Quick Tip: Save a drenched Palm with rice | webOS Nation

Quick Tip: Save a drenched Palm with rice 58

by Derek Kessler Wed, 06 Jan 2010 12:00 pm EST


If there are two things that really don’t mix, it’s electronics and moisture. The problem is that water is electrically conductive and getting gadgetry wet can lead to water creating circuits where there ought not be circuits, thus frying the phone. Saving a phone that’s fallen into a puddle, pool, aquarium, or other aquatic malady is a matter of fast action and a bit of luck.

First and foremost, get it out of the water and remove the battery. Do not even think about turning it on to see if its okay, just yank the battery and dry off what you can. After that, take your phone and battery and stick them in a sealed bag filled with rice or, if you can find some, silica gel. Leave the bag someplace warm (not hot), like a sunny windowsill, for several hours. As the bag is heated, any moisture on/in the phone will evaporate and be absorbed by the rice. Once dried, clean whatever contacts you can reach on the phone and battery with a q-tip and distilled water and put it back together. With any luck, your phone will be ready to go.

Pre owner and Lifehacker reader Dietrich (not our own Dieter Bohn) recently had to run through this exercise with his own Pre after dropping it in a puddle:

“For the last 2 days it has been a monsoon in my city. Today, during a rushed last minute shopping spree, I dropped my phone in a puddle. I didn't realize I had dropped it until I got back to my car 30 minutes later.

“I remembered articles on Lifehacker about what to do so I immediately popped the battery out and dried the phone. When I got home I put my Palm Pre in a bag of rice for 10 hours. Adding insult to injury, I forgot to take the phone battery out of my pocket and put it through the washing machine. 10 hours later I'm typing this on my Pre. Good job Palm on making an excellent phone.”

So there you have it: dry it out quickly and thoroughly, and hopefully all will be well. Of course, we offer no guarantees that this will work, but we’ve seen it happen enough (even to ourselves) to know that it’s worth a shot.



No offense meant Derek, but my god it must be a slow news day. :P

Please, for the love of everything holy, let Palm's CES address get here so we have something decent to talk about.

I do fully anticipate that today will be slow. Quiet before the storm, if you will.

Perfect for when webOS users wet themselves during tomorrow's press conference.

LOL good save

What would happen if your Pre is on when you drop it in water? wont it short out? This method could work only if the Pre was powered off, I guess. Any thoughts?

someone on youtube posted a video of a pre that they dropped in a beer. and it took a while before it completely shorted out.

Ugh, that guy was such a prick. His Apple-zealot boss goaded him into doing that.

Can't speak to the Pre, but, my Treo650 spent over an hour in the river, and after drying it out, worked fine until it was replaced by a Centro (over a year later)

The key is to remove the battery ASAP, after getting it out of the water.

The amount of short circuiting is directly dependent on the quantity of impurities in the water. Salt or other molecules that cause conduction will increase the conductivity of water.

Pure de-ionized water is a relatively poor conductor. Salt water is a pretty good one.

The important thing is to flush any impure water out and then let it dry for a LONG time. I do the initial dry over a floor heating vent, before bagging. (The moisture is much higher than ambient at first.) I also would use a real descant (water absorber), like some types of kitty litter based on silica gel or similar. Much faster acting than rice.

lol my mother told me about this before, she's the least tech savy person so i didn't want to beleive it...

Hope this never happens to me.

Yes I had similar experience with my previous phone Samsung Instinct. Only difference is that without knowing I jumped in the pool with my phone in my shorts. After I came from water my wife asked what time it is, I realized that my phone was in my shorts!! there you go $99 phone. But as a techy guy I do not want to lose the phone, so I immediately (hmm the phone was in the water for an hour, 'immediately' is not apt here) took the batter off and wiped off the phone and the battery to some extent and put my phone aside to dry it off. After 2-3 days I dare to switch the phone back on (using the other battery) and I saw that phone was rebooting and then froze. I still did not give up and then wait for another week or so to dry off (I was with big hope). Guess what after that week, when i put the other battery and started the phone.. voila there you go, phone started fine and worked well (of course I disabled the phone so could not test the calls). I took the phone to the sprint store to enable this phone. I told the story to the guy there and I still remember he saying 'I am one lucky cat in the whole universe'. The phone worked flawlessly (with little water moisture in the screen which eventually dried).
Some one also suggested me to use the hair dryer (very low setting and keep the good distance between the dryer and phone, otherwise you will fry the circuit inside). But my phone was working at that time, so really did not try.

