How to Save a Phone from a Drop in the Toilet

As I was visiting the ladies’ room one afternoon last week, the person in the stall next to me was multi-tasking. Yes! Going to the bathroom and talking on their phone at the same time. Of course this got me thinking… not only about the sanitary issues of doing this but also about the potential for dropping your phone (or other device) into the toilet. What if you drop your phone in the water? Can you save it?

Apparently this has happened to many, many people before and there is a trick to saving your device. Although not a very high tech solution, people swear that it works and can save you some major headaches.

How to Save a Phone from a Drop in the Toilet
Photo courtesy of fletchy182

So what do you need to recover your device? You need one Ziploc bag along with a cup of instant rice. If you frequently use your device near water, you may want to have these items handy in your car or office in case of emergency.

If you accidentally drop your phone into water or other liquid or if you spill liquid on it, here is what you need to do. First of all, do not rinse it out under a tap. This will only make things worse. Flip the device over onto its face on a towel (or paper towel) to drain out the liquid. Start taking the device apart and put each piece, including the battery, into the Ziploc bag with uncooked rice. Seal the bag shut (Ziploc bags come with a seal) and let it sit for several hours. Next, remove all the pieces from the bag, blow off any rice particles, and reassemble the device. Power the device back on.

According to those who have had liquid emergencies and either dropped or spilled on their devices, this works 99% of the time. You can even use this technique with electronic devices.

Or, you can use my technique: avoid taking your phone to the washroom!

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  • Anonymous

    While I’ve never tried the rice thing, I am a medical equipment technician with years of having nurses and patients drop EKG transmitters in toilets. So here’s an alternative method.

    First of all, get the thing out of the toilet. I disagree about the tap water. If the toilet water was “less than pristine”, you should remove the battery ASAP and then do a quick rinse of your phone. I personally wouldn’t want to leave residue of whatever was in the toilet on my phone ! Urine (sorry to get gross) is acidic and has all the excess salts your body gets rid of. Removing the battery will stop the combination of voltage and salt water from corroding the microcircuits, which can occur within hours.

    The next thing to do is get the water out. You can start by flushing it with 90+% isopropyl alcohol, or better yet a chlorofluorocarbon (freon), or other plastic-safe contact cleaner. Then use a compressor or one of those air duster cans to blow out the remaining moisture and the solvent. A thick terry cloth towel works well to absorb water as well. I have also used a shop vacuum and put the device against the hose in a manner to draw the air through it. The vacuum lowers the air pressure and makes the liquid evaporate more quickly.

    When you are confident that you’ve done all you can to get the water out, then you need to get the phone into warm, dry, moving air. A small portable electric heater or a hair dryer set on the lowest setting is best. Set the phone in the path of the warm air far enough away so that the heat doesn’t cook it (use your hand and a little common sense),

    I’ve rescued quite a few pieces of equipment this way. Medical and consumer. My daughter’s Nintendo DS wasn’t so lucky. she dropped it in her bathtub. I didn’t find out about it for a couple of days. It was already corroded and even had mold growing in it by then.

  • Anonymous

    While I’ve never tried the rice thing, I am a medical equipment technician with years of having nurses and patients drop EKG transmitters in toilets. So here’s an alternative method.

    First of all, get the thing out of the toilet. I disagree about the tap water. If the toilet water was “less than pristine”, you should remove the battery ASAP and then do a quick rinse of your phone. I personally wouldn’t want to leave residue of whatever was in the toilet on my phone ! Urine (sorry to get gross) is acidic and has all the excess salts your body gets rid of. Removing the battery will stop the combination of voltage and salt water from corroding the microcircuits, which can occur within hours.

    The next thing to do is get the water out. You can start by flushing it with 90+% isopropyl alcohol, or better yet a chlorofluorocarbon (freon), or other plastic-safe contact cleaner. Then use a compressor or one of those air duster cans to blow out the remaining moisture and the solvent. A thick terry cloth towel works well to absorb water as well. I have also used a shop vacuum and put the device against the hose in a manner to draw the air through it. The vacuum lowers the air pressure and makes the liquid evaporate more quickly.

    When you are confident that you’ve done all you can to get the water out, then you need to get the phone into warm, dry, moving air. A small portable electric heater or a hair dryer set on the lowest setting is best. Set the phone in the path of the warm air far enough away so that the heat doesn’t cook it (use your hand and a little common sense),

    I’ve rescued quite a few pieces of equipment this way. Medical and consumer. My daughter’s Nintendo DS wasn’t so lucky. she dropped it in her bathtub. I didn’t find out about it for a couple of days. It was already corroded and even had mold growing in it by then.

  • http://twitter.com/lhamil64 Lee

    I tried this once when my mom’s phone went through the wash. It didn’t work unfortunately (but the phone was old and we had a newer backup one). I have heard that if you drop something in salt water, that you should put it in a cup of distilled water to clean out the salts etc. I think it’s a bad idea to put it near a heater since it can damage the internal components if they get too hot.

