In the clamour of modern life, our trusty smartphones find themselves at the heart of every mishap, juggle, and tumble we find ourselves taking. From being dropped on concrete, forgotten on a bus, or being the victims of our toddler’s artistic inclinations, our smartphones have been through it all. But one question that invariably raises its head every now and then is, “Are phones oil-proof?”

As our love for deep-fried delicacies and quick engine oil checks before a weekend trip collide with our incessant need to check social media or document every moment on our smartphones, the fear of oil finding its insidious way into our beloved devices is palpable. So, would your smartphone survive a close encounter with oil? Let’s find out.

Are Phones Oil Proof?

No, most smartphones are not oil-proof. While many modern devices offer a degree of water and dust resistance, they lack specific protections against oil. Oil can infiltrate ports and buttons, damaging internal components. Additionally, oil on screens can degrade image quality and touch responsiveness. However, certain rugged devices built for industrial use may offer better oil resistance. Always check manufacturer specifications and consider a protective case for added security.

When your phone gets wet, it’s not necessarily the liquid that damages it, it’s the minerals inside the liquid.

Although some oils are not electrically conductive and technically shouldn’t stop your phone from working, it’s worth remembering that similar substances tend to dissolve in each other. Our phones are constantly exposed to a variety of substances due to close contact with our hands and faces, which could mix with any internal fluids, such as oil, making them conductive.

One example is the effect of common cooking oil on oil-based adhesives. For instance, if you ever have a stubborn sticker or sticky residue that won’t come off, simply apply some cooking oil, leave it for a bit, and then clean it up afterwards. The adhesive is effectively dissolved by the oil, making it easier to remove.

The design of modern phones involves the use of pressure-sensitive adhesives, which are found not only on the back cover but also within the layers of the screen. These adhesives could be easily dissolved by oil. Consequently, if a phone is exposed to it, which might not be entirely non-conductive due to contamination, its durability and lifespan could be significantly shortened.

What to Do if Your Phone Gets Dropped into Oil?

Given the many situations where our devices can end up coming into contact with or even being drenched in oil, knowing the correct immediate response and cleaning methods can be the difference between you ending up with a phone you can still get long life out of or an expensive paperweight. Here are some detailed steps to take if you find yourself in an oily predicament.

Act Fast

Remove your phone immediately from the oily environment, especially if it’s hot oil, to prevent potential burns, damage to the phone’s internal components, or even a fire hazard. Please be careful, use appropriate protective equipment like gloves and a long pair of thongs or a scoop to remove the phone.

Power Down Your Phone

Once it has cooled off and is safe to handle, switch off your phone right away. This will reduce the chances of any short-circuiting that can occur if the oil manages to seep into your phone’s internals.

Let the Oil Drain Out

Stand your phone up somewhere for the oil to drain out from the inside. And if you don’t fancy waiting that long, some folks have had success getting the oil out using a vacuum cleaner!

Do Not Attempt to Charge or Use the Phone

This can activate circuits and potentially cause more damage if the oil has infiltrated your phone. Refrain from pressing any buttons to avoid pushing the oil further into the device.

Clean the Exterior

Start with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel to gently remove as much oil as possible from the exterior. Make sure to dab and not wipe, as wiping could spread the oil and push it further into the phone. Be especially careful with ports and openings.

Detergents dissolve oil. Soak a cloth in warm soapy water, ring it out until it’s barely damp and wipe down the phone with that. Don’t use a soaking wet cloth as it could make the problem worse.

Use an Oil-Dissolving Cleaner

For the remaining stubborn oil, use a cleaner that dissolves oil, like isopropyl alcohol (99%). Using a cotton swab or small cloth, apply the cleaner very carefully, ensuring you do not saturate the device. Remember to avoid getting excess liquid in the ports or openings.

Seek Professional Help

After your initial damage control, you should really get your phone checked over by a professional, especially if you think the oil has gotten inside your phone or if it was submerged in hot oil. A technician can disassemble the phone to clean and check all components properly. Your phone could have turned into a hassard following the incident so it’s best to get it checked.

How to Keep Your Phone Safe Around Oil

Keeping your phone completely away from oil isn’t always the easiest, especially if you work in a kitchen, refinery or vehicle repair shop. However, with a few precautions, you can substantially reduce the risk of oil-related mishaps:

Keep Your Phone a Safe Distance Away

The best thing for your phone, if you’re working around oil, is to keep it away. If you’re cooking, working on your car, or operating machinery, designate a safe spot for your phone that’s out of the splash zone. And please try to resist taking any selfies over the deep fat fryer; it’s never a good idea unless your daily driver happens to be a Nokia brick from the late 90s, then it might survive.

Use a Protective Case

Anything you can put between your phone and oil is a good thing. Consider investing in a high-quality protective case. Some cases offer a tighter seal around ports and buttons, reducing the chances of oil making its way inside. No regular case can guarantee 100% protection against oil, but it can certainly provide a decent first line of defense.

Install a Screen Protector

Consider installing a screen protector for your smartphone. Acting as a shield against the daily skirmish of pocket scratches, these handy accessories also provide an added bulwark against oil or other liquids getting at the surface of your screen. Look for protectors with oleophobic characteristics to resist oil smudges, ensuring your screen remains crystal clear.

Port Plugs

Small but effective, port plugs snugly fit into your phone’s charging port and headphone jack, becoming steadfast guardians against oil intrusion. These simple accessories can significantly decrease the risk of internal damage, a worthy investment if you know you’ll be using your phone in a risky oil situation.

