Wet digital camera: what to do

If your digital camera gets wet or is dropped in water, you must act quickly. The camera can be damaged beyond repair, even from exposure to a small amount of water.

Fresh vs. Salt water damage

If a camera gets wet from fresh water, there is a ray of hope that it may still function. There is less hope when salt water is involved due to the likelihood of corrosion.

However it’s worth trying to salvage a camera exposed to salt water by rinsing it in a mixture of  50% freshwater with 50% alcohol, then following the additional steps below. The mixture helps to remove the saltwater residue completely out of the camera, and additionally helps in vaporizing out the water part too.*

Contact your camera manufacturer or repair shop as soon as possible. They can provide expert advice and assess if there is any chance the camera can be repaired.

It’s rarely possible, though, to get your camera to a repair shop immediately. In the meantime,  follow these steps:

  • Turn your camera off immediately. If it was not on, don’t turn it on as it can cause a short circuit and further damage the camera.
  • Wipe the camera off thoroughly with a dry towel. Do not use compressed air since it can push water deeper into the camera.
  • Remove the lens cap and any other accessories. Remove the memory card and battery from their compartments. Keep compartment covers open until the camera drys out. Use a fan or hair dryer at a low setting to help evaporate the water.
  • Place the camera in an air-tight container (or zip-lock bag) of silica gel, which helps absorb moisture. If you don’t have silica gel, cover the camera with dry white rice. Keep the camera covered in the container until there are no signs of moisture, which can take several days.
  • When the camera is dry, replace the batteries and memory card. Memory cards may survive submersion in water but batteries will probably have to be replaced with new ones.
  • Turn on the camera. Even if the camera works, it may not be entirely reliable. If it is cost-effective, have a professional take a look at it. For some cameras, it may be less expensive to buy a new one rather than have it repaired.

Is a water damaged camera covered by a warranty?

Problems caused by water damage are generally not covered by a general warranty unless it includes accidental damage. If your camera was purchased recently with a credit card, usually within 60 days of the damage, it may be covered by Purchase Protection under an extended warranty.

* Salt water tip from Digicamhelp contributing writer Mihajlo Filipovic (Fil). For some additional information, read his 27 January 2012 post in the commenting section below.

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