How to Save Your Wet iPad

A water damaged iPad isn't always a broken iPad

Water Splash by Aqua Mechanical on Flickr
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If disaster has struck your iPad, don't panic. Even if you dropped your iPad into a full tub of bath water, all might not be lost. It's easy to imagine water splashing around the inside of the wet iPad causing electrical flashes, black smoke, and broken equipment. But it may be harder than you think for water to actually get at that circuitry. And one of the big reasons for iPad failure after being submerged in water is the battery becoming corroded, which doesn't happen instantly.

There are two different types of water damage when it comes to an iPad, and so there are two different reactions you should have to them. The first issue is simply spilling water on top of the iPad. This includes similar hazards such as the iPad being accidentally sprayed with a water hose. The second type of problem is the iPad being dropped into a large quantity of water such as a bathtub, a pool, a lake, etc.

What to Do If You Spilled Water on Top of Your iPad

This is where you really hope you have a good case protecting your device. Believe it or not, the iPad is relatively water resistant. The exterior of the iPad is dominated by the glass display and the aluminum body, which gives water little opportunity to get inside the iPad. Even the edges are unlikely to allow any water through from the time you spill something on top of it to the time you wipe it clean.

This leaves a few areas of concern: the speakers, the headphone jack, the Lightning connector, the volume buttons, the sleep/wake button and the home button.

If you have your iPad wrapped in a Smart Case or a similar snug-fit case, it is likely that no water got past the case. You should carefully dry the front of the iPad, noting whether or not any water was pooled around the home button, and then carefully remove the case. Before wiping away any more water, inspect the edges of the iPad for any water, paying the most attention edge of the iPad.

If the bottom is dry and there wasn't any water around the home button, you are probably fine. However, it is always best to leave the iPad unused in an open room for 24-48 hours just to make sure.

If you weren't lucky enough to have your iPad protected by a case, you may have to follow the instructions for dealing with a fully submerged iPad. If you just got a little water on the display and you know it didn't get near the buttons, especially the home button, or the speakers or port, you should be good just wiping it down. But if water went all around the iPad, play it safe by assuming water made its way into the device.

Rice Can Harm Your Water-Damaged iPad  

Let's get this out of the way, because we know you're thinking it: Should you submerge your iPad in rice? You may have heard how an iPhone or some other device was saved because it was plunged into a container of rice and left overnight. The key in this old, sagely advice is really the "left overnight" part of the equation. Time, more than anything, will help save a wet iPad.

not-totally-scientific study by Gazelle relates how rice, oatmeal and even silica gel packets may not be nearly as absorbent as we may think. And common sense says a silica gel packet isn't going to suck water through aluminum or glass.

But what could the harm, right? Actually, rice can do harm to an iPad, iPhone or any other device with an opening small enough for a grain of rice to fit through. And if you've heard how some crystallized forms of kitty litter are similar to silica gel, remember they are also as small as rice (or smaller!).

If you want to be extra-safe, use silica gel packets. They aren't going to get stuck inside of your iPad and cause more problems. You should be able to find some at a hobby shop.

OK, with the rice business out of the way, let's get started.

After completely drying the outside of the iPad with a soft towel or cloth, the big decision is whether or not to power off the iPad.

If the iPad is still on and active, this decision is easier: power it off by holding down the wake/suspend button and then either sliding the button to power it off when prompted or continuing to hold down the wake/suspend button until the iPad powers down by itself.

Remember, the iPad being suspended is not the same as the iPad being powered off. Parts of the iPad are still running while it is suspended, and worst, the iPad can wake up if you receive a notification, text message, FaceTime call, etc.

However, if the iPad is already in suspend mode, waking it up to power it down may be worse than just leaving it in suspend mode. This depends on one major factor: the likelihood that something will happen to power up the display. This can be an appointment reminder, a phone call routed to the iPad, a message, a Facebook notification, etc.

You will have to judge the likelihood of the iPad waking up to inform you of something over the course of the next day or two while you let it dry. If it is very likely, go ahead and wake the iPad up and immediately power it down using the wake/suspend button and the above instructions. For many of us, the likelihood of the iPad waking up may be very unlikely, in which case leaving it in suspend mode is best.

Do's and Don'ts

Don't: Use a hair dryer or leave your iPad near a space heater or use any form of heat that you wouldn't blast onto your arm for an hour. A high amount of heat can definitely damage an iPad.

Do: Leave your iPad alone for at least 24 hours and preferably 48 hours.

You should leave the iPad sitting up with the home button at the bottom. Gravity is your friend. If any water made it into the iPad, it likely made it in around the home button, lightning port or bottom speakers.

Leaving your iPad standing up for a couple of days can help that moisture make its way out of the iPad. If you have an iPad with four speakers such as the iPad Pro, you can wait a day and then flip the iPad on its head for the second day. This will hopefully allow any water towards the top to leak out the top speakers. 

If you want to use silica gel packets, make sure the iPad is in the upright position. Gravity is still your best friend, so you will want to make sure it is working for you as well as the gel packets. If you don't have enough to cover the iPad, use enough to cover the bottom of the iPad including the home button.

My iPad Won't Power On After Being Left to Sit

Hopefully, the mere fact that the iPad sat around for a couple of days was enough for any stray moisture inside the iPad to evaporate. If the iPad won't power on or if it will power on but has obvious difficulties such as odd colors on the screen or it freezes immediately, you should take it in to the nearest Apple Store or send it in to Apple.

A common reason for water damage to interfere with an iPad is the damage done to the battery, and a battery replacement may be all you need to get it working again.

You can find an Apple retail location by using this website. You can also reach Apple's technical support at 1-800-676-2775.