Putting Cell Phone in Freezer: What Happens?

Here’s what happens if you put your cell phone in the freezer:

At best, putting your phone in a freezer is risky and can permanently damage the phone. 

While some phones survive this encounter, cold temperatures are notoriously bad for batteries. 

Additionally, the cold temperatures in the phone can damage the phone’s structure and expose the phone to condensed water.

So if you want to learn all about whether it’s bad to put your cell phone in the freezer, then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

Does the Freezer Help With Overheating Cell Phones?

Why do you want to put your phone in the freezer in the first place? For most people, it’s a way to cool down an overheating phone.

The most important thing to understand about putting your phone in the freezer is that it doesn’t help the phone cool off nearly as much as you might assume. This all has to do with how things actually cool off, and we’ll get into the physics of that in a bit.

Even if the freezer was good at cooling off your phone, it would come at a high risk. A freezer can harm a phone in a number of ways. Again, we’ll get into the mechanisms a little later, but the freezer can kill the phone’s battery, destroy the phone physically and introduce water into the phone that damages the circuitry.

Now, phones are made to be fairly tough these days, so a phone will probably survive a trip to the freezer better than a laptop, but it’s still an unnecessary risk, and the raw physics of it all makes that clear.

The Physics of Cooling Electronics

Let’s talk about how a freezer cools down your phone. A freezer is an environment with cold air and cold objects inside. 

When you add something that isn’t cold, like uncooked chicken, a heat exchange has to occur in order to freeze or cool the new object.

The freezer can then pump hot air through a compressor to cool it down, maintaining the cold environment, but this is exactly why freezers aren’t good at cooling off electronics. 

The freezer can only cool down the air inside of it. In order to cool the phone, the phone first has to exchange heat with the air.

Exchange is the keyword here. In order for the cold air to lower the phone’s temperature, the phone has to heat up the air around it. 

The air in a freezer can only cool down a phone as fast as the phone can heat up the air in the freezer. It’s an inefficient process. In fact, air is one of the worst materials you can find in a household for heat exchanges.

Of course, the phone can also exchange heat with other stuff in the freezer. Frozen items, shelving, and the sides of the freezer will also be at a low temperature. 

Any of those things can exchange heat with the phone a little faster, but that is based on contact surface area. If the phone doesn’t rest flat against anything in the freezer, it actually won’t cool off very fast.

In fact, you could put a phone on a regular countertop, and it would cool off faster (in many cases) than if it was on a wire rack in a freezer. Surface area is what matters most for all of this, not the temperature of the air around the phone.

How Can You Cool a Phone?

If the freezer is off-limits, what should you do to cool a phone? If you keep in mind the idea of heat exchange, then it can help you pick a strategy. 

Anything that helps a phone transfer away excess heat will help. If the phone isn’t too hot, you can simply put your hand against it, and your own body will help to transfer heat away from the phone (your circulatory system is very good at this). 

But, if the phone is hot enough that you want to put it in the freezer, it’s probably not safe to hold tightly in your hands. These other ideas might work better.

Turn Your Phone Off

This is the most important thing. If you turn the phone off, it will stop generating heat. Also, unplug it. 

You can charge the batter later, but for now, leaving it plugged in would add a small source of heat to the whole exchange.

A phone that isn’t generating heat will cool off a lot faster than one that is. After you turn off and unplug the phone, you can combine some of the solutions below to get rid of that heat as fast as possible.

Put Your Phone on a Hard Surface

If you have hard stone kitchen counters, they are designed specifically for efficient heat exchanges. Something like granite is very strong and can withstand heat very well. 

When you put a hot pan off the stove on a granite countertop, the pot cools down fairly quickly. It’s why stone countertops are so useful in kitchens.

The same effect applies to your phone. Put the phone on a hard, flat surface, and it will exchange heat pretty quickly. 

If you can protect the phone from water, a metal kitchen sink is one of your best options. Metal carries heat very quickly, and it will often prove better at cooling your phone than your freezer.

