Here’s whether you get electrocuted if you drop your phone in the bath:
In most cases, dropping a phone in a bath does not cause electrocution. That said, it is possible for deadly electrocution to occur.
More importantly, the danger is considerably higher if the phone is plugged into a wall outlet as opposed to being completely unplugged when it is dropped.
So if you want to learn all about what happens when you drop your phone in the bath, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s jump right in!
What Can Go Wrong When You Drop Your Phone in a Bath?
Obviously, water can mess with electronics. The main concern is that water can get into the circuitry and allow electricity to flow out of the phone in ways that aren’t normal. Most of the time, this fries the phone, and once the circuits in the phone physically break, the electricity stops flowing. That seriously abates any danger.
But, there are no absolute guarantees that the phone will fry before harmful amounts of electricity can get into the water. There are dangers associated with dropping a phone in a but, and they are based on a few principles.
Dangers Based on Amperage
The most important thing to understand about electricity and safety is amperage. You hear a lot more about voltage, and it does matter, but amperage is the biggest threat to your safety.
Amperage is a measure of how much electricity is flowing through a system. You can think of drinking straws as a metaphor. A thin straw can only allow so much fluid out of the cult at a time, so you can’t gulp down a drink very quickly through a thin straw. Meanwhile, a boba straw is very wide, and you can pull way more liquid through it.
This is basically how amperage works. It tells you how ‘wide’ the straw is. When it comes to electricity, a wider straw is more dangerous when it comes to shock and electrocution.
Here’s what you need to know. It takes a very small amount of amperage to cause damage to a human being. According to OSHA safety guidelines, just 10 mA (milliamps) is enough to cause pain and involuntary muscle contraction. This means someone could build an effective taser that only outputs 10 mA of current.
Ramp that up to 100 mA, and it is enough to disrupt your cardiac rhythm and cause major health concerns. At 1 A, there is enough current to instantly stop a human heart.
Modern smartphones typically operate at around 1 A of current. There is variance, and the average comes in just under a full Amp, but it’s a close enough approximation to give you an idea of the danger here. A smartphone has enough current that if all of it was pumped into your body, your heart would be in very real danger.
The good news is that it’s difficult for all of that current to get to you, but we’ll get deeper into that in a minute.
Voltage is another important part of the equation. The voltage tells you how much force is behind the current. If the amperage tells you how wide the straw is, the voltage tells you how hard you have to work to pull something through the straw. By that metaphor, you would need a higher “voltage” to drink a thick milkshake as opposed to pure water.
How does this apply to phones? Well, higher voltages dictate how effectively electricity from the phone can travel through water and into your body. A higher voltage is more likely to cause burns, and it is more likely to push electricity past your skin and create a dangerous situation.
In general, phones use fairly low voltages. Most operate at around 5 V, which is not enough to burn you. In fact, 5 V is low enough that electricity would have a hard time getting into your body in the first place.
That’s encouraging, but 5 V is enough that under unlucky circumstances, it could carry enough current to you to cause serious harm. Keep in mind that such circumstances are exceedingly rare.
There’s a second issue, and it matters more. Phones have chargers, and those chargers plug into wall outlets. Your phone only draws 5V at a time, and as already discussed, that’s not typically a large threat. But, the outlet can supply up to 120 V of electricity to the system.
The voltage that comes out of the outlet depends on the circuits that draw power. So, if something happens, that causes a larger draw of electricity, more than 5 V can travel through your charger.
That is exactly the risk when a charger falls into the water. Potentially, the whole bath can start drawing electricity, and you run a risk of getting hit by a 120 V current at 1 A. That’s incredibly dangerous.
The quick lesson here is that dropping an unplugged phone in the water is much less dangerous than dropping a plugged-in phone, and you’ll see this idea repeated as you learn more about the system. That brings us to discussing the safety features at play when your phone gets dropped in a bath.
What Protects You From Shock?
People have dropped phones in bathtubs and been just fine, even though there is enough electricity in the phone to present a risk. What protected them?
We can break most of the things working in your favor into three concepts:
- Electrical resistance
- Circuit breaking
The number one safety feature working in your favor is the water-resistance designed into your phone. When a phone is waterproof or water-resistant, it’s hard for water to get in there and cause electricity to leak out of the device.
Most modern phones have these features to some degree. Even though the design is intended to protect the phone, it also protects you from shock when the phone gets wet.
There are two possible problems. One is that waterproofing can fail. Any part of a phone can degrade over time. Manufacturing defects can also cause a phone to be less waterproof than intended. In either of these cases, waterproofing is not protecting you very well from electricity.
The other issue is a bigger concern. No matter how the phone is designed, there is a point of vulnerability that you should understand. Where the phone connects to the charger, there is no waterproofing.
So, if you drop a plugged-in phone into the water, that’s where electricity can leak out even if the rest of the phone is waterproof. Once again, this is the greatest danger.
Breaks in the Circuit
Your other main defense against electrocution is circuit breaking. Most devices are designed to break their own circuits when a short occurs. This is a deliberate safety feature.
Typically, if you drop a non-waterproof phone in a bathtub, it will immediately break down its own circuits. That severely damages the phone, but it stops all flow of current. That makes it hard for the phone to electrocute anyone in the tub, and it’s why electrocution by smartphone is very rare.
We have to circle back to chargers again. The charger for your phone can also break its own circuits in the case of danger, but it’s not as effective.
The circuits in the charger are tougher and more robust. They don’t break as easily, so the risk of being electrocuted by your charger is noticeably higher than the same risk from the phone itself.
Conductivity of the Water
One of the best things working for you is the conductivity and resistivity of the water itself. Tap water is a decent conductor of electricity, but it does increase the electrical resistance as well.
What that means is that the electricity in the phone has to be pushed through the water before it gets to you, and this comes back to voltage.
Low voltage currents can’t push very far into the water. All of the electricity is absorbed quickly, so it’s hard for even a malfunctioning phone to electrocute you or cause physical harm, but it’s not impossible.
If the phone is plugged in, the wall outlet can supply more than enough voltage to electrocute you through the water.
All of this points to the same bottom line. The risk of electrocution from dropping a phone in the water is low but not quite zero.
The risk of dropping a plugged-in phone is considerably higher, and the safest course of action is to never have a plugged-in phone near a bath.