Phones can be saved if dropped in liquid - East Valley Tribune: Business

Phones can be saved if dropped in liquid

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Posted: Saturday, September 12, 2009 6:29 pm | Updated: 1:23 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Ken Colburn: As everyone knows, electronics and moisture are not a good mix, and what you do in the early stages after introducing your favorite device to liquid is critical.

Q. What can be done if I dropped my smartphone in water? - Craig

A. As everyone knows, electronics and moisture are not a good mix, and what you do in the early stages after introducing your favorite device to liquid is critical.

The first thing to do is turn it off and take out the battery (iPhone users don't have the battery removal option, so turning it off is critical). If your smartphone has a memory or sim card, be sure to remove it as well, because the data stored on it could also be at risk.

The biggest mistake that's made in these panic situations is repeatedly trying to get the device to power up while hoping that everything will be OK. Each attempt could be your last! Your best chance of recovery is to not turn it back on until you are absolutely certain that all of the moisture has been removed or has evaporated.

Liquid is a fantastic conductor of electrical energy and can easily cause an electronic "short," which causes electricity to flow across circuitry in improper channels (thus the term "short circuit").

But depending on the amount of time that it was left on while wet, you may be able to simply get the device cleared of the water and have it work perfectly.

Once the battery has been removed, open or remove any other panels or slots and wipe down all the surfaces with an absorbent paper or cloth towel. Rotate it in various directions to see if you can coax any large collections of water out of the unit.

The next step is to let the device sit in a warm and dry environment (like on top of a stereo receiver or cable converter box, but away from the open vents) so the liquid can evaporate, usually for 12 to 24 hours.

If you want to accelerate the evaporation, a long-standing trick in electronic circles is to put the device in a sealed container filled with uncooked rice, then place it in a warm environment, such as your car in summer months or in the previously mentioned locations.

For those who have the misfortune of dropping a device into a liquid other than water, the task will be more involved, especially if the liquid has a sticky residue like soda or coffee.

In those cases, the electronic surfaces that have come in contact with the sticky liquid will have to be cleaned with either isopropyl rubbing alcohol or a plastic-safe electronic spray cleaner.

To do this, it will typically require that you take the device apart to reach the surfaces that need to be cleaned.

If you don't clean off the sticky residue even after it's had enough time to evaporate, you risk the chance of the residue shorting out the circuitry.

If you don't know how to take apart your device, you can use one of the more useful technical resources that will show you via video: YouTube.

If you search YouTube.com for your specific device with the term "take apart" in front of it, you will likely find dozens of videos that show the step-by-step process for taking the unit apart so you can completely clean the electronics of the sticky residue.

Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the "Computer Corner" radio show, which can be heard at noon Saturdays on 92.3 KTAR-FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to evtrib@datadoctors.com.

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