Using brake cleaner to save a mobile phone from salt water

First of all, I need to be very clear about this: if you do use brake cleaner to attempt to save a broken mobile phone you do it at your own risk. Whilst it worked for me, it may not work for you. I take absolutely no responsibility if you decide to try this yourself ad it kills your phone forever. It should be done as a last resort.

Now we’ve got the disclaimer out of the way, his my story. My son had a Samsung mobile phone and whilst at the beach with his friends decided to film them all playing at the water’s edge. Not his finest hour. The inevitable happened and his phone got full of salt water. It stopped working, and by the time he got home it was completely dead.


The problem

Salt water and electronic devices are a bad mix. I knew that drying the phone out would only result in salt eventually corroding the electronics and the PCB and the changes of saving this phone were very slim. In short, I had nothing to lose by trying to fix it myself other than the cash for buying a replacement.

Using brake cleaner to save a mobile phone from salt water

I work in a garage, so decided I was going to do two things. The first was to blow the phone over with a compressed airline to remove any excess water. The second was to spray the phone with vehicle brake cleaner (we use this one at our garage) in an attempt to dissolve and remove the salt and hopefully also aid the evaporation of any remaining water.

Brake cleaner is generally made up of quick drying solvents which degrease and clean as they go. It was worth a shot. I had decided on Using brake cleaner to save a mobile phone and it was time to do it.


The initial result

Initially, things weren’t looking good. Although the battery was still out of the handset, the display had become discoloured. I could see that the phone was by no means dry so decided to place it in direct sunlight for a couple of hours (it was a very warm summers day).

I placed the phone on top of a car in the carpark and basically let the sun roast it for a couple of hours. That’s probably against the rulebook for mobile phone care but I didn’t really have much option now.


It worked!

After a couple of hours I replaced the battery and switched on the phone. To my astonishment it worked. The touch screen was fine as were all the buttons.

I don’t know if it was luck, or the air, or what. Nevertheless, the phone has been working for 4 months now without the hint of a problem.


And on that bombshell…

If you decide that using brake cleaner to save a mobile phone is the way to go, you do so at your own risk. Don’t blame me if it goes terribly, terribly wrong!


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