How to Revive a Camera That Got Wet

Did You Drown Your Camera?

It can happen. A careless moment by a lake or prolonged shooting in the rain without a rain cover for your camera. All of a sudden, the camera shows the dreaded message… ERROR.

I recently got a message from a photographer friend of mine in Australia, Colin Levitch. Colin is and outdoor and adventure photographer from the East Coast and he was out shooting a cyclocross race in some truly torrential condition. After shooting a portion of the race, his camera (Canon 5D Mark II) gave him the dreaded error message and shut itself down. Colin did the smart thing and immediately powered the camera down, removed the battery and removed the memory card with the precious race images.

The rain that’s about to claim Colin’s camera

He messaged me:

I think I may have waterlogged my camera today… when I got home put two silica gel packets on the battery compartment and put everything in a big plastic bag with another silica packet. Anything else I can do to dry it out?

Yes! While some people use rice to solve this problem, I believe the absorbent properties of silica are an even better solution, so Colin was on the right track when he hunted down some of those small silica packets that you often get in the packaging when you buy things via mail order. My answer to his question was a simple one though…

“Do you know anyone with a cat?”

Crystal kitty litter’s main ingredient is actually silica, just like the stuff you get in the tiny packets! If you ever drench your camera, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Get yourself a sealable plastic tub that’s larger than your camera
  2. Buy a bag of crystal kitty litter and fill the bottom of the tub
  3. Open the camera’s battery compartment
  4. Remove the camera’s body cap
  5. Place the camera in the box of litter with the lens mount facing upwards
  6. Close the box and seal all openings with duct tape

Sure enough, a couple of days later I got another message from Colin:

Camera works! Pulled it out to test this afternoon and all seems to be OK!

A happy ending! Do you have any similar stories? Share them in the comments below!

Photo of author
Professional photographer based in Yukon, Canada, and founder of Shutter Muse. His editorial work has been featured in publications all over the world, and his commercial clients include brands such as Nike, Apple, Adobe and Red Bull.

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10 thoughts on “How to Revive a Camera That Got Wet”

  1. Why you put the camera inside the closed box? If you let it open in dry warm place, moisture will be able to disappear itself? Or do I miss something?

    • That will take a long time, and no air is completely dry. The kitty litter is a desiccant, it sucks moisture out of the air making it completely dry.

  2. Thank you…….if only I had done that…… Canon 70D shows no sign of recovery.. Has been wet a fair few days now. seems to be dry and there is no sign of life.

    Anything more I can do ? is it worth the $85 to get an assessment ? Battery and card removed straight away ..

  3. Using “cat” silicagel brings one risk. DUST. WATER ABSORBENT DUST that can (and, as Murphy says, will) get into your camera. If it’s mirrorless like mine, you even get worse. I use “cat” silicagel for years now. For electronics and optics, I always sieve it on 3mm (3/32″) sieve. Small particles and dust serve in my compressed air drying circuit in workshop. Bigger ones (those left on sieve) after removing dust by compressed air treatment, go to drybox like yours. I saved few cameras and phones this way. I also put my camera inside after longer “wet” trips, even if it didn’t get noticeably moist. Glass and mem cards also.


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