Using alcohol to fix or revive a phone dropped in water

Here are a few things that you may want to consider when trying to save fix or revive a cell phone dropped in or exposed to moisture water or some other liquid.

If you are considering the idea of trying to use isopropyl alcohol on a cell phone that doesn’t seem to work quite right after coming in contact with moisture then you’re in the right place. This guide discusses and answers some commonly asked questions about using isopropyl alcohol on high end devices such as smartphones and contains some advice on some other things that you might want to consider before doing it.

Can alcohol fix my phones problem?

Alcohol can help resolve many different types of issues that often occur to a smartphone after exposing that smartphone liquid. This includes and is not limited to problems with the…

  • Touch Screen (unresponsive or responding incorrectly to your touch)
  • Display Screen (whether its distorted, has lines, discoloration, or won’t work at all)
  • Charging or Charging Port (if your phone doesn’t recognize a charger or refuses to charge correctly)
  • Holding a charge (although this is often a battery issue as opposed to a phone issue)
  • Powering off (sporadically powers itself off for no particular reason)
  • Rebooting (restarts itself, gets stuck in a boot loop, or will not power on properly)
  • Loud Speaker (which is used for the Ringer, Music, hands free, etc)
  • Internal Speaker (which you hold up to your ear on a telephone conversation)
  • Microphone (used so that other people can hear you talking to them during a telephone conversation)
  • Wi-Fi (phone will not connect to or stay connected to a Wi-Fi network)
  • Service Issues (poor or no service)
  • Sensors (proximity sensor or fingerprint scanner etc.)
  • Audio Jack (for a plug in headset)
  • Bluetooth (has issues paring with Bluetooth devices)
  • Nonresponsive (if your phone is dead and totally unresponsive)
  • Etc… (basically if moisture or liquid is responsible for the malfunction there is a chance that isopropyl alcohol might be able to fix it)

Alcohol can’t repair physical damage

While alcohol is an amazingly useful tool when it comes to trying to fix a phone that’s been exposed to moisture it unfortunately cannot fix any piece of hardware on a phone that has experienced physical or liquid damage. Typically any piece of hardware that has experienced damage (like an electrical short for example) will need to be replaced with a working piece of hardware.

If soaking your phone in alcohol doesn’t seem to help resolve the problem that your phone is experiencing (whatever problem that may be) then it may be that that piece of hardware has experienced damage and will need to be replaced.

Consider checking the LDI first

Before soaking your phone in alcohol you may want to check your phones LDI (Liquid Damage Indicator) first. Chances are that the phones LDI has been activated turning from its natural white color to a pink or red color which would indicate possible water damage and voiding the phones warranty.

Isopropyl alcohol is still a type of liquid and will activate an LDI sticker. If your phone’s LDI is still completely white then you may be able to look into possible warranty options. If not (most likely in many types of circumstances) then you will have almost nothing to lose by trying this little trick and by submerging your phone in alcohol.

What kind of alcohol should I use?

I recommend that you use 99% isopropyl alcohol when trying to fix your cell phone with alcohol. It’s typically inexpensive (very affordable online), it’s none conductive (which is awesome), and it is very effective.

I get asked occasionally if other types of alcohol can be used to revive a cell phone that’s been dropped in water but I have had such great results with isopropyl alcohol thus far I have not yet had the need to try anything else.

If you don’t have any isopropyl alcohol available around the house and since you may have a difficult time locating it at your local grocery store (make sure to check the pharmacy section) then you may want to consider ordering it online and then waiting for it to arrive. You may be without you phone for a few days while it gets mailed to you but it’s usually worth the wait in my opinion. Note: Whatever you end up choosing to do make sure that you don’t try to use your cell phone until it has had time to dry out completely. You don’t want to accidently cause an electrical short to occur or cause permanent damage to your cell phone.

70% vs. 91% vs. 99% isopropyl alcohol

I have mentioned this already but when using isopropyl alcohol I highly suggest that you use the 99% concentration (by volume) as 99% isopropyl alcohol will be the purist that you can get and won’t contain other additive(s), such as water, which is a conductive liquid and which can increase the chances of an electrical short as well as other undesirable consequences.

Can I use 70% or 91% isopropyl alcohol?

