wiseGEEK: What Is a Water Damage Sticker?

A water damage sticker is a small, sticky label used to indicate if an object, typically an electronic gadget, was submerged in water. It is often found inside cell phones, where exposure to liquid can cause the device to malfunction. The sticker works by changing color when it comes into contact with moisture.

In most cases, a water damage sticker is a circular or oblong white sticker. It is usually found on the phone's battery or battery compartment. When it comes into contact with moisture, a dye chemically reacts and changes the sticker's color or pattern.

It's almost a rite of passage shared and dreaded by many cell phone owners: accidentally dropping the cell phone in water. Whether it's from spilling a drink on the phone, dropping it in the bathtub, or jumping into a pool without removing the phone first, almost anyone who has ever owned a cell phone has experienced hurriedly rescuing a phone, only to find it soaked. The common reaction is to take apart the phone and let it dry. Even if the phone seems thoroughly dry, however, a black or red water damage sticker can still indicate that the phone needs to be repaired. That is when the owner heads to the nearest service center to have the phone checked.

Cell phone providers generally use the water damage sticker to determine the reason for a cell phone's failure. Providers will normally void a phone's warranty because it is believed that a cell phone damaged by water is the user's fault. A number of warranty contracts, however, provide coverage even if the sticker was activated.

Some cell phone owners claim that the water damage indicator can be too sensitive to moisture. There are reports of the water damage sticker being activated just from sweat or even excess moisture in the air. This could lead to frustration, especially if the sticker was triggered some time before the device broke down.

Owners sometimes try to change the sticker's color to make it appear as if the phone has not been exposed to water. This is frequently done through chemicals applied to the sticker, by covering the sticker, or by replacing the battery. It should be noted however, that tampering with a water damage sticker, either by altering its color or preventing it to function properly, is usually considered warranty fraud.

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