Fixing a WaterDamaged iPhone with a Hairdryer

Today, we celebrated Mother’s day. As part of our dinner, Mom asked that I bring some tahini paste. I got a little on my finger, and when I went to send Mom a message I got a little on my iPhone. I powered it off and wiped it off with a slightly damp non-lint cloth (or paper towel in this case) as per the manual. I powered it on. Nothing. My heart stopped.

I quickly assumed that washing it had tripped the water damage sensor. A number of people have had issues with this, and sometimes unpredictably so. For example, my sister dropped her iPhone into the Atlantic Ocean. The iPhone had an Otterbox. She grabbed it out and it worked, somehow. A few days later, she had it out on her kitchen counter and splashed a little water on it, and the thing failed. I did not consider failure an option.

I knew I should keep it powered off to limit damage, but since it already had switched on I figured what the hell, I may as well gather some quick data. I knew it had switched on because I could hold an AM radio nearby and hear the interference. I then called my iPhone from my landline. To my shock, it rang, and I could hear the “Slide to unlock” message through the earpiece. Once the call ended however it went back to acting silent and broken.

I thought I had tempted fate long enough, so powered it down with the sleep/home combination, and called Apple. They told me that I could bring it in, but that the warrantee didn’t cover water damage, and I could spend $200 on a replacement, in other words a refurbished iPhone. This did not sit well with me, but I made an appointment for the next day just in case. The time had come for dinner, so I joined some of my family at Mom’s to eat the fateful falafel which killed my iPhone. We needed the tahini for the sauce.

I wanted to have fun with my family, especially since I sent Mom some roses, but I had already begun going into withdrawal. I couldn’t think about anything else but fixing my iPhone, so decided to bring my trusty MacBook Air along. Once there, I started searching around for tips. I found this article which tells how a poor girl who put her boyfriend’s iPhone through the wash avoided getting murdered. Basically, it recommends using a hairdryer on low, and if that doesn’t work submerging the iPhone in a bag of rice. I borrowed a hairdryer from Mom after dinner and started drying my poor iPhone. I used the cold setting so as not to further damage any components. After ten or so minutes I stopped drying and turned it on. I still heard nothing, except for the little bips made when using the volume buttons. This seemed hopeful, so I did a little more drying and thinking.

I wondered what would happen if I plugged in a pair of headphones, bypassing the speaker. Sure enough, I could hear VoiceOver, but without system sounds. I began to put the pieces together. The water damage sensor on the bottom had triggered, and the iPhone assumed that it should stop outputting through the speaker. Checking sound settings confirmed this, with the Ringer/Alerts volume now set to 0%. Nervously, I increased it, and gradually heard sound through the speaker. The system sounds also returned.

I thought I got it, but suddenly the sound stopped and my heart started racing. I turned the iPhone off again and did more drying. Time had past, and I wondered if I should continue this experiment at home. I told Mom that it just occurred to me that I don’t even own a hairdryer. She said that most guys don’t, and gave me a cheap one. I went home and did more drying and praying to Goddess. After a half hour or so I decided to try again. I turned it on with headphones, and raised the speaker volume. Success! I unplugged the headphones to see if all sounds would come through the speaker. Success! I kept it on and used it, sending several text messages, updating some apps, and some other routine things. It seemed to work.

But wait. I now had battery drain. I guess at some point things got reset, so I turned on screen curtain again and reduced the brightness. I figured that would fix it, but it didn’t. I watched over the next day with mounting concern and a mounting heart rate. Then, I read a tip to try a simple reboot and as often happens that solved the problem. Actually it went from 90% before the reboot, to 93% afterward, a good sign. Now it sits firmly at 92% and I feel good. Knock on wood. And thanks to my MacBook Air, I can actually knock on the real wood of my back deck’s railing. I feel happy that some good old hacker knowhow and a hairdryer saved me $200. Oh iPhone, I will never try to clean you again! Just kidding.