Whether you spend your summer in a pool, on a lake, at the beach, or running through a sprinkler, your everyday tech devices are probably nearby—putting them at risk of an accidental soaking.
Fortunately, most of today’s smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, earbuds, and portable speakers are pretty water resistant. “In 2023, the majority of your tech will survive splashes or getting dropped into water and fished out quickly,” says staff writer Roderick Scott, who covers tablets, smartphones, and tech accessories.
Just a few extra precautions can greatly increase the odds that your stuff withstands even soggier circumstances. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a costly tech-tastrophe, including how to determine your device’s degree of water resistance and what to do if it does become waterlogged.
Check your device’s IP rating
IP (ingress protection) ratings are one of the more reliable metrics we have to gauge a gadget’s level of water resistance—which is not the same thing as waterproofness. In fact, no device can accurately claim to be 100% waterproof, Roderick says. “Something being waterproof means it can sit in water for a long period of time without water getting inside, but with electronic components involved, that’s not a realistic expectation,” he explains. “Water resistance is the next best thing.”
Developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission, IP ratings are two-digit codes (usually found in a product’s online specifications) that grade a device’s resistance to water and dust getting inside. They’re not a total guarantee against death by droplets, but they’re a good guideline for seeing if your tech will likely survive most summertime mishaps.
The first digit of an IP rating measures protection against dust and other solid objects; 0 means the device has no protection, while 6 (the highest) means it’s “dust-tight.” The rating’s second digit corresponds to moisture; it also starts at 0 for no protection but goes up to 9, which means that the device should be protected against “high pressure and temperature water jets.”
Considering the kinds of water exposure your devices might encounter come summer—which probably won’t include high-pressure jets—senior staff writer Kimber Streams says these three IP indicators are the most relevant for the everyday consumer:
- A second digit of 4 or higher means a device should be protected against splashing water, such as what a device may encounter when kept poolside or if it gets dripped or rained on.
- A second digit of 7 or higher means a device should be protected against temporary immersion, like being dropped into a pool (or a toilet bowl) and quickly fished out.
- A second digit of 8 or higher means a device should be protected against deeper, longer periods of immersion, such as being lost a few feet down in a lake for several minutes.
In short, an IP rating of X7 or higher can be considered waterproof for the purposes of safeguarding your tech from full-but-temporary immersions.
However, remember that even if your device has an IPX7 rating or above, it might not resist water like it used to once it’s a few years old. “Coatings chip away and gaskets degrade,” says senior staff writer Dave Gershgorn.
Keep your gadget in a ziplock bag
Dave says a sealable sandwich or storage bag works just as well as a $10 or $15 waterproof pouch. Not only does this provide an additional barrier against sand on the beach or dirt and mud while camping, but you can even activate your touchscreen through a ziplock bag. Plus, it’s much cheaper and easily replaceable. If you want something that has a cord attached for easy handling, we like the staff-favorite Hiearcool Universal Waterproof Phone Pouch, which we recommend in our roundup of cheap(ish) things to bring to the beach.
Swap out the bag of rice for silica gel
One thing you should not do is stick your waterlogged device in a bag of dry rice. This once-ubiquitous hack is “no longer the recommended course of action,” Roderick notes, “due to the potential for mold and corrosion and for swelling grains to cause irreparable damage.”
Instead, fill a baggie with silica gel packets, which does a much better job of sucking away moisture without doing more harm. You can collect these packets from various new stuff you buy—they’re typically found in the packaging for everything from purses and shoes to medicine and electronics—or you can buy them in bulk online for just a few bucks. It’s best to store these packets in a tight-sealing jar when you’re not using them, says senior staff writer Tim Heffernan, which basically helps them last forever. (Also, make sure to store them out of reach of children or pets.)
Sop up moisture with a lint-free cloth
Let’s say your brand new iPhone 14 just took on too much water—enough that, regardless of its IP rating, you’re freaking out.
After powering off the device—which Dave says can prevent your gadget’s components from shorting out if they haven’t already—your next step should be to use a lint-free cloth (Kimber has previously recommended MagicFiber’s Microfiber Cleaning Cloths) to help dry the device’s ports and exterior as much as possible.
You can find instructions online for more-advanced remedies that involve dismantling a device, submerging certain components in alcohol, and attempting to remove any corrosion with a soft brush. However, Roderick suggests that if you’re not experienced with taking apart your tech, you are likely better off seeking the help of a professional instead.
This article was edited by Alex Aciman and Annemarie Conte.