So as the sprint guy said, I was lucky with that phone. but eventually I had to move to Pre :)

I do not suggest a hair dryer to be used by anyone. A bag of rice or silica gel is the best options. The reason behind not using a hair dryer is because it can actually cause more damage with the heat. It can also cause more damage by pushing the water further and further into the phone. Also you have to be very careful using a hair dryer or vacuum because of static electricity.

I love how this is like a smatphone tank.

Is the "silica gel" in the spice rack above the rice cabinet?

My wife left her Katana on the deck one evening. Called me to go find it the next morning. It rained all night and I found it in a puddle that was half the depth of the phone. I turned it off and tossed it in the pocket of my Dockers and left it there all day. It seeped a drop of water every ten minutes all day. By night time, it seemed dry after I pried it open. Turned it on, good as new. Simple phone, but I was impressed it didn't need any special care after being literally saturated.

The Pre/beer event definitely proves the Pre has some resistance to water. I know if most Blackberry's get "drizzled on lightly" outdoors, they are at extreme peril.

You have a $500 phone (replacement cost), yet it's too much trouble to go to the grocery store to get the stuff that will actually work in fixing it?

You'd rather use a product in your pantry that is really not very good at drying out things, just because it's there?

Silica gel cat litter is available at any grocery store. It's cheap. This "use rice" business is really just an old wives tale. It's bad advice.

Water isn't electrically conductive.. only impure water is.. funny the last step is cleaning the contacts with water.. ah, but pure water!

ive dropped mine in a puddle and the power didnt even go out. the only thing that happened to it was the rocks left 3 deep dents on it and luckily only 1 was on the screen.

Yeah that's what someone told me the other day (about the impure water being conductive). Really? I find it hard to believe, but want to be proved wrong. Any documentation on this? Go home & get out the multimeter, you say? lol. Do smartphone manufacturers coat their boards with a light protectant/ sealant, or is that pretty much only for automotive type stuff?

Pure water has low conductivity. That's a fact. You can check it in any physics textbook.

What makes "water" (i.e. not water, but "impure water") a conductive material are the ions dissolved in it (coming from minerals, salts, and so on).

"I find it hard to believe" - well... don't.

Right on. It just seems counter intuitive that water in any form doesn't cause shorts but hey, its not like any of the dozens of boards I've replaced from water damage were lovingly spritzed with distilled purified h2o either lol. I guess corrosion would be a function of water damage not related to conductivity though.

We lost a 220V feed that was strung across the water when welding on a boat dock. Exposed leads went in the water with an inch or two of separation. There was not enough conduction to notice anything and definitely not enough to trip a breaker, until we manually did.

An ohm meter is a great way to see this. Start with water and gradually dissolve salt into it.

This has nothing to do with Palm. ALL electronics have been shown to be fully useable after getting wet as long as you dry them out.

um, not if you would get full battery amperage across a printed track.

Ugh, Im not even go go there....too many bad memories!!
Just know that Im on my 3rd Pre and my 2nd one was liquid damaged but shhhh dont tell Sprint, they didnt know!

Or, you can put your phone inside a sealed bag and use a vacuum to suck the water out. I dropped my Treo in the pool once, I immediately thought to use a sealed bag and a vacuum, It worked just fine. I didn't have to pull the battery either.

Forgive me for getting off topic, is anyone experiencing promblems with app installs after the 1.3.5 update? I've been getting. "install failed, system adjustments must be made".

I do not suggest a vacuum since it can cause static electricity as well as suck water through the phone that wasn't there to begin with.