Move Air Across Your Phone

If you don’t have a good hard surface for the phone, use a lesser surface and move air across the phone. Moving air is much better at performing heat exchanges than cold air. 

You know this because a cold, windy day is much more miserable than a still windy day. Turn on a fan and run air across the phone. It will cool down fairly quickly.

Move Water Across Your Phone

Your other option is to use water to leech heat out of the phone. Obviously, water can damage electronics, so you want to be smart about this. 

If your phone is waterproof, turn your sink to a low stream and run it across the phone, the running water will quickly sap heat out of the phone.

You can put the phone on top of a strainer to keep water from pooling around it. This helps it cool off even faster, and it reduces the risk of water damage if the phone isn’t as waterproof as advertised.

If it isn’t waterproof, you can wrap the phone in something that will protect it (like a ziplock bag) and put it in water. You want the protective layer (such as the ziplock bag) as tight around the phone as possible. Any air trapped between the phone and the water will slow down the heat exchange.

Let’s drive home an important point. Because of how heat exchange works, running water from the faucet will cool your phone down faster than packing it against ice (a bath in ice water is a different story). 

The running water exchanges heat much faster than the still ice. This has to do with the thermal properties of water and the fact that liquid water can maintain direct contact with much more of the surface of the phone than ice can.

How Does a Freezer Hurt a Phone?

We should also go over the risks of putting a phone in a freezer. Some of this was mentioned briefly, but there are several ways that a freezer can damage a phone. None of this is guaranteed to happen, but it can happen, and it can happen to any phone.

The extent of damage from any of these sources will vary. The same phone could come out of the freezer working fine one time, only to be completely destroyed the next time. 

You can also see partial damage to a phone where it still works, but not as well as it used to.

Ice

The biggest risk to your phone is ice. No matter how dry you think your phone is when you put it in the freezer, there is some water vapor in and around the phone. It’s inevitable.

When the water freezes, it does a few bad things to your phone. First, it condenses larger amounts of water around the circuits. There is likely water vapor inside of your phone right now, even if it’s waterproof. 

When you leave the phone in the freezer, that water condenses into droplets before it freezes. Those droplets can damage the fragile circuits inside of your phone.

The other thing water does when it freezes is expand. This means that small amounts of water in your phone can create internal pressure against the most important and fragile components of the phone. It doesn’t take much for this to cause lasting, even catastrophic damage.

Shrinkage

Another problem with putting your phone in the freezer is that materials shrink when they get cold, and that is especially true for metals. The freezer might not cool your phone super fast, but given enough time, it will get your phone well below freezing temperatures. 

That’s enough for the small metals in the circuitry of your phone to shrink. This can create shorts that prevent the phone from working.

The shrinkage (known as thermal contraction) can also damage the phone’s casing. Waterproof seals can be compromised, and many other problems can occur.

Battery Degradation

The above problems are real, but if you don’t leave your phone in the freezer too long, they can be avoided. Plus, many phones prove resilient against those types of damage (but there are no guarantees that any phone will be fine with any trip to the freezer).

Unfortunately, battery degradation is a lot more common. Pretty much any battery that spends time in a cold environment is going to lose some of its lifespan. 

It’s also going to lose charge very quickly. This has to do with the chemical reaction that makes batteries work. Cold temperatures slow that reaction, and it has adverse effects on the battery as a whole. 

The longer your battery spends in sub-freezing temperatures, the more it will suffer from a shortened lifespan.

Putting Your Laptop in the Freezer?

What happens if you put your laptop in the freezer? Could that work to cool down a laptop without harming it?  

Putting a laptop in a freezer is bad. It doesn’t matter why you’re tempted to do this, the freezer can destroy your laptop. 

There are varying results depending on how long a laptop stays in the freezer, but this voids warranties and wipes out laptops.

Here’s what happens to your laptop if you put it in a freezer.