  • http://twitter.com/lhamil64 Lee

    I tried this once when my mom’s phone went through the wash. It didn’t work unfortunately (but the phone was old and we had a newer backup one). I have heard that if you drop something in salt water, that you should put it in a cup of distilled water to clean out the salts etc. I think it’s a bad idea to put it near a heater since it can damage the internal components if they get too hot.

  • Fred von Blume

    I work with E-devices for a while and have had to do this unpleasant task. Cracking a cellphone or a keyboard device or such is not that bad. Blackberrys are a snap. Sometimes the game isn’t worth the candle. Then you just rinse with a non-conducting “Safety Solvent” – like Z99 – and reassemble. You can “rinse” with Safety Solvent without cracking them also. Barring that, quick and dirty, I have a big glass dessicator – a big glass thing with a big glass lid – full of bone-dry sodium silicate. I pump it down with a vacuum pump, let the damp air that comes out get dried out by the desiccant, let the air back in so the phone sucks in the dry air and then cycle it like that four or five times and then sit under the vacuum over night. Heat and serve. You can “re-dry” silica BTW by putting it on a cookie sheet in a hot oven. It appears to “melt” and then, after a while, the water all evaporates and it turns back to a dry powder. You can fake all of this with a plastic container that is sold for “Speed Marinating” under vacuum with those vacuum bag sealer things – Seal-A-Meal. These work BTW. For a vacuum you can get a hand vacuum at Harbor Freight for about ten bucks.

  • Fred von Blume

    I work with E-devices for a while and have had to do this unpleasant task. Cracking a cellphone or a keyboard device or such is not that bad. Blackberrys are a snap. Sometimes the game isn’t worth the candle. Then you just rinse with a non-conducting “Safety Solvent” – like Z99 – and reassemble. You can “rinse” with Safety Solvent without cracking them also. Barring that, quick and dirty, I have a big glass dessicator – a big glass thing with a big glass lid – full of bone-dry sodium silicate. I pump it down with a vacuum pump, let the damp air that comes out get dried out by the desiccant, let the air back in so the phone sucks in the dry air and then cycle it like that four or five times and then sit under the vacuum over night. Heat and serve. You can “re-dry” silica BTW by putting it on a cookie sheet in a hot oven. It appears to “melt” and then, after a while, the water all evaporates and it turns back to a dry powder. You can fake all of this with a plastic container that is sold for “Speed Marinating” under vacuum with those vacuum bag sealer things – Seal-A-Meal. These work BTW. For a vacuum you can get a hand vacuum at Harbor Freight for about ten bucks.

  • Fred von Blume

    I work with E-devices for a while and have had to do this unpleasant task. Cracking a cellphone or a keyboard device or such is not that bad. Blackberrys are a snap. Sometimes the game isn’t worth the candle. Then you just rinse with a non-conducting “Safety Solvent” – like Z99 – and reassemble. You can “rinse” with Safety Solvent without cracking them also. Barring that, quick and dirty, I have a big glass dessicator – a big glass thing with a big glass lid – full of bone-dry sodium silicate. I pump it down with a vacuum pump, let the damp air that comes out get dried out by the desiccant, let the air back in so the phone sucks in the dry air and then cycle it like that four or five times and then sit under the vacuum over night. Heat and serve. You can “re-dry” silica BTW by putting it on a cookie sheet in a hot oven. It appears to “melt” and then, after a while, the water all evaporates and it turns back to a dry powder. You can fake all of this with a plastic container that is sold for “Speed Marinating” under vacuum with those vacuum bag sealer things – Seal-A-Meal. These work BTW. For a vacuum you can get a hand vacuum at Harbor Freight for about ten bucks.

  • Fred von Blume

    I work with E-devices for a while and have had to do this unpleasant task. Cracking a cellphone or a keyboard device or such is not that bad. Blackberrys are a snap. Sometimes the game isn’t worth the candle. Then you just rinse with a non-conducting “Safety Solvent” – like Z99 – and reassemble. You can “rinse” with Safety Solvent without cracking them also. Barring that, quick and dirty, I have a big glass dessicator – a big glass thing with a big glass lid – full of bone-dry sodium silicate. I pump it down with a vacuum pump, let the damp air that comes out get dried out by the desiccant, let the air back in so the phone sucks in the dry air and then cycle it like that four or five times and then sit under the vacuum over night. Heat and serve. You can “re-dry” silica BTW by putting it on a cookie sheet in a hot oven. It appears to “melt” and then, after a while, the water all evaporates and it turns back to a dry powder. You can fake all of this with a plastic container that is sold for “Speed Marinating” under vacuum with those vacuum bag sealer things – Seal-A-Meal. These work BTW. For a vacuum you can get a hand vacuum at Harbor Freight for about ten bucks.