Your device has just taken a swim. What do you do?
In any situation involving the submersion or splashing of an electronic device in any liquid, the first step is to disconnect any power source as soon as this is safely possible.
- Pay attention to your personal safety first! Use caution when disconnecting any device from household current or any other source. If you are standing in water or your clothes are wet please remove yourself from any potential shock hazard before even thinking about retrieving a submerged or soaked electronic device.
- If the electronic device is still submerged and is connected to an external power source, find a safe way to disconnect it. If possible, find a circuit breaker or switch for that source of power and switch it off. Use caution if you choose to remove a plug or power adapter from an outlet that has not been switched off.
- Retrieving a submerged or soaked electronic device that contains a battery presents its own dangers. A shorted battery may be a fire and/or chemical hazard. If you see or feel any heat, smoke, steam, bubbling, bulging, or melting avoid handling the electronic device.
- If the device is still on, turn it off.
- Rotate and shake the device to try to let any fluid drain out.
- If possible, remove the battery.
- If possible, disassemble the device to allow any remaining liquid to drain and to begin cleaning the internal components. This is particularly important with acidic liquids such as fruit juice or alkaline liquids such as laundry water.
- TIP: Rice and similar desiccants will not help! These will create more damage in the long term as it does not remove the contaminants from the liquid spill.
Cleaning Circuit Boards
- Completely disassemble your device removing all cables, opening all connectors and remove shields to access under them. To displace any remaining liquid around or under any components of the logic board submerge it completely in a suitably sized container filled with isopropyl alcohol. Ideally use a 90% or higher concentration available from a pharmacist or drug store. You can use distilled or deionized water as an alternative cleaning fluid, although this will take longer to dry. Avoid solvents such as ketone, acetone, or naphtha.
- Use a toothbrush, small paint brush, or other soft brush to clean the logic board of any debris or deposits from the offending liquid. Use caution as you clean to avoid damaging or accidentally knocking off components of the logic board. Pay particular attention to the connectors and ends of ribbon cables to prevent corrosion of their contact surfaces. If you have an ultrasonic cleaner, this will more thoroughly clean the exposed areas of the board. In addition, this will remove dirt and corrosion from areas a toothbrush cannot reach (Ex: Under chips).
- Once you are satisfied that the logic board is clean and free of corrosion you may use a hairdryer on its cold setting and dry the logic board. Alternatively, the logic board may be placed under a desk lamp to gently warm it and dry out the cleaning fluid.
- When the components are dry check the cable ends and connectors again for signs of corrosion or debris.
- Reassemble your device with a new battery or one that you are confident is in good working order. If your device has been submerged it is likely that you will need a new battery. Lithium and other types of rechargeable batteries do not tolerate submersion well. Again, any sign of bubbling, bulging, melting, or discoloration on the battery indicates that it is toast. Dispose of it only at a battery recycling facility.
- Once you have your device assembled, the real work of evaluating the damage begins. Look for what is working and replace parts in an organized fashion, not all at once. The likely order of failure in a smaller electronic device is typically:
pH of common fluids
A number less than 7 indicates an acid solution, while a number above 7 indicates an alkaline solution. Both cases are bad for electronic components. Knowing the pH of the fluid can help give you an idea of how severe the damage is.
- Pure water neutral pH = 7.0
- Sea water i.e. saltwater = about 8.2
- Regulated pool water = 7.2 – 7.8 (Source)
- Lemon juice = 2.3
- Cola = 2.5-3.5
- Fruit juice = 3.5
- Beer = 4.5
- Coffee = 5.0
- Tea = 5.5
- Hand soap = 9.0 -10.0
- Bleach = 12.5
- Other beverages