True pure water has a very high resistivity

The phone may work now but you're not out of the woods yet!

The main reason to remove the battery is to prevent the growth of metallic shorts underneath components inside the phone. These growths are triggered by contaminants left by the dirty water and the any voltage bias across and between components. Modern surface mount capacitors are especially susceptible to this as the distance between their terminals is very small.

This happened to me some years ago and the phone lasted for a few weeks before giving up the ghost.

Normally the best thing to do would be to clean the circuit board with a appropriate solvent before putting the battery back in. Not sure how easy it would be on the pre and there's likely to be areas underneath the larger chips that don't get cleaned properly.

Some electronics is protected by a conformal coating applied over the circuit board to prevent anything getting in. I doubt that Palm or any other cell phone maker spends extra cash to do this.

I have resurrected drowned phones on several occasions. Indeed the most important step is to yank the battery immediately. I have always just wrapped them up in a couple of socks and thrown them in the clothes dryer with a few towels to keep the banging down. Has always worked for me. Granted, I have not done this to today's phone that if you just imagine them falling off the coffee table they will break. It has been a while since I have done this, and it was mostly to phones you could drop kick across the room and the battery cover would not even pop off.
The key is to get the electricity out of it. Take it deep sea diving and let the cat lick it dry and it will work if you did not have a battery in it.

As long it is fresh water, no problems. One time when I was pushing a jet ski out and I forgot that my phone was in my pocket. Same thing as everyone above, pulled the battery, let the phone dry out for a couple days and it was fine. Salt water is a different story, my daughter dropped her phone(only a week old, ouch, no insurance) into the ocean, pulled the battery, let dry out, nothing, just a paperweight.

this method definitely works but it's hit or miss on how well. I've done it twice because my daughter loves to drop phones in glasses of pop for some reason. Both times it worked fine after a night in a rice bath.

Doesn't Coke dissolve nails & stuff? Is that only metals with iron content?

I would certainly give it a battery free water bath after the Coke, or you have introduced both a sticky sugar and an acid to reek havoc with your device when humidity gives the slight water to power those destructive forces.

The method I have used a number of times, (and it has worked without fail), is to remove the battery (obviously) and open any closed ports and covers on the phone. I then dry any obvious moisture that I see, and then I carefully wedge the phone into any typical window air conditioner vent (usually you can get the phone to stay in position by just squeezing it between the slats of the vent; if not, tape can do wonders). I then turn on the fan setting of the unit (not the A/C setting, so as not to freeze the thing), and leave it there for as long as possible (a number of hours at least). I find that the rushing air gently blows out and/or evaporates the water, without the potential damaging effects of heat, and without potential damage from bouncing around in a dryer (like someone suggested above).

So hypothetically any electrical object (phone, toaster) dropped into a beaker of pure water would not shut off or malfunction, right? Anyone want to test this? lol.

Hey all, Dietrich (from the article) here. Just a few notes that weren't mentioned here on PreCentral, but are on the lifehacker side....

1. My phone was powered on, and remained powered on for 30m while i was in the store before i noticed it in the puddle.

2. I did have EVDO issues for a few days after the phone was restored (probably sprint issue as i was using my old Q in the interim)

3. The phone, early after being recessitated, had some rebooting issues, but all is well now, a little less than a month after the incident.

4. Immediately after I got home, I had the battery in my jeans pocket, which, accidently, found its way in the washing machine (it was, after all, christmas eve). The battery survived the second soaking (surprisingly), and after letting it dry a few more hours, it seemed to work ok on the gf's pre, so i assumed it was ok for mine (which, as it turns out, it was)

All in all, this method does work, as I'm sure the rest do as well.

Thanks PreCentral for pickin this story up, and I look forward to the CES reviews tomorrow :)


If your phone is dropped in something like soda or salt water that will leave a residue, I suggest removing the battery immediately and then actually putting the phone in clean water before trying to dry it. Especially salt water, the left over salt will be very corrosive and gritty after the water evaporates.

In fact, from reading some of the comments, I would think that one should put the phone in clean water for perhaps several hours before trying to dry it, to be sure that it is clean.

