Reviving when wet
Water and electronics just don’t like one another, yet as we carry an increasing number of devices on our travels, the chances of the two coming together increases.
Some researchers claim that two out of three people will get their smart phone wet one day.
Prevention is better than cure. A sturdy waterproof bag lives in my suitcase, Casey, and is just as useful in dust and sand as with water (and makes a half-decent pillow).
In my experience, it is only the heavy-duty vinyl, “roll-top and clip” dry bags that you can really trust. I just don’t have the faith in nylon-type waterproof bags (even the nano silicon ones).
Before you travel, test the bag first in the bath to make sure it really is waterproof.
But I recently saw a camera floating down a white-water river in a roll-top bag which was open.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the death of the camera — but if your camera, phone or music player does get immersed, your first reaction is important.
First, get it out of the water as fast as you possibly can. Then, don’t freak out. Don’t start madly pressing buttons hoping to see it is still working, and don’t blast it with a hairdryer. Even in cold mode, this can push water further in.
Here’s the plan:
•Get the device out of the water as quickly as you can. The longer it’s in the water, the worse the damage may be.
•Once you have retrieved it, take the battery out straight away, if you can. Don’t push any buttons first. If, say, it’s a smart phone that you can’t open and take the battery out, try to power it off (don’t push any other buttons). Doing this will help to prevent the chance of a short circuit. If the lens is wet, taking the battery out without turning the camera off will also prevent it from retracting, taking more water inside the camera body.
•Remove any memory cards. They shouldn’t have suffered damage or loss of images if you do this straight away but leaving them in something wet is tempting fate. Flash memory cards (SD, Compact Flash, memory stick and so on) should be unaffected by water — there are even reports of them surviving a washing machine cycle. Dry them thoroughly.
•Don’t put the camera or phone in an oven or on a radiator, or blow it with the hot air of a hairdryer, as the heat can harm the electronics. Putting it in the warm air of an airing cupboard should be OK.
•Wipe it with a paper towel or clean towel. Don’t rub the front of the lens with paper towel or tissue — even the softest is too abrasive. For the lens and other glass parts, it is best to use a proper microfibre cloth, and particularly dry the edge of the lens where it joins the lens barrel. If water penetrates inside the lens barrel, between the elements, it can mark the lens coating or end up with fungal blooms. Then you will need professional cleaning (somewhere like Plaza Cameras or Camera Electronic).
•Don’t blow air directly into the device as this may push water further in (if water goes deep, the minerals it deposits on circuitry can cause corrosion and oxidation). But with a fan or heater on cool, you can blow across the openings to aid drying. This employs the Bernoulli principle — as warm, dry air moves quickly over the device’s openings, it creates decreased air pressure in it, which can gently pull moisture from it. The best trick is to leave it in front of warm, moving air for many hours.
•The phone or camera can be put in a bag of dry, uncooked rice (or completely submerged in a bowl of it) for at least 24 to 36 hours, or much longer. Patience can pay off. But it is important to keep an eye on it. If the rice absorbs the water well, it might turn soft and mushy — so be prepared to change the rice as soon as there is any sign of this. There is some suggestion that starch from the rice could get into the phone or camera, though there seem to be no evidence of this — but perhaps wrap it in paper towel first.
•Better than rice, every time you buy an item with one of those little sachets of synthetic desiccants, hoard it until you have a stash of them. (The downside of saving the silica gel packets from new shoes or noodles is that they may have already reached their moisture capacity — desiccant for flower drying can be bought at some craft stores). Keep them in a plastic or glass container with an airtight seal. In a crisis, in a zip-top bag, they will help to suck moisture from an electronic gadget.
•Better still, get your hands on a Kensington EVAP rescue pouch for electronics (it is about $20 at the newsagent at the Perth Domestic Airport, for example, and online). EVAP contains a special drying agent that, its manufacturing company says, is 700 per cent more effective than rice. “For best results allow six to 24 hours and simply wait for the humidity indicator to signal that it’s ready.”
•Dry-All is similar — a bag with desiccant that you put the phone or small camera in — as is Bheestie Bag (also about $20, and available online). This company also suggests putting your gadget in the airtight plastic pouch periodically (perhaps after having your phone in a pocket in a rain shower) to make sure there is no lingering moisture.
•While you are drying a device, rotate it every few hours — gravity will encourage any water inside to run downhill and, hopefully, find an opening.
•It might take days but once you are confident that the camera is completely dry, put the battery back and turn it on. If it doesn’t start up normally straight off, turn it off again, take the battery and consult a specialist or the manufacturer’s technical help line.
IN AN EMERGENCY: THE WHAT-TO-DO CHECKLIST
1. Disconnect the battery as soon as possible.
2. Remove any memory sticks.
3. Put enough rice into a bowl or bag that you can bury the camera in it, or put in a bag with desiccant, or a commercial drying agent.
4. Wait for the moisture to drain out of the camera for a few nights or up to a week.
5. Don’t turn it back on until you are as sure as you can be that it’s completely dry. (Be very patient.)
© The West Australian
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