Rescue A Drowned or Soaked Cell Phone, Laptop or Keyboard

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

RESCUE A DROWNED OR SOAKED CELL PHONE, LAPTOP OR KEYBOARD 
 My cell phone was in my shirt pocket and when I leaned over a sink full of soapy water it slipped out and SPLASH!—one drowned cell phone. I’ve had to replace it, but I wonder: Was there anything I could have done to save it?

Yes, there are quick actions that might have saved it. The advice I’ll suggest applies not only to drowned cell phones but to laptops and keyboards that get drenched by spilled coffee or soda. But before I reveal the resuscitation secrets, I want to remind you of the obvious: Back up! Back up! Back up! It can’t be said too often. Your data are too valuable to be casual about it. And backups are a lot easier than trying to reconstruct lost data.

Now to the rescue steps: It’s important that you act fast. Keyboards are the most resilient to spills. Unplug it from the computer, drain the spill, and use either distilled water or denatured alcohol to flush out the coffee or soda residue. Alcohol is best—it evaporates quickly and leaves no traces. Use a pressure air can to blast out any accumulated crumbs from those doughnut snacks.

Cell phones and laptops are the most vulnerable. Pull the battery and any snap-in circuit cards (and be certain a laptop is unplugged from the wall). Drain it the best you can. If it was drenched in clean water, you can try several moisture-collecting techniques: Pack it in a container of uncooked rice, which absorbs water, or an airtight bag with silica packs, available from most camera shops. A hair dryer, set on low, works, too. If the liquid is coffee or soda, you need to wash out the residue with distilled water or alcohol.

Advice: If you must snack at the computer, use a wide-bottom coffee cup, which takes more than just a little nudge to tip over.

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