Tips to Salvage Water Damaged Electronics

Here are a few tips and tricks to try salvaging your water damaged electronics.  

*Be Careful of Electrical Shock*  

Turn off electrical circuits  

Before you walk into water in your basement you should try to turn off the power to the basement. You don’t want to walk into water that could be electrically charged.  

Unplug devices right away  

Unplug any electrical devices that are wet right away.  

Remove devices from water and drain  

Get your electrical devices out of the water as soon as you can and drain any water that might be inside.  

When draining the devices, try not to pour the water in a way that it flows over the electrical circuits. The metal or plastic case parts are less likely to cause problems if water touch them. Try not to let the water splash around inside. If there are parts that are dry, there is no reason to get them wet now.  


Once wet, the worst thing you can do for a piece of equipment is to try to turn it on while it is wet or even damp. Let your device/s dry for as long as it takes.  

If you turn a device on that still has moisture on the circuit boards, the moisture acts as a conductor and short out the delicate circuits within.  

Remove all batteries  

If your device has any batteries you should remove them right away and ensure these get dried right away. Batteries can corrode quite quickly and are often the most expensive part of the device. Often the battery compartment is also where a lot of water will congregate as there are usually many cracks that are not water tight.  

Remove all covers and lids  

Many devices have covers or lids and access panels that can provide a good place for water to get inside your device. Removing these serves two purposes. First it allows you to drain the water quicker, and it also allows for more air flow into the device to help speed the drying process.  

Begin drying the device  

Begin by using a dry cloth that won’t leave fibers and gently dab the remaining water from the device.  

Avoid using a fan if you can as the moving air can cause static electricity which can damage the circuits. Instead I would recommend putting the device near a dehumidifier. The closer the better. This way the water will be evaporated with a much lower likelihood of static discharge.  

What if there is dirt or mud inside the device?  

This can be the most difficult part of the cleanup. Initially attempt to remove the larger amounts of mud or dirt using a plastic spoon or better would be a relatively soft bristled brush. Get as much of the mud out as possible but don’t expect you will be able to get it all out.  

Once you have removed the major quantities you have two choices, let it try and try to brush the remaining dried mud, or a more effective method would be to remove the circuit board from the device (you may need to review the user manual for instructions) and use either your bathroom shower with warm water or your kitchen sprayer and gently wash away the remaining remnants of mud.  

This may seem like you are causing more problems, but in the end the device was just covered with mud and water. This is your last ditch effort to salvage your device. I would recommend using water that is not heavily softened really hard. If you can use distilled water that would be ideal so as not to leave mineral deposits on your circuit board.  

Now let it dry once it is clean.  

My device has rust on some of the components  

 If rust has appeared it is likely on the copper parts. You must be very careful not to use too much pressure when you clean those components as they will be very fragile and could break. You can use a  chemical gasoline or other solvent that is clean and contains only one substance which evaporates. (DO NOT USE REGULAR AUTO GASOLINE)  

If you cannot find a chemical gasoline you can try using rubbing alcohol but it doesn’t clean nearly as well.  

The device is dry. What now?  

You should do one last cleaning of the circuit boards using the chemical gasoline or rubbing alcohol. Use a soft bristled toothbrush or q-tip and gently rub the components. This will take a while but if it saves you $500 for a new device it will be well worth it. Make sure you don’t use too much chemicals. There is no reason to sop the stuff on. Lightly dampen the brush or q-tip and ensure it doesn’t drip.  

Let it dry  

Now you need to wait. Give it a  minimum of 12 hours. I would recommend 72 hours to an entire week if you can. Check it often for signs of corrosion on the components. If you notice new rust forming, wash it off again as explained previously. If you keep getting rust and you only used rubbing alcohol you might consider finding the chemical gasoline now.  

Give it a try  

Now that you’ve cleaned and waited diligently it’s time to see if your work has paid off. Put the device back together. Re-install the batteries if there were any, plug everything back in and try turning the device on. Hopefully all that work will have paid off and you will still have a device that works.  

What to do if it works  

If your device works, do a happy dance and then get busy. You need to start backing up any important data that was on the device onto an external hard drive, USB flash drive or some other means just in case. The device may work now but it could still fail. Come up with a plan of action just in case the device does fail. Determine if you can afford to purchase a new one, or check with your home owners insurance to see if the device will be covered.  

What to do if it DOES NOT work  

This is a sad day, as another electronic device will have met it’s demise, but don’t pitch that device into the garbage and don’t count all your important data completely lost just yet. If it’s a laptop or desktop, the hard drive might still be ok. Remove the hard drive an any memory cards and see if you can connect them to another device. If you can, back that data up. Consider contacting a local electronics store to find out how you might go about doing this. They may charge to do it for you, or simply show you how to do it.  

If the device turns out to be a lost cause, you need to dispose of it properly. It isn’t legal to throw electronics in your garbage unless your garbage company has indicated you can do so. Contact your waste service and find out how you can dispose of devices that do not work anymore.  

Hopefully these tips will help. Obviously there is no guarantee that you will be able to salvage your devices but it is always worth it to try.


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