I get asked often if 70% isopropyl alcohol or 91% isopropyl alcohol can be used as opposed to the 99% isopropyl alcohol and I don’t personally recommend it. Yes, 70% isopropyl alcohol and 91% isopropyl alcohol are still going to be way better than using just water and if I was trying to revive a cheap electronic that I could easily replace and didn’t really care about (and didn’t have some 99% handy for some reason) then yeah I MIGHT use the more diluted versions of isopropyl alcohol. But for a high end electronic like a smartphone that usually has a price tag in the triple digits I wouldn’t risk it and would likely wait until I had some 99% isopropyl alcohol to use instead.

Remember that 70% isopropyl alcohol is going to be just that… 70% isopropyl alcohol, while the other 30% is going to be mostly water and there is no telling how “pure” that water is going to be and whether or not it will conduct electricity or cause an electrical short. This is just as true for 91% isopropyl alcohol as well.

Coincidently did you know that “ultra-pure water” (which is NOT found in nature) and which has no impurities whatsoever doesn’t conduct electricity! In fact there is a chance that Ultra-pure water may have even been used to make some of the parts in your very own smartphone. But that’s a topic for a whole other article.

While Ultra-pure water may be used in the semiconductor industry it won’t be a component found in that bottle of alcohol and I highly suggest that you avoid the risk of an electrical short and stick to 99% isopropyl alcohol whenever possible.

Isopropyl alcohol as a solvent

We have talked briefly about alcohol and its non-conductive nature but since isopropyl alcohol is a solvent I have been asked more than once if it’s safe to use alcohol on a cell phone.

More specifically if isopropyl alcohol can have an undesirable effect on things such as the adhesives or glues used to assemble modern day smartphones?

While isopropyl alcohol is technically a solvent I have used 99% isopropyl alcohol to revive multiple cell phones which had been exposed to moisture or dropped in water or submerged in some other type of liquid and have yet to see any negative results indicating that isopropyl alcohol has any adverse effect on any of the glues or other materials which holds a phone together or allows a phone to function properly.

Quite the opposite in fact; I have seen isopropyl alcohol revive malfunctioning speakers, charging ports, touch screens and display screens as well as solve common power issues that often occur from exposing a phone to moisture or completely submerging it in water. We have even used isopropyl alcohol to resurrect completely lifeless and totally unresponsive phones before.

So while it’s not a guaranteed fix (since isopropyl alcohol cannot repair physical damage such as an electrical short), I have found through experience that isopropyl alcohol can and often does help in these types of situations and is a good tool to use when combating the unpleasant and undesirable effects that moisture or liquid can have on an electronic device.

How should I do it?

Some other questions commonly asked include how to actually soak a cell phone in 99% isopropyl alcohol. Here are a few common questions and some personal recommendations that you may find helpful.

Should I take the parts off of my phone before I soak it in alcohol?

Yes, I recommend that you take off all of the removable parts from your cell phone before submerging it in alcohol.

These removable parts can vary depending on your particular cell phone and service provider but these parts may or may not include the phones back plate, battery, external memory card (aka MicroSD Card), SIM Card(s), etc.

I recommend that you take all of these pieces off of your phone and wipe those pieces down with a clean cloth dampened with 99% isopropyl alcohol. Then set all of those pieces to the side to dry.

After all of the removable pieces have been removed from your phone the alcohol will be able to work its way into all of those areas of the phone without resistance and with any luck it will be able to work its magic.

Bathing your phone in 99% isopropyl alcohol

Finding a good container to soak it in

The most important thing to consider when choosing a container is to make sure to locate a vessel which will allow you to completely submerge your phone in alcohol.

Some other minor things that you might want to consider is the size of the container… it will need to be big enough for you to soak your phone in of course but you don’t want it too big or else you’ll end up needlessly wasting alcohol.

You shouldn’t really have to worry about evaporation and whether or not the container should be sealable or not because you won’t be leaving your phone in the alcohol long enough for it to evaporate enough to make a difference.

I still like to use a small Tupperware container or a Ziploc bag for this task but as long as the phone is completely submerged it shouldn’t make much of a difference.

Submerged in alcohol

Once you have submerged your phone in alcohol you’re going to want to try to get that isopropyl alcohol to go into the phone and fill every nook and crevice within the phone which any water (or other liquids) may have entered earlier. You want the alcohol to clean out the entire phone.

