Why Water Is Your Phone’s Kryptonite

Most people who own electronic devices know that these high-powered toys do not mix well with water. Even just a few drops on the wrong area can cause your phone to start acting funny, either freezing, distorting the screen or just plain shutting off.


Undoubtedly, durable devices have started to make an impact in the electronics market. The revolutionary DryWired Nebula is a water repellent nanocoating system that seems to be the perfect solution for consumer facing mobile phone retailers – see more at Drywired.com. While this technology is relatively new, it does seem to be ideal for electronic retailers.

But until we see gadget makers waterproof all the electronics in our lives, there are some steps to take in order to prevent your device from falling prey to water, and know why the wet stuff is so harmful and what you should do if an accident happens.

How It Works

On any given phone, there are a number of different points of entry for water:

  • The headset plug-in
  • The speaker
  • The charger plug-in
  • Areas around buttons

Because there are so many entry points, there are a few things that can happen when water ekes its way inside. Typically, your device will simply short circuit or power off. That is because your phone has a circuit board that controls how electrons move through the device, which makes it work properly. When water gets into that board, it distorts the pathways and allows the electrons to move freely, essentially running amok. This, in turn, creates an excess of electricity and heat, which will eventually shut down your phone.

A Second Life?

There are some instances in which a phone subjected to water may continue to work well, at least for a little while. However, because the water has crept inside the phone, it has likely caused a chemical reaction somewhere. If you were to open up the phone, you would probably see either a white, powdery substance or something that looks like rust.

The water combined with the power supplied by the phone causes a reaction and wears away the delicate metal pieces inside. This may mean that the circuits still work, but they probably aren’t working well. There are even instances where this can occur if you keep your phone close to your skin, say, during a workout, because the salt in your sweat can speed up a chemical reaction process.

A Phone’s Watery Death

Even if your phone seemingly works for a little while, it will usually meet its end after a few weeks. A corrosion known as “electrochemical migration” occurs as metal ions move around the circuit board. In time, the ions start to form a bridge, so that even if the water is gone, there is a new roadblock in the way of the electrons that are supposed to move around the circuit board. When that occurs, your phone will not be able to work at all, and it will shut off forever.

Taking Action

If you are like thousands of other people and happen to get your phone wet, there are a few things you can do to try to prevent permanent damage:

  • Take out the battery immediately to prevent those ions and electrons from moving around.
  • Dry out any excess water carefully; do not shake the phone in an attempt to remove water, because you can actually end up moving the liquid into nooks and crannies that way.
  • Once the phone has completely dried, cross your fingers and turn it on.

Some people get lucky, but many do not. You can always try taking the phone to a repair expert who may be able to salvage your device.

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