Sunday, May 6, 2012

How My iPhone Survived Water Damage

It was just another normal night shift in the pediatric ward. Until I noticed that my iPhone wasn't in my pocket, just as I wanted to take a nap (somewhere around 1 am). Looked everywhere. Called the phone. Woke my wife up in the middle of the night to use Try My iPhone. Even tried to call up one of the patient's parent, who for some circumstances requested for discharge at midnight. No use. After close to 2 hours of searching, I gave up and went to bed.

Apparently what had happened was that the iPhone fell from my pants pocket in the bathroom and fell onto the floor without me noticing it. And when I opened the door, the phone was pushed to the bathroom wall, with a leaking shower head right above it. It was ledger just nice; every time I'd search the room it'd be between the door and wall.

So when I woke up and showered before clerking a new admission, imagine the horror when I saw the phone when the door was closed, the leaking shower right above with water dripping onto it. The screen was black, and I pressed the unlock button once with no response. Water was seeping out of the speaker holes at the bottom. At the instant I removed the case and wiped the phone clean. After I showered, I put the phone in my shirt pocket with a plan.

Water damage occurs from the electronics getting short-circuited. So there are 2 main steps to salvaging a wet electronics equipment: turn off the power, and remove the conductivity of the wet intruder.

1) Turning off the power - not easy when using an iPhone, which doesn't have a removable battery. And the phone was already unresponsive, so it wasn't something I could control.

2) Reducing conductivity - the most important factor is removing the free ions first. Ideally this means washing the salts that may have entered the phone with distilled water. This is more important if the phone got wet from seawater or pool water (and in some respects HKL water does apply) but it is a scary idea so I scrapped that. This is where the idea of disassembling a phone and cleaning the electronics with a soft brush and/or alcohol to remove salts for stuff with water damage comes from.

The next step is drying the phone. After I wiped the phone clean I kept it in my shirt pocket with hope that the body heat would evaporate some of the water while allowing an outlet for the evaporated water to come out. My plan for definitive drying was getting a calcium chloride based desiccant (ala Thirsty Hippo) to suck out the water inside.

I called my wife to send an airtight tub while coming to work and send Muiz to the creche, with the hope that the Hospimart in HKL sells such a desiccant product. Apparently it wasn't sold. So after 10 hours of discovering the phone I finally got a tub of calcium chloride from the nearby Guardian pharmacy. I put the desiccant container in an airtight tub and closed it with the iPhone inside.

44 hours later, I recharged the phone. 76% battery left, turned on as usual, and it was back to business as if nothing happened.

From searching the internet, there are other alternatives to calcium chloride (which in all respects pretty cost effective as it is):
1) silica gels - you'd need a shit ton, and who keeps these in their house anyway?
2) uncooked rice - you might want to keep it for 72 hours instead of the 2 days I used.
3) hot air - use with care as you might cook the electronics. And ventilation is more important than the heat itself with this method

So remember the steps:
1) don't allow your expensive phone to get wet.
2) dry your phone's insides ASAP, and don't turn the phone at all until it's already dry.
3) if you dare, clean the insides. You've probably voided your warranty already anyway, so it could be a reasonable step if you're desperate.

Most important resource (among others): Andy Ihnatko

7 comments:

Jackie Champion said...

Hey! You have such an interesting and informative page. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about water damage. I am glad to stop by your site and know more about water damage. Keep it up! This is a good read.
Category 1 Water refers to a source of water that does not pose substantial threat to humans and classified as "Clean Water". Examples are broken water supply lines, tub or sink overflows or appliance malfunctions that involves water supply lines.
Regardless of the cause of your water damage, it’s important to call a company that will come to your house immediately. The water may have stopped flowing into your home, but the damage and loss will only get worse until a professional begins restoration services.

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Venus Eckert said...

I’m lucky that when I got my phone wet with perfume, it still turned on. All I did was let it dry with a fan and left it on my desk for a week. I know that I just got lucky with what I did, so hopefully, the next time I got careless again, I can employ the tried and tested solutions. Hehe. You were very fortunate, too!

Regards,
Venus Eckert

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Irfan Ali said...

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Jose Gonzalez said...

It has happened to me sucks, I read you can nano proof your phone these days.

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Mike Bav said...

It's nuts these days how you can now prevent water damage to your iphone with certain cases, and you can even still do the rice trick that works so well