Cell Phone Liquid Damage and Water Damage Explanation and Advice

What do pools, drinks, showers, toddlers, and toilets all have in common? In our experience, they are the most common sources of liquid damage for phones. And as in all great weaknesses (think Superman vs. kryptonite), almost any liquid can be the death blow to your electronic devices. We have found that even humidity, whether from a shower or the weather, can find its way into electronics. If treated quickly enough, many times the damage can be repaired. This post is meant to answer a few common questions, give helpful tips, and explain our general cleaning process.


Common Questions and Answers

Q. What is liquid damage, and how does it damage electronics?


A. Liquid damage affects electronics by creating conductive paths that force too much or prevent electricity’s flow on the circuit board (also called motherboard or logic board). What’s really important to note here are the salts and other minerals that may be in the liquid. That’s why even after drying, damage from rust, corrosion, and dirt can continue to occur and grow as long as the device is turned on. If too much rust or corrosion has destroyed the metal, then repair is almost impossible. This is because electricity cannot flow properly or at all. Essentially, the liquid damage has chemically altered the properties of the device.

Electricity flows through a circuit of tiny copper paths that connect together various functions of a device, looking much like a microscopic highway. A good analogy for liquid damage would be the sudden effect of crossing the paths of two highways (the circuits) with opposing traffic flows (electricity). The multi-car pileups that would occur are very much like the corrosion and rust that develop on the circuit board. Even more, keeping the device on is like forcing all of the drivers to continue to drive into each other, even if they have nowhere to go! Unlike the cleanup that can occur for traffic, in the case of electronics, sometimes the damage is permanent.


Q. What are the chances that my device is repairable?

A. Unfortunately, there’s no average because each case is unique, and success depends on many factors:

1) How long device was wet.

2) If the device was turned on after getting wet.

3) The type of liquid.

4) Whether the device was dried with a desiccant (example: bag of rice).

5) How much was immersed.

Many repair shops will say they have a “70% success rate” to get the sale rather than tell the truth. They make the percentage not too high to seem impossible, but not too low to say it’s better than chance. We can say that the purer the liquid, the less of the device that is immersed, and the more quickly the device is taken apart to be cleaned, the greater the chance for a successful repair.


Q. My device still works completely after I dried it out, do I need it repaired?


A. We highly recommend cleaning the device, even if it is fully functional. The corrosion process can be on a part of the device that is not crucial to operation, but it will become worse over time. The device will fail eventually. In addition, the longer the device waits to be cleaned, the more likely some components, such as a camera or touch screen, will fail when it is cleaned. This is because corrosion will sometimes replace the metal, so that when it is cleaned off, the metal is stripped in addition the corrosion. This severs the electrical connection, and the component may fail.


Q. Will I lose my information?


A. If the repair is successful, no. If the device will not turn on or boot properly, then the short answer is yes. The only way that the information can then be extracted is if the memory chip on the logic board is undamaged, removed and examined under a powerful microscope in a particle-free room. There are very few companies that do this, and the process can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.


Tips for a Liquid Damaged Device

  • Preventative tip: Many people who want liquid damage repair are most concerned about retrieving their information such as pictures and messages. This can’t be said enough: back up your data either to cloud storage or to your computer!
  • When immersed in any liquid, immediately turn the device off, remove the battery, and do not attempt to turn it on for at least three days. Any electricity will magnify the damage. Get it to Wisp as soon as possible! The fresher the damage, the more likely it can be repaired.
  • Although a sealed bag of rice will eventually absorb the moisture, it is one of the slowest forms of drying compared to other common methods. Try to shake out the excess liquid first. Some faster moisture absorbers include rice flour, cat litter, puffed rice cereal and closet moisture absorbers (found in many hardware stores). Leaving the device in front of a fan works really well, too. Don’t use a hair dryer or any other source of intense heat.


Wisp’s Liquid Damage Cleaning Process

First, we disassemble the device completely to inspect the extent of the damage. If it’s too damaged, then we reassemble and return the device.

Second, we place the logic board in a heated ultrasonic cleaner containing a chemical, free of impurities. The device then pulsates thousands of times a second, creating microbubbles that clean just about every nook and cranny of the logic board.

Third, we clean all components in the device using an alcohol solution that will dry any remaining water and disinfect the device.

Fourth, we reassemble and test. If the device shows no sign of functionality, then we clean the logic board a second time and test again. If the device still shows no sign of functionality, we reassemble and return the device.

Fifth, if there is some but not complete functionality, we can sometimes replace the parts that are necessary to restore complete functionality. Batteries must always be replaced because the lithium inside is violently reactive with water. An exploded battery can cause chemical burns. Even if the lithium battery is well-sealed, we don’t take any chances.

Finally, the phone is placed through a battery of tests to mimic everyday use, such as charging the battery to full and timing discharge rate, and must meet many success criteria to be considered repaired.

If you’d like more information, a quote, or some advice about your liquid damaged phone or tablet, feel free to contact us! We’re always happy to help you find the best option for your damaged devices.