How to repair your water damaged phone

So, you’ve spilt water on your most prized possession and you're rightly reluctant to buy a new one. Don’t panic – your water damaged device might be salvageable! We have put together a quick guide to water damage repairs.

First off, here are a few things you will need:

Ultrasonic bath - The ultrasonic bath doesn’t have to be the best on the market but should be a step up from the cheap jewellery cleaning ones available. We use a GT Sonic, costs around £180 and has 2 transducers (you’ll need at least 2 or 3 on your model, 1 just won’t cut it, unfortunately) - ideally, it should be heated as well.

It can also be said that bigger isn’t always better! Get a bath that is the right size for the boards you are going to be fixing – anything too large will waste cleaning solution. Another tip is that if yours comes with a wire rack, remove it. Elevation will only mean more cleaning solution used per board.

Ultrasonic cleaning solution - We recommend using a decent ultrasonic bath cleaning solution like Allendale’s flux remover & PCB ultrasonic cleaner solution to get the best results. DO NOT put IPA into your ultrasonic baths. This combination is highly explosive. IPA can be used after the ultrasonic bath to remove any water particles left on the board but not for the bath.

A good magnifying glass for inspection - Before starting your water damage repair you will need to check over the board for visible signs of damage, for example, burns on ICs and resistors. Mineral corrosion (white or green powder) is okay and should be cleaned off during the bath. Burns or serious corrosion shows components may have detached and probably not worth bathing unless you are planning board level repairs after. Some use a toothbrush before bathing to get the corrosion loose and others have recommended adding flux and hot air first – techniques that have seen results in the past.

Now you know the tools you’ll need to perform the repair, it’s time to get into the process.

Water damage repair technique:

  1. Strip the phone down, remove the logic board and if possible remove the plates that cover the ICs. This will help the bath cleaner get all the components and make drying easier.
  2. Place in the ultrasonic bath and cover with the cleaner solution, make sure the whole board is covered. Top tip: for best results fill to about the 1/1.5-inch mark, too shallow and the bath won’t work properly.
  3. Depending on the level of damage set the bath to about 60/65ᵒc and leave to run for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Once the cycle is complete, remove the board from the bath and allow it to sit for 30 minutes on an ESD mat. You should see that almost all the mineral corrosion is gone. You could give the board a further clean using IPA. Leave to stand to allow remaining IPA to evaporate away.
  5. Give the board a shake to get all the last liquid of the board and out of any nooks.
  6. Once dry it’s time to test if the repair has been successful.

Water can cause havoc with electronics and you can get the device back up and running for something else to go wrong a few days later so be prepared for further repairs. Despite this, we have seen an 80-85% success rate with this technique.

If you are having problems with your repair check out our forum. Plenty of topics have been discussed with loads more to be had!


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