I find that the best way to do this is to let the phone soak for fifteen or so minutes and then, while the phone is still submerged, take hold of it and gently shake it under the alcohol, then let it sit for ten or fifteen minutes and do it again. You want to make sure that you try to get the isopropyl alcohol into the phone and any leftover minerals or calcium deposits or even water or other possible contaminates out of the phone as best as you can.

After about an hour take a look at the isopropyl alcohol in which your phone in soaking. Does it look dirty? If so you might want to wiggle and shake your phone one more time under the current batch of alcohol then remove the phone from the alcohol and let it drip dry a bit. Try to get the majority of the alcohol out of your phone, set the phone aside for a moment, clean out the dirty alcohol, and then refill it with a fresh batch of isopropyl alcohol, and submerge your phone in the fresh and clean alcohol to give it another good cleaning. Note: remember that if you decide to rinse the container with water while cleaning it you should try and dry it of any water before refilling it with alcohol.

How long should I soak my phone in alcohol?

The length of time that you should soak your phone in alcohol is not set in stone. It is going to depend on a few different factors including the particular circumstances that lead to having the need to try and fix or revive your malfunctioning cell phone.

Rain water, River water, Toilet water, Sea water, Dish water, Shower or Bath water, Laundry detergent water, Soda, Soup, Milk and cereal, Wine, Beer, whatever liquid that may have found its way into your phone you are going to need to soak your device long enough to try and remove that particular substance from the inner workings of your cell phone.

Some substances are going to be more resilient than others…

In most circumstances you should be able to get away with soaking your phone for a good couple of hours.

Drying your cell phone

Once your electronic has had time to soak and you feel that the alcohol has been able to get into the phone and give it a good cleaning you can remove the phone from the alcohol. Afterwards you should gently try to get as much of the alcohol out of the phone as you can manage and then dry the outside of the phone with a clean dry cloth as best as you can.

I also like to utilize dry rice when attempting to accelerate the drying process. I am not sure if it’s just a psychological thing but when I am more generous with the amount of rice that I submerge my phone in it seems like the phone tends to dry out faster.

You can use another Tupperware container or Ziploc bag for this purpose but this time you may want a container that you can seal. That way the rice can absorb any leftover moisture from the phone a little more effectively.

Isopropyl alcohol should dry relatively quickly but for good measure you may want to let your phone dry for a good 24 hours or at the very least let it sit and dry over night.

After your phone has had time to completely dry take it out of the rice, remove any rice that may have gotten stuck to it (check all of the ports to make sure that no rice has found its way into anywhere undesirable), put the phone all back together, and try to start it up.

Moment of truth

Hopefully with any luck your phone will power on properly and be back to 100% functionality again.

If this is the case then enjoy your working cell phone and don’t hesitate to share this article and information with your friends through Google + or Facebook etc. and don’t hesitate to leave a friendly remark in the comment section below as well.

If your cell phone is still having issues and still doesn’t seem to want to work correctly then you may yet have some options available depending on what your phone is doing…

Possibility of liquid damage

If your cell phone is still malfunctioning even after bathing it in isopropyl alcohol then, as mentioned at the beginning of this guide, this could indicate that part(s) of your phone have experienced moisture or liquid damage and will most likely need to be replaced in order for your phone to function properly again.

If this applies to your current situation then I highly suggest that you review what to do if your cell phone has liquid or moisture damage which includes some additional advice on this topic including some suggestions on how to pinpoint which piece(s) of hardware might require servicing or replacing.

Best of luck and thanks for visiting

Thank you for visiting the site and for reading this guide. I hope that you have found it informative, instructive, helpful, and most of all effective at helping you fix your cell phone. This little trick can resolve a ton of issues resulting on a phone exposed to moisture or liquid and I hope that it works on your phone too.

You won’t know for sure until you try though so get a hold of some 99% isopropyl alcohol, follow the advice listed above, and give it a shot (no alcohol pun intended).

Feel free to also bookmark this post to revisit afterwards and let us know what phone you own, what problem your phone was experiencing, and of course if the alcohol was able to help fix it or not.

I look forward to reading your comment and I hope you have a fantastic day.

