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Question #89985 posted on 06/29/2017 4:02 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I just dropped my earbuds in a root beer float and now one of the sides aren't working. This may not seem like a very big deal but I have to be on an airplane for six hours tomorrow with my relatives who have three new babies. Please, is there any way to fix them before tomorrow?

-A Very Desperate Robin


Dear Jay,

I sincerely hope you realized all questions take a minimum of 100 hours to post from the time they were asked here. 

Either way, your tomorrow has become another yesterday, and we can't give retroactive advice. I guess if this happens again in the future, I'd suggest buying cheap new earbuds. If you'd prefer to spend more time finding quality earbuds, then I would pick up some earplugs (even if they're the foam ones, at least that's something).



Dear Tim Drake,

I'm in the process of trying to save my phone from a watery grave, so I've learned a little bit about water damage in electronics. When water gets into a phone, it can cause shorts in between connections in the phone's circuits; however, this only happens if the phone is up and running. If your phone is off and you get rid of all the water, your phone will usually be fine; that's why the bag-of-rice-and-heat trick sometimes works (the heat causes the water to evaporate and then it is drawn out by the rice). However, if you run power through the device while there's still water present, it can short, and these shorts can often lead to corrosion. If your connections have corroded, your device may not work even if you get all of the water out. 

The moral of the story: if you think your device has been exposed to water, DON'T TURN IT ON. In the case of your earbuds, this means not running any power through them by plugging them into your phone and trying to use them. Let them dry out or try the bag of rice trick to try and get all the water out; then, and only then, you can try to plug them in and see if they still work.

(I guess I should say that, for this specific instance, I have no idea if the other substances in the root beer float would have made the corrosion problem any better or worse. My guess would be worse, but you never know.)

If you've tried to dry out your earbuds (or whatever else) and they still don't work, it does look like headphone repair places are a thing. I'm not sure if they would have been fast enough to save your earbuds, though.

-Frère Rubik

P.S. A video I watched for this answer recommended dipping your earbuds in Isopropyl Alcohol if they had been exposed to sweat or seawater; those substances make corrosion much easier. It seems like valid advice, since that's what the guy who's working on my phone did to try and see if it was still working; he gave the logic board an alcohol bath to get rid of the corrosion and see if the connections would still work. Sadly, in my case, that wasn't an option; the corrosion had completely destroyed a couple of crucial components that needed replacing.