Help! I Dropped My Camera in The Bath!

Help! I Dropped My Camera in The Bath!

So you drop your camera in the bath, or your phone in a lake, what comes next? Will it work again?

Help! I dropped my camera in the bath!

GET THE BATTERIES OUT, NOW! That’s the most important thing I’m going to say here, and you should do it straight away, so if your reading this because you’ve just plucked the precious device out of the suds and want to know what to do next, well, make sure you have the batteries out before reading any further!

Done that? Right, next wipe any water off the surface of the battery, and be especially careful around the battery contacts. Then you should dab the water of the rest of the device. Now read on…

Of course this advice don’t just apply to cameras dropped in baths, its just as valid for TV remotes dropped in the kitchen sink, mp3 players dropped in a lake, even cellphones dropped in the WC! These things happen.

So what are the chances of survival without having to send the device away for an expensive repair, or, in the case of the cheaper devices, throwing it away? Probably pretty good. Consumer devices are not usually weather sealed, but they don’t have big flood gates in them either; assuming it was fished out straight away it is likely that little or no water has actually entered inside.

The weakest points are around the buttons, switches and most of all the connectors and slots for memory cards. This is were the water will get first, and quite possibly onto the circuit boards which they’re mounted on. This is no big problem on it’s own, electronic parts are generally not damaged by water; some production process even use water to clean the boards. But all that changes if the circuits are under tension, when that happens electrolysis occurs. What that means in practice is that the metal parts will corrode very quickly, visible damage can start to occur in the space of a few minutes.

Just to give you some idea of what happens, we’ve prepared a series of greatly enlarged images of a miniature electronics connector.

In the left picture you see what happens when water gets into a connector with no voltage applied, it sticks around due to surface tension; you wipe the surface but bits of water stick around in all the little places. In a few days it will have dried out and with no voltage present the plating on the pins will have protected it from any corrosion.

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