It takes just a moment’s carelessness to turn an expensive smartphone into a worthless slab of plastic and glass.
By dropping your phone in the wet snow or slush as Storm Emma brings more Arctic weather conditions, your shiny pocket pal could be a goner – if you do the wrong thing next, that is.
The fact is, while liquid spills can have calamitous consequences for anything electronic, there’s a good chance that a sodden smartphone can be rescued.
To have a hope of helping your handset live to see another day it is vital that you act right away. Here’s our five-step guide to saving your smartphone – read and remember it for when disaster strikes.
Step 1: Remove the battery...
Not every smartphone allows this, but if your handset has a removable back panel, slip it off straight away and flip the battery out.
Don’t worry about switching the phone off by following the manufacturer’s recommended method, because the risk of short-circuiting components means that time is of the essence.
No lasting damage is likely to occur by removing the battery immediately and while you may lose information from any open apps – like a half-written email, say – that will surely be preferable to waving goodbye to the whole phone.
Step 2: …Or switch off right away
If your smartphone has a sealed design, as many now do, you’ll have no option but to switch it off in the usual way.
It's simple to do. Just hold down the power button for a short while and follow the prompts.
Step 3: Dry it off, clean it up
With the battery removed or the power off, thoroughly dry off your handset using an absorbent cloth or a good wodge of paper towels.
Do take care to get in to all the nooks and crannies. If the spill was a liquid other than water – such as a sticky soft drink – then use a lightly-dampened cloth or paper towels to clean it up, again paying close attention to crevices and button mechanisms. Don’t be afraid to give your phone a gentle shake to encourage liquid to find a way out.
Step 4: Submerge your phone in a bowl of rice
No, we’re not joking – place your smartphone in a bowl and cover it completely with dry rice. Rice is a natural desiccant and it will help to absorb any remaining water.
There are better commercial alternatives but few people will be prepared enough to have an industrial desiccant to hand. So reach for the store-cupboard rice.
One tip, though: position your handset in such a way that rice grains can’t easily find their way in to any connector holes, such as the headphone socket. In other words, make sure that any entry points are facing downwards – gravity will do the rest.
Step 5: Have patience – and lots of it
Now for the most difficult bit – waiting. Pop the bowl in an airy place (an airing cupboard or window sill is ideal) and wait.
Sitting tight for a week would be ideal, but certainly you should not be tempted to switch on your handset for at least 24 hours.
When you think the time is right – or you can wait no longer – remove your smartphone from its bed of rice, make sure that no stray grains have found their way into the headphone socket (and if they have, use a gentle shake or tweezers to extract them). Then switch it on.
It’s worth noting that this method doesn’t always work – especially if you’ve spilt fizzy drinks like coke or lemonade on your phone. They contain sugar, which is more corrosive than water.
If you’ve got an expensive smartphone, we’d always suggest getting insurance - just in case your phone doesn’t come back to life.