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Stock photo (ThinkStock/ThinkStock)
Stock photo (ThinkStock/ThinkStock)

How to resuscitate a wet cell phone Add to ...

Time is not on your cellphone's side after it takes a swan dive into a tub, toilet or snow bank. (Safety, people. Don't text and sled.) But a soaking isn't necessarily fatal, as long as you act quickly. Follow these steps to resuscitate a drowning phone.

Save the battery

Remove the battery from the phone immediately - the SIM card, too, if your phone has one - and carefully dab it with a soft cloth or paper towel. If the phone doesn't make it, you may be able to transplant the battery and card to a new one.

Blow air

A can of compressed air or even a hairdryer can help you get a jump on the drying process, but use extreme caution. "Don't press the hairdryer [to the phone]or it will melt," says John Gallie, owner of JTG Systems, an Ontario computer services company that repairs damaged cellphones. "Keep it on low and cool, not hot."

Revive with rice

Submerge your phone in a bowl of uncooked rice, and leave it to dehydrate in a carb-y coma. It may take anywhere from a day to a week to fully dry, depending on the amount of moisture. "Even a few days should do it," says Mr. Gaillie. "You can put it near a heater to help get the moisture out. As long as the battery is out, it won't corrode." A dehumidifier can also help speed things along.

Gently remove any rice remnants with a can of compressed air before replacing the phone's battery and softly calling its name.

Alternative care

Don't toss those "sugar packets" that come with your electronics, leather items and other goods. They contain silica gel, a granular substance that absorbs moisture and can be used instead of rice to dry a phone. Wrap the phone and a few packets inside a plastic bag for at least a day. Silica gel can be bought at craft stores, and is also great for drying out cameras that have been used in damp conditions.

Controversial treatments

Counterintuitive as it may seem, snowbirds who treat their phone to a saltwater dunk may need to give it a quick rinse - sans battery and SIM card - in fresh water, as dried salt crystals can harm its innards. Mr. Gallie uses rubbing alcohol to clean inside the phone, noting that the alcohol dries quickly. However, alcohol can dissolve the internal adhesives, so he doesn't recommend non-professionals take the risk. If you've dropped your phone in the toilet (did you need another reason not to chat while peeing?), dry the phone in rice first, then swab the outside with a disinfectant.

Avoid extreme measures

Panicking cellphone owners - and those who would eat a plastic bag without a warning label - should resist the temptation to use direct heat, a hand dryer or microwave. The heat and forced air could sizzle or warp the phone's guts, and the microwave may lead to an instant and violent cellular death.

And don't do this … Power up the phone to see if it's working before it is completely dry.

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