Help Me, LAPTOP: My Android Phone Went Through the Wash!

We've heard of dropping a phone in a toilet, or spilling a glass of liquid all over a handset. We've even heard of gutter phones soaked in water. But when Andrew Riley's mother put his Samsung Vibrant from T-Mobile through the wash, we felt compelled to help. He writes:

The phone was left in the bed, and the sheets and blankets were wrapped around it and carried away to the laundry room. I didn't even realize it was gone until my mother returned looking very sad. She apologized, but will my beautiful new Android phone ever work again?

Your warranty likely does not cover water damage, and the water indicator beneath the battery will give you away if you try and pull a fast one. You can see for yourself that the little square of white paper has likely turned red, meaning it's been exposed to water. However, all is not necessarily lost.

Start by removing the battery. Don't even try to turn it on, because you can risk shorting out the circuits. Then remove the SIM card. You'll want the SIM to remain intact, in case the phone is bricked. Then remove any screws holding the back on, but be careful to put them someplace safe.

Next step: Dry it out. While drying a phone can be a hit-or-miss operation, the faster you dry it out the better your chances. And there are several methods you can try, but one thing to remember is to avoid heat. No hair dryers, ovens, or direct sunlight for extended periods. The heat will evaporate water, but could also dissolve the adhesives holding that puppy together, or warp the innards. A good option for drying is to let the moisture evaporate naturally, but you can risk corrosion that way. Or you can opt for a can of compressed air.

When you feel you've eliminated all the water you can, screw back on the phone's back, but leave the battery and SIM card out. Then, for good measure, use a desiccant to wick away any leftover moisture. A good home remedy is to pour uncooked rice into a bowl and cover the phone and battery for a night.

Once everything is returned to its rightful place, plug it in and let it sit for several hours. Then cross your fingers and turn it on.

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Anna Attkisson
Managing Editor
A lover of lists and deadlines, Anna Attkisson heads up features and special projects for, in addition to covering social networking and accessories. She joined the LAPTOP staff in 2007, after working at Time Inc. Content Solutions where she created custom publications for companies from American Express to National Parks Foundation.