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Splish splash! What if your phone takes a bath?

In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET's Marguerite Reardon offers some advice about drying out a wet phone. (Hint: It doesn't include rice.)

UIG/Getty Images

It's that time of year again. The sun is shining. You're barbecuing by the pool or at the beach. Maybe you've had a beer or two. Everyone jumps in the water to cool off. You do too. But wait! Your brand-new iPhone is still in your pocket. D'oh!

A boozy Memorial Day weekend could lead to a wet phone. And now that the days of a new-subsidized-phone-every-two-years are over, making silly mistakes like soaking your phone in the pool is a lot more costly.

But before you panic and buy a bag of rice, CNET's Maggie Reardon has some tips that could help you save your waterlogged device.

Dear Maggie,

I know at some point this summer, I'm going to end up in the pool with my phone. Any tips for bringing it back to life?

Phone-in-My-Pocket Dude

Dear Pocket Dude,

You are in luck. The gadget trade-in site Gazelle has put together a handy-dandy list of tips for what to do when your iPhone or Android device goes for a swim. If you follow these tips, maybe, just maybe, your phone will survive.


What do you do when your phone goes for a swim?

UIG/Getty Images

1. Remove it from water as soon as you can

The longer your phone stays underwater, the less likely it is to come back to life.

2. Power down

Turning the device off may prevent it from short-circuiting. This is a really important step, so make sure you do this as soon as you can.

iPhone: Hold the Lock button and the Home button simultaneously for 5 seconds for a hard shutdown.

Android: Remove the battery to shut down instantly. If you have a phone without a removable battery, try holding down the power switch for 10 seconds. It may not work for every model of Android. You may need to do a search online of the make and model of your phone for information about a hard shutdown.

3. Drain it

Remove the battery (if possible), headphones, SIM card and memory card and let the water come out. You could also try dabbing with a dry cloth or paper towel to remove excess water.

Optional: Gazelle recommends rinsing your device under clean tap water if it fell in salt water, dirty water or something other than water. This will flush out any residual salt, minerals or other contaminants. Don't worry, the company says, your phone was already full of water, so you're not making it wetter -- just cleaner. Other sites recommend rinsing your device and components with rubbing alcohol to get rid of impurities.

Next, start forcing as much water as possible out of the device, this includes gentle shaking, tilting or blowing air through the device. You could also try vacuuming water out of it.

4. Open it up

The best way to dry out your phone is to open it up. Gazelle recommends the site to find instructions for opening your phone.

5. Dry it

Now that your phone is open, you'll need to dry it to reduce the damage done to the components. You've got a few options for drying:

Air it out: In dry climates, good air circulation may do the trick. Open-air drying works best. A fan may improve airflow through the phone's ports.

Absorb it: In humid climates, air drying may not be enough. You could put your device in something to absorb the moisture. But don't bother with regular uncooked rice. Gazelle tested it, and the company says it's not effective for absorbing liquids.

Here are a couple of other options.

  • Silica Gel. The best common drying agent is silica gel. It can be found in the pet aisle of your grocery store as "crystal" style cat litter.
  • Couscous, instant rice or oatmeal are good substitutes for silica. These options also absorb water faster than conventional rice, according to Gazelle's tests. Instant oatmeal works too, but it makes a mess of your phone.

Note: Gazelle maintains that nothing does a better job of drying out your phone than leaving it on a countertop with good air circulation to air dry.

What next?

Make sure you give your phone a few days to dry out. Then you can turn it back on and see what happens. It may boot up right away. If it doesn't, you could try charging it and swapping the battery. If that doesn't work, try syncing it. Gazelle said that in its tests, iPhones that appeared dead could still be synced and that data could still be retrieved. Also, keep your SIM and SD cards. These contain contact lists and other personal data that can be uploaded to a new device.

If all else fails, you can always trade it in, even if it's water damaged and not working.

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.