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6 Comments

Repairing liquid damage to cell phone

I first dried my phone with rice and then plugged in and turned it on to find that everything looked fine but that it would not charge, although it recognized the charger. I then followed your instructions: removed the back cover plate, the battery and the SIM card and wiped them with 99% isopropyl alcohol and soaked the phone for 24 hours in it. Then I tried to dry it out with abundant rice and waited two days.

Now it won't turn on; I get a grey screen with a couple of vertical bands and mainly what looks like big puddles. Presumably there is still liquid inside. I don't dare try to take the phone further apart and don't know what to do except put it back in a container with rice for an indefinite period of time.

Have you any suggestions?

Thanks,

Patrick Nugent

Repairing your cell phone

Hey Patrick,

There isn’t much point in owning a cell phone that won’t charge. Try not to panic. I think your phone has a good chance of recovering but from your description it sounds like your phone does still have liquid or moisture inside of it and even though you have left it in rice for two days it sounds like it needs more time to dry.

Here is what I recommend…

Try putting your phone back in dried rice or if you can get a hold of some silica gel packs to increase the moisture absorbing power within that sealed container then that would be even better and should help speed up the process! You want to try to get all of that moisture out of your phone however long it takes.

To go even further… “big puddles” tells me that there is likely still moisture underneath your cell phones screen and you should make it a goal not to use your phone until those puddles dry up and hopefully disappear (alcohol shouldn’t leave to much if any leftover residues behind). To speed this process up you can place your phone under a desk lamp for some added warmth. Just don’t accidently cook your phone and get it too hot. Heat and electronics don’t get along very well so take this into consideration and if you decide to do this keep an eye on things so that your phone doesn’t overheat and get damaged from the heat of the light bulb.

The “grey screen with a couple of vertical bands” sounds like the flex cable which connects your cell phones display screen to the phones motherboard is for whatever reason not functioning properly BUT this too is usually reparable as well. Some moisture may have worked its way into that connection somehow and that’s most likely what’s causing the problem.

If these discolorations and lines remain on the phone then you might have to take the phone apart, locate that flex cable, unplug the connections from one another, clean it with a little bit of that 99% alcohol, leave it to dry, reconnect the cables to one another, put the phone all back together and then give your phone another try.

I hope that helps Patrick. Out of curiosity what phone are you working with and what kind of liquid was the phone exposed to? When charging the phone you mentioned that your phone did recognize the charger but just would not charge… keep in mind that this could indicate a problem with the battery as opposed to the phone, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

Keep me posted my friend. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Your advice on wet phone

Thanks a lot, James, for your lengthy and rapid response. I feel encouraged by what you said. I have packed the phone in new rice and will wait until it is dry, as you suggest.

The phone is a Samsung Core SM-G350 which I purchased in France in 2014. It fell into a swimming pool and was submerged for about a minute in chlorinated water. About 20 minutes later I opened the back, took out the battery and SIM card, wiped everything dry and put it into a container with some rice.

I'll let you know how things go. Thanks again.

I think you made the right choice

Hi again Patrick Nugent,

Chlorinated water is not something that you want to have inside of your cell phone. Not only is it conductive but it is also very corrosive. You want to make sure you get all of that destructive material out of your phone as you can so I think that soaking your phone in alcohol was a good decision on your part.

Keep me posted my friend. I have my fingers crossed for you and your smartphone and hope to hear some good news when I hear from you again.

Just curious...

Just curious what your results were!

Phone Watermarks

Hey James, Thanks for this informative article. My phone currently has watermarks on the screen. I accidentally dropped my phone in a bucket of laundry detergent water. It took me eight seconds to pick it up from the bucket. I immediately checked if it was still on and used it to look for a solution. Rice. I've seen that before, so I took a bowl and filled it with uncooked rice and took it's parts apart to place it inside. My mother thought I had left it accidentally and brought it to the car on my way to school, I was already late that I had no choice but to just take it all apart again and leave it in the car. When I was fetched from school, I went to get my phone, but I lost my sd card on the process.

So I took the parts and placed it in a bowl of uncooked rice anyway. I left it for 4 days.

And now it functions, but it has watermarks on the screen. It shut down for no reason a little while ago twice. I'm not sure if it's because of the damage, or the old sd card I got from my mother as a replacement.

Hoping for your response,

Jane.

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