In extra fact, for something like salt water, put the phone in a clean bath for 30 minutes, replace the bath with fresh water and repeat 3 times or so... much cleaner than just one bath for an equal amount of time...

hey, good thought! +1! But someone else can try it first. Think I'd stick with a quick rinse.

Don't use a water bath. Use an alcohol bath. Get the rubbing alcohol from the drugstore. Try for the 90% and not the more common 70%. Alcohol is non-conductive and non-residual so it won't leave anything behind. Swish the device around to try and wash out any sediment or impurities from the water the phone or other device was submerged in. Then let it air dry. Alcohol also dries easier/faster than water.

The rice/silica trick sounds good but it won't do anything for residue.

Or just get Denatured Alcohol at a paint or hardware store. Many uses. For wood turners, they dry out green wood very fast by bathing in alcohol, which displaces all the water in the wood. Then the alcohol evaporates much faster than the water would leave the wood.

The only downside is if any parts of the device are soluble in the alcohol. Nothing on the circuit board would be, but the supporting cast of a device CAN be, although very rare.

I have never tried it but I heard if you dip a wet phone in a cup of alcohol the water will separate and then the alcohol will evaporate much quicker.

I had a similar issue with my Pre. I used the rice trick once I got home; but on the drive home I had removed the battery and kept the phone near the AC vent in the car...since the AC also dehumidifies, I figured it couldn;t hurt. It didn't, the only damage was a permanent streak on the screen. The Pre was later replaced (about 3 months post incident) because of an issue after one of the OS upgrades...I can't remember which...but the Sprint Store just replaced it rather than troubleshooting or Doctoring.

I work in electronics manufacturing, and we clean all our circuit boards in deionized (distilled) water, then bake them dry. You can't bake a phone though, because the plastic case could melt. I suggest a desiccant like silica gel sealed within a jar or ziplock bag, in a warm room for a week.

Salt water will kill a phone since salts make water conductive. Rinsing in distilled water a few times as described in the previous post is the only hope.

For real entertainment search on YouTube for
keywords: iphone pool
first vid.

Anyway, yes despite some folks skepticism pure water is
non-conductive, but it is a decent solvent so it will
find a way to dissolve things soaked in it, until usually
some ions are released which improve the conductivity.
Electricity accelerates that process which is why it's
important to 1. not turn the device on if it's off, 2.
get the battery out quickly.

However if you ever do drop your phone (or other electronic device)
in dirty water (salty water, pool water, toilet water.. etc)
then you can remove the battery and immediately wash the
whole device in distilled water safely. Clean it and rinse
it several times. The more distilled water you can use
to displace the original dirty water, the better. It can
even be re-dunked in the distilled water, but use fresh
water each time you do to keep pulling the contaminants away.

Then let it air dry for a couple days (more if it's a
larger, more complicated device). Don't rush the drying
process with blowing air (for one thing, blowing air
may itself contain more contaminants which will collect
in the water droplets inside).

We've restored whole laptops that got flooded this way.
Although, when dealing with any device that has a hard drive,
pull the drive and handle it separately. Drives have
a small vent hole. It's rare to get water inside, but
if you do, it's more of a hassle to get it out, and
evaporation of dirty water inside a drive will kill it.

Another thing. If you ever have a device that is absolutely
drowned (say inside a flooded house) and you want to have it
professionally restored, do *not* remove it from the water
its in. Corrosion and deposition of contaminants
doesn't really start until the water starts to go away
(think hard water rings you see formed as water dries slowly).
Most data restorers will say to deliver a laptop or
hard drive still submerged in the water in which it was
found. They'll then actually start to clean it
while it's under water and cycle it through cleaner
and cleaner water as they go.

My Centro got thoroughly soaked a few years ago (note to others, do NOT take your phone on the Dudley Dooright's Ripsaw Falls ride). I really thought it was dead, but slowly, over the course of a week, it came back to life.

Bad Advice!!

Don't use rice!

