A blue iPhone XR covered in sand and water.

Saltwater is highly corrosive, and sand presents a massive problem even for military-grade equipment. A beach day could spell disaster for your electronics, so make sure you take precautions the next time you head out.

Heed the Cheap and Cheerful Ziplock Bag

Using a ziplock bag to keep your smartphone safe at the beach is one of the cheapest hacks. It’s ideal if you don’t want to buy a bulky, rugged case and should protect your device from sand even in windy conditions.

You don’t need to remove your touchscreen device from the bag to use it unless you’re making a phone call. If you just want to check your email or send a text, you can do so since most capacitive displays will continue to work through a thin film of plastic. It’s not elegant, and you might need to hold the bag so it’s tight when you use it.

iPhone in a zip lock bag
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

It’s worth keeping a few of these bags in your car or bag in case you decide on an impromptu beach visit. Sand will scratch your screen and clog up your charging port and speaker grill. Even if your smartphone has a dust or water-resistant rating, it’s best to avoid tempting fate by putting a barrier between your device and the elements.

RELATED: How Water Resistance Ratings Work for Gadgets

Invest in a Dustproof, Waterproof Case

If you spend a lot of time at the beach, in dusty environments, around the water, or you’re especially clumsy, a rugged case might be a wise investment. Not only will these keep your device safe from water and sand, but they also help prevent a broken screen or dented chassis if you drop your device.

One of the best rugged cases is the Lifeproof FRE (iPhone version). It’s available in a range of colors for a whole range of devices, including those from Samsung and Google. The latest iPhone versions even support MagSafe, Apple’s wireless charging standard.

Lifeproof FRE for iPhone 13

Lifeproof FRE Waterproof Case for iPhone 13

Get 2 meters of water and drop protection, and protect your device from dust and sand with the Lifeproof FRE.

Another option is to use a waterproof pouch like the CaliCase Universal Floating Case. These fit smartphones that are less than 6.1″ in height, have two layers of PVC and even allow you to take photos since both sides of the case are clear. Best of all, they float so that your device won’t sink to the bottom if you happen to drop it.

CaliCase Universal Waterproof Case

Even with a waterproof case, you should be especially careful using your smartphone near salt water. Rinse the case thoroughly after exposure to salt water, before removing your device. Salt is highly corrosive and can damage your smartphone, even if has a good water-resistant rating. In particular, the contacts on the charging pins will corrode when exposed to salt. Over time this could prevent your device from charging using a cable.

RELATED: What to Do If You Drop Your Smartphone in the Ocean

Keep Gadgets in the Shade

Touchscreens and dark smartphone bodies absorb a lot of heat. This can cause your device to warm up rapidly, which is something you want to avoid. Heat is bad for electronics in general, but it’s especially bad for your phone’s battery. You could shorten your battery’s life by allowing it to get too hot, or in rare instances cause it to explode.

Overheating is easy to avoid by keeping your smartphone in the shade. Throw it in a bag and keep that bag zipped up. A black or dark bag might not be the best idea since it too will absorb heat, but anything is better than letting your device go sunbathing for a few hours.

Be Prepared for Accidents

If you haven’t adequately protected your smartphone and you’ve decided to use it anyway, you should always be prepared for accidents to happen. As we’ve already mentioned, salt water is terrible for electronics on account of it being highly corrosive. If you expose your device to salt water it’s a good idea to rinse it off with fresh water.

Assuming your device is water resistant, you should be able to avoid water damage while removing any salt that remains on the device. Unfortunately, water resistant doesn’t mean waterproof so you’ll still need to be careful. If your device lacks a water-resistant rating then at least make sure you have a backup in case the worst happens.

Sand will scratch your display, so a screen protector may be worth your time. If you’re going to go this route, a glass screen protector is your best bet. These maintain the premium feel of a “naked” smartphone display and are designed to be replaced when they scratch or shatter.

Sand in your charging port is something else to watch out for. You can use a soft brush to clean sand from your charging port, but you may need to wait for it to fully dry before you can remove all of it since wet sand tends to stick around. Don’t use compressed air on your charging port since this could damage your device, particularly the water-resistant seal (if you have one).

Avoid charging your phone until you’re sure the port is free of sand since you could end up scratching or damaging the charging pins. Damaged charging pins may prevent your device from charging and scratching the gold plating may expose the copper underneath. Copper is highly conductive but prone to corrosion, which is why these contacts are plated in the first place.

Don’t Leave Things in the Car

If you’re driving to the beach, you might be tempted to leave things in the car until you need them. But you really shouldn’t leave your smartphone or similar gadgets in a hot car, unless you have a climate-controlled glove compartment.

Even if your car is well equipped to deal with the beating sun, it’s still prone to the greenhouse effect. The air temperature inside will heat up and this can be deadly for children, pets, and technology.

A smartphone and paper coffee cup on top of a car dashboard.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

This is a tip you can use all year round, especially in the depths of winter. Smartphone batteries hate extreme temperatures, whether that’s hot or cold. Leaving your smartphone on display also gives thieves a reason to break into your car. Even if they only take your smartphone, you’ve still got to replace the window and any other damage caused.

What About Wearables?

Surprisingly, wearables like the Apple Watch don’t seem as susceptible to salt water and sand damage as smartphones. We’ve tested this theory ourselves by swimming in the ocean with an Apple Watch with no ill effects, but you should always consult your manufacturer’s recommendations before taking risks.

Heading to the beach? You may also need a portable charger and some reliable sunscreen.

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Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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