Since the iPhone 7, Apple has managed to make its phones waterproof, making instances of dropping your phone in a sink, or in a puddle, much less of a concern than before. However, the iPhone 7, 8 and X are still only waterproof above a certain depth, so if you drop your phone in a lake, or in the ocean, you could still have a major problem on your hands.
The iPhone 7, 8, and X are water-resistant until they’re submerged more than 1 meter underwater for up to 30 minutes. Earlier iPhone models are sensitive to any amount of liquid for any length of time.
If you’re concerned a liquid has damaged your iPhone, you can check the built-in Liquid Contact Indicator, generally located behind a cover just below your phone’s power button. If the Indicator is red, your phone has had contact with liquid that has likely left it damaged.
If you find a red indicator after any contact with liquid, even on a more waterproof iPhone model, there are steps you can take to preserve the phone. Check them out below, and hopefully, your iPhone will turn out just fine.
1. Turn your phone off
It’s very important to turn your iPhone off immediately after it has contact with water or another liquid. That means no checking on functions to make sure things are still working — you want to cut the power before the liquid has a chance to make contact with something electrical, as that can short out your phone.
Even an iPhone that seems to have perfect functionality after dropping into the water can be damaged permanently and irrevocably just a few minutes later because of this kind of short-circuiting. So power down your iPhone when it’s made contact with liquid as soon as you can to have the best chance of saving it.
2. Wipe your phone off and tap it
The next step is to remove all of the visible liquid on your iPhone, as well as what exists inside. For the visible liquid, wipe it off with an absorbent fabric, like a towel. In a pinch, your shirt will do.
Make sure you especially wipe around the holes in your phone, and the buttons, to keep liquid from seeping too far inside. You want to makes sure your phone is externally dry before checking on your Liquid Contact Indicator so that liquid can’t seep to that spot when you open it.
For the internal liquid, Apple recommends tapping your iPhone against your hand, with the lightning connector or power port facing down.
This should send the liquid out of the holes at the bottom of the phone, helping to dry out the inside in a safe way (you don’t want to tap your phone on a hard surface and break it, after all), and using gravity to prevent the liquid from seeping into nooks and crannies in your iPhone where it can do the most damage.
3. Make sure to let your iPhone dry
The next part is the waiting game. You don’t want to power the phone back up if it’s still wet in any way (or charge it), and even with a majority of the water out of the phone, things inside might still be damp or dewy. So you have to leave your phone alone and let it dry out in a place where it won’t be damaged further.
A good place to leave the phone that might speed up the drying process is in front of a fan. Good air flow will help dry the liquid inside your phone, so Apple recommends leaving your iPhone in front of a turned on fan to ensure that air flow is continuous and the most helpful it can be.
You do not want to use compressed air, or a blow dryer, for more intense airflow to dry your phone out. You’re far more likely to move the liquid around than to help it evaporate, which will do more damage to your phone, rather than saving it. A fan provides the right amount of air motion for drying without being too intense. It’s, therefore, your best option.
Another option is to leave your phone stored with a desiccant, a substance that pulls liquid out of things and is therefore often used as a drying agent. If you keep silica gel packets from various purchases, you have desiccants right in your home that can help to save your liquid-logged phone.
Just place your iPhone in a container with a lot of the desiccant for an extended period of time — we mean days, five to seven of them if you can manage it.
Rice isn’t an ideal substance for this, as wet rice might get in your ports and on your buttons, on top of not being as good at absorbing liquid as silica gel. In the past, people used rice as the go-to drying substance but it’s not recommended anymore.
4. Be prepared to get a new phone, and be more careful in the future
Once you’ve done the steps above, you can turn your iPhone back on, and see if it’s still functioning. Unfortunately, even if you follow the above steps diligently, in some situations there may not be much you can do, and your iPhone, particularly pre-iPhone 7 models, may just cease functioning.
The only thing to do then, before you start testing it out, is to prepare for the possibility you’ll need a new iPhone. See if your phone insurance covers liquid damage, and check with your phone provider if you’re due for an upgrade to try to make getting a new phone as inexpensive as possible.
Look into getting a refurbished iPhone, if you end up having to pay out of pocket, and see if you can get on an affordable payment plan for a new model if that’s the way you want to go. Or, look into downgrading to a less expensive option.
Whether your phone is saved, or you have to get a new one, be sure to be more cautious with your iPhone in the future to prevent this kind of damage going forward. Get a waterproof case for your iPhone, or don’t take it out of the car or your bag when you go to the beach, or to a pool.
Apple has made its phones much more resilient against water and liquid damage, but an iPhone is still an electronic device, and therefore vulnerable. Know your iPhone’s limits, whatever model you have, and do what you can to keep it safe and dry in the future.
Accidents happen, and thanks to these tips and steps, your iPhone might just be saved. But the best way to protect your iPhone is to just not get it wet in the first place, so be careful, and good luck in the future!