My Nexus 5X phone took a 30-minute swim in a pool due to my negligence. It was unsurprisingly dark when retrieved from the pool. I’ve already ordered a replacement phone but I was curious: could it be brought back to life?
The first order of business was water removal. A public swimming pool has all sorts of chemicals unfriendly to electronics. The first thing I found upon return to home was a jug of distilled water originally intended for the car’s battery. Good enough for a starting point, I left the phone soaking in distilled water while I went online to read up on Nexus 5X disassembly on iFixit.
The information is promising – by modern phone standards, this model is very easy to disassemble and repair. Following the instructions, I disassembled the phone into its major components, performed a second round of rinsing, and laid the parts out to dry.
After drying overnight, it was obvious soaking in distilled water was not enough. There were enough chemicals remaining to leave a white residue on many surfaces and corrosion began eating many components. Here’s a close-up picture of the SIM slot and a few of the surrounding components. The brown stuff building up in the lower-right is especially worrisome.
If gentle soak in distilled water wasn’t enough, it’s time to step things up. Isopropyl alcohol is easily available as a first aid disinfectant though at a lower concentration than ideal. First aid rubbing alcohol is 70% alcohol and electronics cleaning usually specifies alcohol content of 90% or higher. Since time is of the essence, the first aid stuff will have to do. Once the parts are soaking, I also ran a small plastic bristle brush over the surfaces to dislodge any remaining pool chemical and the corrosion that is accessible.
It’s not clear if the alcohol or the brushing was more useful, or if they were both required, but things look much better after the alcohol dried off overnight.
Some printed numbers were erased by the alcohol, which I wasn’t worried about. Some adhesives were dissolved by the alcohol, and I’m worried about the tape that used to sit over the CPU. I will need a replacement heat conductor to help transfer heat generated by the CPU to the chassis frame for dissipation.