You've dropped your iPhone in water, and right now you want to dry it out, assess and fix the damage, and recover the data inside. You've come to the right place for advice.
Water is the second most common type of damage faced by iPhones (after smashed screens, which we discuss in our article on getting a broken iPhone repaired). But a dunk isn't necessarily a death sentence. No guarantees, but with our tips there's every chance your phone will survive to fight (and get wet) another day.
In this article we explain the best strategies for dealing with a wet or water-damaged iPhone.
What to do if your iPhone gets wet
Get the iPhone out of the water right away, if you haven't already.
Do not plug in the iPhone. If it's plugged in already, unplug it (very carefully).
Do not turn it on. This can cause short circuits.
If the wet iPhone is in a case, take it out. Remove the SIM card too. Water can linger in these nooks and crannies.
With a soft towel or cloth, wipe liquid off everything you can reach. Turn the iPhone upside down and give it a gentle shake to clear the ports and sockets.
Power off the wet iPhone
You want to avoid activating the circuits inside the iPhone, because this is likely to cause short circuits and long-term damage.
If the iPhone is switched off already, leave it off. Don't be tempted to power on to see if it still works. It might, and then promptly stop working forever precisely because you took a look.
If your iPhone is switched on, you're looking at two unappealing options: power down (but in the process cause the screen and operating system to wake up briefly before switching off) or leave the device in sleep mode and hope you don't get any notifications.
It's your decision, but after discussions here in the Macworld offices we've decided that the lesser of two evils is to wake the iPhone briefly in order to do a full power off - and that's what we suggest in the video at the top of this article.
If you were lucky enough to be in Airplane Mode when you dropped the device, however, or are confident that nothing will wake your iPhone in the next 48 hours, leaving it alone might be the better option.
Dry out your iPhone with uncooked rice
Now we need to draw as much interior liquid out as possible. Resist the temptation to use a hair dryer or other heat treatment, as this can damage the iPhone's internal components.
(A few iPhone users advise the use of a non-heated fan, which at least shouldn't make things worse, even if we think the below techniques are likely to be more effective.)
To get moisture out of the iPhone's interior, you need a desiccant. Many people swear by uncooked rice, advising owners to put their damp iPad or iPhone in a big bowl of the stuff (cover it completely) and leave it there for 48 hours or so.
The rice will absorb the moisture effectively, and most of us have some uncooked rice in our homes (or can get hold of some fairly easily). But it may get dust or even entire grains into the ports. Be warned.
We discuss this method in more detail in our article: rescue a soaked iPhone with the rice trick.
Dry out your iPhone with silica gel
A better option than uncooked rice if you've got it is silica gel - those little (and inedible) packets that come with some electronic components, particularly if they've been shipped from a country with a humid climate.
You need enough of them to cover the iPhone. You may be able to buy them en masse from a craft shop, and handbag shops are a great source - ask the staff if they mind you fishing out the sachet that you'll probably find zipped into each handbag's interior pocket.
Silica gel sachets should dry a wet iPhone out more efficiently and less messily than rice. You should still give the iPhone at least 48 hours to dry out completely, however.
Dismantle your iPhone
If you're really confident about doing DIY repairs on your iPhone, the best way to deal with a wet iPhone is to unscrew the bottom screws (on most models of iPhone this will require a proprietary type of screwdriver head, available as part of some iPhone repair kits sold by unofficial third-party accessory makers) and access the interior.
Just bear in mind that this is likely to invalidate any warranty coverage you've got, and there's a risk that your DIY work will cause damage rather than repair it.
Still: the most effective way to get water from the inside of an iPhone is to get right in there and dry it out from within.
You'll want to take the battery out, for instance (this also minimises the potential for short circuits), and get water out of all the internal nooks and crannies. Apply a soft dry cloth to all interior surfaces while endeavouring to be as gentle as possible.
We're not sure we'd recommend this approach, primarily because of its potential to exacerbate the problem. But in some situations it may be the only way to save the day - and if nothing else works and you're out of warranty, you may find yourself with nothing to lose.
What to do next
Once you've waited a couple of days and think you've successfully dried out your iPhone, you can try switching it on. If it still doesn't work, or if you want to get the internals checked out, you can ask an Apple Genius to take a look, but bear in mind that iOS devices have internal liquid detectors, so they will know what happened.
One final warning: a bad submersion may cause long-term damage, particularly to the battery, that only becomes apparent months later. In one famous case, an iPhone 3GS spontaneously overheated more than a year after being dropped in a pool. The owner had used the rice technique and the iPhone had worked fine afterwards... initially.
We would therefore advise that, if you're lucky enough to be able to get your iPhone to run after a dip, you should back up all important files on the device in case it packs up again in the future. Its recovery, we're sorry to say, may only be temporary - although we hope not.
Waterproof cases & emergency kits
Hopefully the steps above helped you revive the drowned iPhone in your life, but there are way to avoid the situation in future.
Water's not good for iPhones and iPads, penetrating deep within their circuitry and leading to damaging short circuits. So those (extremely common) hazards so many iPhone owners risk - taking photos on the beach, browsing the web in the bath, even reading email on the loo - are best avoided. Most of us only cotton on to the dangers after our first soaked iPhone.
If you really want to read e-books by the pool or in the bath, consider buying a waterproof iPhone case. Another option to bear in mind is some kind of handle or wrist strap so you're less likely to drop the device in the first place.
You might like to buy an emergency package for drying out an electronic device - obviously it's best to have it ready in advance, instead of waiting for the crisis to occur and then queueing at the shops.
The AF Tech Rescue Kit is an affordable option available on Amazon.
Which iPhones are water-resistant?
If buying a waterproof case doesn't appeal, you might consider upgrading the phone itself. In recent years Apple's handsets have got better and better at water resistance.
Water (and dust) resistance is commonly expressed by the IP rating system. Before 2016 Apple didn't disclose IP ratings for its phones, but that year's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were certified as IP67 - an excellent score which indicates they should survive submersion in up to 1m of water for 30 minutes.
In 2018 the iPhone XS and XS Max went one step further, scoring IP68. This extends the immersion to 2m, and you will very rarely see a consumer product get a higher rating than this.
Here are the IP ratings of Apple's phone range:
- iPhone 6s and earlier: not rated
- iPhone 7: IP67
- iPhone 7 Plus: IP67
- iPhone 8: IP67
- iPhone 8 Plus: IP67
- iPhone X: IP67
- iPhone XR: IP67
- iPhone XS: IP68
- iPhone XS Max: IP68
- iPhone 11: IP68
- iPhone 11 Pro: IP68
- iPhone 11 Pro Max: IP68
How to eject water from an iPhone speaker
While the iPhone 7 and later are water-resistant, it doesn't stop water from getting into the speaker grille. The Apple Watch Series 2 and later have a similar issue, although they come with a built-in feature that can be toggled to 'eject' the water by playing a specific frequency.
Why the iPhones don't feature a similar option, we're not quite sure - but there is a relatively easy way for users to eject water from within an iPhone 7 or later speaker, and it's by using a free app called Sonic.
Simply download the app and tap the water droplet icon in the middle of the screen. This should cause the water to 'jump' from the speaker so you can absorb it with a tissue.