Rice is really a rather poor adsorption material. It's an old wives tale that rice is excellent at adsorbing latent moisture.

As other posters have mentioned, there is a cheap product available in any grocery store that actually works. In fact, it's designed to adsorb moisture.

Silica Gel, specifically, silica gel cat litter. Certain kinds of cat litter are made from silica gel. Silica gel cat litter costs just a few bucks, and unlike rice, it quickly adsorbs moisture.

Those little white envelopes that electronics and pharmaceutical manufacturers pack into their boxes to adsorb moisture? Silica gel.

Don't risk your $500 phone with rice, use silica gel. Silica gel is cheap and it actually works.

Hey! I also have a drenched PRE! Slipped and fell into the San Francisco Bay on a hike...I pulled the battery right away, let it dry for several hours. I did plug in the battery and it showed some signs of life. After drying longer I have a working phone except no display on the LCD, the touch still works (if I remember where icons are I can for example load pandora!) But, after 3 days of mostly sitting in rice, the LCD still hasn't displayed any image, I do see the backlighting come from around the edges....I guess wait longer!?

I've never know an LCD to get better once damaged. Sorry.

Dang, I think I misunderstood the directions: I dropped my soaked Pre into a pot of sushi rice.... Good news, it still works perfectly! Bad news, it makes me wait for an hour to use it and then hollers, "Irahshai!"

You're not right.

You will fit in here.

I dropped my Pre in a bucket of sanitizer at work. Yanked it out, pulled the battery, wiped off the excess fluid with a paper towel and set it on top of the toaster oven for a several hours to dry. Amazingly, it worked. It took a while for the backside of the screen to clear, but after a couple of days it did. My E key was stuck for a couple of weeks, but that eventually sorted itself out. So, my phone still works great several months after the incident, which I'm excited about.

A few months ago I dropped my cell phone (not a Pre or Pixi, or even a smartphone, just a crappy little Samsung) into a stream. In a panic, i grabbed it out. Of course, it had turned off. I started up the phone. It gave me some crazy messages (as you'd expect) and tried to do things like set up bluetooth, write new texts, go through contacts... without me pressing a button. Not good. Well, I went through the rest of the day without a working phone. I mentioned what happened to my shrink (psychologist) and he said he did something similar to his blackberrey, and used a hair dryer, which fixed it perfectly. So I got home and got out a hair dryer, took out the battery, and dried them both with the hair dryer for a good amount of time (5, maybe even 10 minutes?) I waited a few hours after drying them. Then, I put the battery in and started up the phone. It worked! Everything was perfect, except for the left button, which was broken at first, but after a few weeks it went back to working normally. I am still using this phone. It works perfectly.
I don't know if this will work for the Pre or Pixi, but if you don't have any rice handy, or that didn't work, this might be worth a shot :)

um... yeah, after reading this today, i found my pre dropped in glass of water by my two year old daughter.

Ouch. Majorly.

I'm sorry but the Pre has the worst build-quality of all the phones I've used in the past 10 years. Unlike a lot of people I actually like the way the Pre looks and feels, but the reality is that it's a poorly built handset with a slew of hardware issues ranging from the screen/touchscreen, the sliding mechanism, the camera and so forth. The main reason I tolerate these problems and pay so much money for this phone every month is because of the webOS. That's the whole reason I chose the Pre over the iPhone, the Blackberry's and all the latest Nokia's, which have excellent build-quality. I do not wish to find out what happens if I put my Pre in a bag of rice, let alone in a puddle.

The rice trick just worked for me. I left my Pre in a ziploc bag full of rice next to a heater for about 24hrs, a couple of streaks on the screen but at least im back to my multitasking webOS ways.

hi, just had my pre put in the washing machine by my wife.when i got it out put it in a airtight bay with rice 24 hrs later it is working great

I have rescued a couple devices that have been totally soaked.

I do use a vacuum. I either use one designed for electronic equipment or make sure it isn't designed to generate static charges.

See this link about vacuums and static:

The goal is to as much water out of the phone before it can damage circuitry.
I have posted a detailed description of the process with additional links here: