Alcohol is far from a good idea for cell phones.
I too have worked in electronics repair and know that while alcohol is great for removing flux and other potentially caustic substances it is also great at removing adhesives and thermal grease compounds. I would never soak a cell phone in alcohol, the damage done by the alcohol cold easily outweigh the damage done by the water in the long run.
Just to clarify, alcohol does not displace water, it dissolves in water and effectively 'absorbs' the water into solution. This is part of why you can't buy 100% alcohol. 100% alcohol can't exist unless it is kept in an environment completely devoid of moisture, 0% humidity. Once the container is opened and exposed to moisture, even the sahara desert stays around 25% humidity, it will quickly begin to 'absorb' water and no longer be 100% alcohol. This does make the water evaporate more quickly because once they are in solution they cannot easily be separated by distillation (evaporation) and the alcohol has a significantly lower boiling point so it evaporates much faster and takes the water with it. Also, while very pure isopropyl alcohol is a very poor conductor, so is distilled water. So if putting more water into the device worries you from the perspective of potential electrical shorts, distilled water does not present much more of a threat than close to pure alcohol does.
But, the same speed of water removal can be achieved much more safely by using distilled water for a rinse and silica desiccant for moisture removal. In your research you should have found that silica desiccant will absorb ~40% of it's weight in water from the air. A large volume of desiccant in a small, sealed, container will remove small quantities of water VERY rapidly. Try this little experiment: get a ~10oz container of silica desiccant and put it in a sealed container such as a large ziplock bag along with a 2oz shotglass of water. In less than 24 hours the shotglass will be empty and bone dry. No cell phone can hold 2oz of water after any reasonable effort to drain it, likely less than 1/8oz. Even water in tight spaces will evaporate quickly as the humidity in the container plummets and all available moisture wicked into the air and then into the desiccant.
I'm unclear on why some don't trust desiccants as they are used in almost any industry where moisture control and removal is key. Their moisture removal properties are measureable and consistent to the point that the exact weight of the little packets in food, pharmaceutical and agricultural items is carefully selected to maintain a precise moisture level in the product. They are used to help dry paint in very humid climates in an entire room (Home Depot actually merchandises them in the paint department). I have used this method on 2 of my own phones (an SCH a670 survived a full wash cycle in the washing machine, lol), my ex's grandmother's phone, one of my employee's phone and a laptop (glass of water dumped right into the keyboard while powered off, broke me of leaving the laptop on the kitchen counter though) over the last 5 years or so. I have used desiccants for the last 15 years to dry 10-15lbs of peppers every fall as well as many other odds and ends that needed drying. The most readily available, reliable, brand I have found is DampRid and you can get it at most hardware stores and even wal mart (on the laundry supply isle with irons and hangers, sold to put in the closet to keep clothes from mildewing in damp climates). Drierite is another readily available brand but it is not silica based, it is calcium sulfate. Technically it is a better desiccant in that it can absorb more water per unit weight but the thing I don't like about it is that as it absorbs water close to it's maximum it starts to clump together and makes it hard to re-use. Both can be recharged by baking at about 250 degrees for a few hours but once the drierite has clumped together it's surface area is greatly reduced and it is not as effective.
In my experience, fresh desiccant can dry the average phone in less than 12 hours if done properly. Buy a 10+oz container of silica desiccant, place it and the phone in the smallest possible air tight container and leave it overnight. If the desiccant isn't freshly purchased and still sealed, recharge it first. The little packets in your shoe boxes, pill bottles, and beef jerky bags are already saturated, they wont do you much good unless you recharge them first.
The alcohol method will work for moisture removal without a doubt but the rewards do not outweigh the risks in my opinion. I'm not trying to make waves, only want to show that there is a perfectly viable alternative to alcohol that when combined with a desiccant has no real drawbacks compared to the alcohol method.
And just as a side note, rice is not a hoax. It is not nearly as effective as silica gel or calcium sulfate but it will dry faster than leaving something in open air. Try another experiment: place a 1oz shotglass of water in a ziplock bag with about 2 cups of rice and place a second 1 oz shotglass of water on the counter next to it and see which one evaporates fastest. Try it and see for yourself.
Here's the thing - water can cause short circuits and capacitance changes that can make some parts overheat and burn up. Water can also cause corrosion, which can cause short circuits and capacitance changes and make other parts burn up even after the water is gone. Even with the water gone, and no parts burning up, the corrosion will cause enough electrical changes that the device won't function.
If the phone is off, no electronics can get damaged, really, until they corrode. Slow methods of drying the phone out promote corrosion. Turning the phone on also promotes corrosion really really quickly. Turning the phone on is bad.
So the main goal is to dry the phone out really fast.
Now if we are talking about pee or beer or puke, then (depending on how bad the exposure is), a nice rinse in bunch of water may be just the thing, because as the original poster says, the other bits besides the water can be really bad. I can vouch from personal experience that coke dissolves the tracks in a keyboard membrane faster than you can take the keyboard apart. (If you're good you can rewrite them with a silver conductive pen).
But my new point is the water itself is bad, because of short circuits (keep the phone off) and corrosion (keep the phone off and dry it out fast).