Try a Waterproof Pouch

If you are facing into a day where your phone could cross paths with oil, consider enlisting the help of a waterproof pouch. Originally fashioned for aquatic endeavours, these pouches weave a protective barrier around your phone, repelling not just water but oil too. Most allow touchscreen and fingerprint reader accessibility, keeping your digital interactions unhindered.

You wouldn’t want your phone stuck in a waterproof pouch all the time, but you might if it was going to be dangling over an open container of oil.

Use a Device Harness or Holster

Prevent your phone from taking a perilous dive into oily depths with a device harness or holster. These accessories keep your phone securely tethered to your body, ever ready at hand while minimizing the risk of accidental drops. Some come equipped with added shielding against oil splashes.

Retractable Leashes

Retractable leashes, akin to camera wrist straps, provide an extra safety net for your phone. Securely attached to your device or its case, they promise to catch your phone mid-fall, keeping it within reach and safe from submersion.

Take Preventive Measures for High-Risk Environments

When stepping into the high-risk environments of mechanics’ garages or bustling kitchens, equipping your smartphone with robust defense systems is not just smart—it’s essential. Think rugged protective cases and vigilant screen protectors. However, positioning your phone out of the danger zone will be your best bet.

For those who must bring their phone into an industrial environment—garages, oil refineries—consider a rugged smartphone, a phone stronger than most and built to endure harsh conditions. Back your device up with a stalwart case or pouch, and don’t forget the all-important screen protector, acting as a digital shield against oil’s relentless onslaught.

For kitchen workers, where the sizzling symphony of cooking oil poses a constant threat nothing will save your phone if it goes in there, maintain a buffer zone between your phone and any boiling oil. If proximity is necessary, consider a rugged, waterproof case as your phone’s first line of defence. And in the calamitous event of your phone taking a dive into a boiling oil vat, safety reigns supreme—retrieve the phone using appropriate tools and allow it to cool before handling.

In high-risk situations, the safest place for your phone is often on the sidelines, away from the action. Even with safety nets like retractable leads or holsters in place, remember: oil and phones are a risky recipe. Preventive measures, therefore, are your most reliable allies.

Related Article: 124 Awesome Uses for your Smartphone (Unleash the Power of Your Phone)

The Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Oil on a Phone’s Functionality

From minor irks to major meltdowns, oil can impact smartphones in myriad ways. The repercussions are contingent upon the oil quantity and exposure duration, manifesting as follows:

Short-Term Effects

Oil exposure can cause short-term effects on smartphones including aesthetic issues such as smudges and stains disrupting the viewing experience, reduced touch sensitivity due to oil on the screen, audio distortion if oil seeps into speaker grills or microphone ports, and port dysfunction affecting charging or headphone use if oil gums up the contacts. These issues can affect both the phone’s performance and usability.

The immediate aftermath of an oil encounter can tamper with the elegance and efficiency of your device. Oil can mar the aesthetics, leaving unsightly smudges and a grimy film that taint the viewing experience. It can dull touch sensitivity, rendering swipes and taps sluggish, and compromise auditory fidelity by distorting the output from speaker grills and microphone ports. Finally, the seeping of oil into the charging or headphone ports can disrupt their functionality, impairing both device performance and usability.

Long-Term Effects

Long-term oil exposure etches deeper, more lasting issues. It can erode the oleophobic screen coating, rendering the screen vulnerable and less smooth to touch. It can also unleash electronic chaos, causing short circuits, damaging components, and instigating erratic behavior or complete breakdown. In extreme scenarios, hot oil’s ominous interaction with the battery may trigger catastrophic overheating.

The Different Types of Oils That Can Come into Contact with Phones

As our smartphones accompany us everywhere, they can encounter a surprising variety of oil types. Here are some of the most common culprits:

Fingerprint Oil (Sebum)

This is perhaps the most ubiquitous oil our phones encounter on a daily basis. Our skin naturally produces an oily substance called sebum, which often gets transferred onto our phone screens during regular use. While not typically harmful to the device, sebum can smudge the screen and interfere with clarity and touch sensitivity.

Cooking Oils

Whether it’s olive oil splattering as you follow an online recipe, or a deep fryer accident in a restaurant kitchen, cooking oils pose a common threat to smartphones. These oils can be particularly damaging due to their thickness and potential to clog up small openings and degrade the phone’s protective layers.

Motor or Industrial Oils

Mechanics, engineers, and others who work with machinery can inadvertently expose their phones to motor oil, lubricants, and other industrial oils. These oils are often heavy and can contain additives that might damage the phone’s components over time.

Cosmetic Oils

Many skincare products and makeup items contain oils that can end up on our smartphones during use. These could range from naturally derived oils like argan oil or coconut oil to synthetic oils used in lotions, creams, and makeup products. While not usually damaging, these oils can leave residues that affect screen clarity.

Each type of oil can interact differently with your phone, depending on factors like viscosity, temperature, and chemical makeup. But in all cases, the key takeaway is this: When it comes to phones and oil, it’s always better to play it safe and avoid contact whenever possible.


In a world where our smartphones face various oily hazards, understanding potential risks and taking proactive measures is essential. While no phone is truly oil-proof, employing the right strategies—from swift damage control to protective accessories—can safeguard your digital companion. Remember, when it comes to mixing smartphones and oil, prevention is the best policy.