone than taking advantage of the warranty.

If none of the above are possibilities for you, look on eBay to see if you can get a phone. Make sure the phone will work with your provider and be sure you get it from a reputable seller. You will be very unhappy if you buy an iPhone that works with Verizon when you are on AT&T.

If you cannot get a new phone, check and see if you can at the least get an inexpensive pay as you go phone and transfer your service to that. With some providers, AT&T for example, you can simply pull out your sim card and move it to a new phone that is compatible to AT&T. With other providers this is not an option.

What should you do with your old phone? I’d just sell it on eBay. Be sure you are honest about what happened. Water-damaged phones can still be used for parts, and broken smart phones can sell for a decent amount of money. You might be able to recoup some of your loss.


The reality is, whether your cell phone survives a water drop is really a matter of luck, fast action and patience. If you turn your phone off very quickly, it hasn’t yet had a chance to  fry, and you leave it be long enough, chances are good your phone will be ok. If, however, you didn’t turn it off quickly enough, something has already been damaged, or you don’t wait long enough before you turn it on again, your phone will probably fry.

Also, keep in mind, that the longevity of your phone might well be damaged. Any chemicals or minerals in the water can cause corrosion, and tap water isn’t as pure as we would hope.

Good luck!



I am editing this post to add a very good point from Harold Goldner. Make sure the cell phone ESN (electronic serial number) is good. Otherwise you won’t be able to activate the phone. Get the serial number from the seller and call customer service to see if you will be able to activate the phone. If the provider won’t help you, look for a company online that verifies ESNs.

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