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What to Do if Your Camera Gets Wet

Even a small amount of water can damage your prized camera beyond repair, but if you act fast, you may be able to save it. It doesn’t always take a full dunk in water to damage the intricate inner workings and lenses of a camera, even a splash in the wrong part of it can render it useless. Knowing a few tricks that may save your camera after water exposure can potentially prevent a disheartening loss of equipment while also saving you money.

Act fast to dry camera

If your camera gets wet while it’s off, don’t turn it on as this can expose the inner parts to more water. Remove the memory card and batteries immediately as long as you’re somewhere dry. If you’re still out in the elements get to shelter quickly. Use a paper towel or absorbent cloth to dry the exterior of the camera and hold it in front of a fan or the air conditioning vent of your car for at least 15 minutes. Air-conditioned air is the best because it’s dehydrated or you can use a hair dryer or hand dryer in a restroom. Don’t use compressed air to dry the camera as this can force water further inside the camera.

Drying agent

Once you’re home or at the studio where it’s dry, place the camera in a plastic bag with silica gel crystals or rice and leave it overnight. You may need to leave it in the bag longer for complete drying. Don’t let the silica gel or rice dust get inside the camera as this can cause damage. The rice or silica gel work by drawing the moisture out of the camera without you having to open it prematurely and risk letting water into more areas. The rice or silica gel trick also works well for removing moisture from a smart phone that’s had an unfortunate encounter with water. Never place a wet camera in a hot oven as this can destroy the camera and cause exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Salt water damage

A camera exposed to salt water may be beyond saving because of the highly corrosive nature of salt. As the damages from salt water may have already destroyed your camera, you have little to lose by taking it apart and wiping down the inside with distilled water and a clean cloth. You can then continue the drying process and see about repairs.

Be cautious even if it works

When you’ve thoroughly dried your camera, it may start working again and seem fine. However, it may die within a few weeks as corrosion from moisture infiltrates the device and causes a short circuit. Cloth shutters inside the camera can absorb microbes from ponds, rivers and tap water and may develop mold that ruins the camera. Lenses exposed to dampness may eventually start to cloud and then stop working.

Send for repairs

If you’ve tried to dry out the camera and failed or you’re afraid to damage it by treating it on your own, take it to a repair shop. Sometimes it may be more affordable to buy a new camera rather than fix the damaged one. If your camera has an extended warranty that covers water damage, (most standard camera warranties don’t cover water damage) send it to the manufacturer to be analyzed and serviced. Pack the camera with silica gel bags to continue the drying out process while the camera waits for service.

dog in water by Bad Apple Photography
Don’t Get the Camera Wet! by Bad Apple Photography

Preventing water damage

Sometimes the only way to learn is by making a mistake so if you’ve lost a camera to water damage it’s a good idea to learn how to prevent a similar loss in the future. While some camera bags may be water-resistant, that doesn’t mean your camera is completely protected from water exposure so if you’re going to be out in the wet, keep a plastic bag handy. If it starts to rain, you can put the camera in the plastic bag and seal out the moisture. If you really want to be prepared, have a plastic bag on hand that all of your gear can fit inside in case of unexpected wetness. When you know you’re going to be in a water environment, such as kayaking or playing with your dog at the beach, obtain an underwater housing for your camera that allows full operation of the camera without the worry of water damage.

Despite all your best preparation, sometimes a camera gets wet, but it’s good to know that it may mean the end for your photos. By taking your SD card out right away and drying it, you have the ability to preserve the images of the day and print them out in stunning detail with Baboo Digital’s services.


Featured image by Kendra

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