So, here's my list:
1. Remove the battery.
2. Rinse, ONLY if you think it was SOAKED in something really nasty.
3. Towel dry.
4. Shake dry.
5. [Optional!!!] Use centrifugal force to get more water out of your phone. You can put the phone in a pillow case, or carefully wrap it in a towel, and then swing it around in circles as fast as you can for a few minutes. NOTE: The odds of doing incredibly large damage to your phone by doing something stupid in this step are very very high. If the phone flies out of the towel, or thru a hole in the pillow case, or if you wack the phone into a bookcase, your knee, or your neighbor's head, your phone is now not even a brick, it is pieces of a brick. So if you feel you are klutzy, please skip this step.
6. Blow compressed air all around and through the phone.
7. [Optional. Disassemble anything you feel comfortable disassembling. As this applies to the Droid, it might be exactly nothing. But if there's obvious screws that let you remove a covering, do it. Then, when you have more of the innards exposed, blow more compressed air. You are trying to blast the water out, not so much dry it out.
8. Hair dryer (not too close), or put it under a hot lamp for a few hours, with a fan blowing on it too. Hopefully by this step we have removed all the actual drops of water, and we are only evaporating a very thin remaining residue. If there are still water drops at the point where we are applying heat, we may be encouraging some corrosion, which I believe I've mentioned is a bad thing.
The idea of sealing anything into a bag with dessicants seems insane to me - no moisture is leaving that bag, and we're putting all of our hopes and dreams in the strength of the dessicants. That's also why I don't get excited about rice or dessicants - they seem irrelevant.
Moving air is the best bet for evaporation - it removes the boundary layer of very high humidity that immediately surrounds the water, allowing it to evaporate much much quicker. And it sends the moisture elsewhere, meaning the air in the vicinity stays as dry as possible. But even better than evaporation is to find ways to get most of the water out before it even has time to evaporate.
Also, I'm not going to get excited about rubbing alcohol either. There are benefits. Replacing water with alcohol means much less corrosion and much faster evaporation. But as others have said, alcohol might damage seals or glues or other things. Maybe after we have ten reports of people who've soaked their phone in alcohol and had it be fine, I might be ok with that. But I'm not going to be a guinea pig.
After all this, the thing that may be the Achilles heel of the Android is the keyboard. Most keyboards use thin membranes with very thin metal tracks on them, and it's hard to get moisture out, and they corrode very quickly, especially if we're talking coke or something. I've repaired a coke-infested keyboard, and I had to repaint the tracks with a silver conductive pen. It worked. But I doubt it would be possible on what unimaginably thin thing must be inside of the Droid.
But I've saved two cell phones and a Prius smart key from soakings with methods like this. The smart key went through the wash. A cell phone was fully immersed in a toilet. So hope is not lost. Just get that water out fast.
I'm not known for polity or people skills, so I'm trying to delve into new territory right now.
Like some others that posted on this thread, I'm convinced that most of us have items readily available to us which are better than rice, when it comes to drying out PDAs and similar personal electronics. It MAY be evident to those that like rice, that the reason it has not harmed the devices in their experience, is because it was applied to the chore to function as a dessicant, and it functioned as such. Clean, dried rice has been used as a dessicant in various applications and cultures in the past. If your gramma told you that rice is the best stuff you can get for drying other stuff out, nobody's sayin' she was dumb, lyin' or messin' with ya! If she also told you that she dried her hair with it, and you should too,,,, well,,,,
Obviously we are talking about details and seemingly endless qualifiers to meticulously taken steps. Our friend recommending compressed air hasn't mentioned any qualifiers, so I will. (Compressed air is not all that different than an acetylene torch when it comes to drying out delicate instrumentation or electronics: you have to be VERY, VERY careful and just one bad move will be worse than not using it.)
- less than 20psi
- less than 10% relative humidity net
- no lubricants
- HEPA inlet filtering, 0.5 micron discharge filtering
- only use at an ambient temperature above 50 deg. F.
- only use in an ambient humidity below 30%
- use a nozzle that will not produce any direct pressure on the device (phone) above a few ounces.
- only used hose, nozzle, fittings that are "instrument grade"
- no noticeable difference in ambient, compressed air, and device temperature.
- be certain that no abrasive, conductive, or other foreign particles are present.
- be careful not to blast the device out of your hand or off the work surface and onto the floor!
- be certain that the air doesn't produce enough force to flex, crack, or dis-join the case components
Hell, I think I like RICE better than compressed air! Maybe even DAMP rice!!!
Let me clarify that when I said compressed air, I really meant canned air. We use canned air at work, and at home I have a CO2 cartridge powered thing with a thin nozzle.
I am NOT talking about anything like an auto-shop compressed air tool driver, that'd be crazy.
So there's no chance of blasting a phone out of your hand, and no chance of harming the electronics. There is conceivably some chance of dislodging some seal or moving part, but even that seems pretty unlikely with the kind of pressure in these cans.
They have tiny little nozzles usually so they can direct a lot of pressure into tight little places. The goal is to blow the vast majority of water right out of the phone.
Remember, the faster you get it dry the better. Ideally, you'll get 99% of the water out of it right away, and it'll hopefully be bone dry only a few minutes later (but you still want to leave it off for a day just to be sure).
It's also important to remember that sometimes nothing you do will work.
Awesome read and hopefully valuable help that I will never need!
PS - thanks for exposing the rice myth. I recently recommended that to my sis after hearing it from the local TV News "Tech Guy."
Plexus?IT is the best provider of Microsoft Exchange Server