iPod nano Wash and Dry

The sixth generation iPod nano is small. Very small. Almost as small as an iPod shuffle. That’s more than small enough to easily lose track of it. Especially if you’re not careful. I’m not always careful. The other week, I took my nano to the gym with me. It remained in the pocket of my workout pants when I returned home. It was still in that pocket when I put the pants in our laundry bag.

The nano maintained its stealth presence when the pants were tossed in the washing machine. It remained undetected when the pants were next transferred to our dryer. It was only when I went to put the freshly-cleaned pants back in my closet that I finally discovered the nano.

The nano had almost literally been put through the wringer. On the plus side, I had a lint-free nano. Overall, the physical appearance of the nano appeared unaffected by its journey. It still looked as good as new. The obvious big question, however, was: Did I have a nano that still worked?

The big and surprising answer: Yes.

When I attempted to turn it on, the screen immediately lit up. All touchscreen controls worked as expected. The only discernible visual difference was that there were persisting water drop “stains” in the background. At first, I didn’t even notice them, as they were faint and blended in with the water drops that make up the iPod’s default background screen. As it turned out, even these stains vanished after about a week. [Note: Common advice is not to turn on a water-damaged iPod until it is completely dry. I, perhaps optimistically, figured an hour in our dryer was sufficient to meet that requirement.]

One factor that had potentially worked in my favor: We have a water-conserving front-loading washing machine. With these machines, the tub never completely fills up with water, so the nano probably did not remain submerged in water for any length of time.

The crucial remaining test was audio. When I plugged my headphones in, would I still hear music? Yes! My music sounded as good as ever.

All seemed perfect — which is pretty amazing considering the torture test the nano had endured. If Apple ever wants me to provide a testimonial to the solid construction of their iPods, I’m ready.

Only one problem: In the past few days, the iPod has developed a symptom that I assume is a late-appearing after-effect of its wash-and-dry episode. When I plug a pair of headphones into the headphone jack, the iPod immediately powers off. Not all the time, but almost every time. I checked the Web and found a few similar complaints (with no mention of water damage as a potential cause). The suggested simple fixes (such as making sure that the headset plug was fully inserted) were of no help for my nano.

To be clear, the sound from the nano works fine if I use the dock connector to play audio to external speakers. It’s just the headphone jack that causes problems. Still, it’s not a symptom I could afford to ignore, as headphones are by far the most frequent way I listen to the iPod. So, figuring I had nothing to lose, I took the nano to the Genius Bar at my local Apple Store. The two Geniuses that looked at the nano claimed to have neither seen nor heard of this particular symptom before: “It’s a new one on us.” Still, by peering into the headphone jack and noting that the white circle Liquid Contact Indicator had turned pink, they correctly identified the cause as “water damage.” This meant no warranty repair or replacement. Instead, they offered a replacement iPod for 50% of the cost of a new one. It was a reasonable offer, but I declined it for now. I don’t used the iPod often anyway, as I depend mainly on my iPhone.

Postscript: Just before posting this article, I did some final testing. I connected the iPod nano to iTunes on my Mac and confirmed again that I could play music via this connection. It still worked. Next, I synced the iPod and ejected it. Surprise! I could now use my headphones without the iPod powering off. I repeated the plug insertion several times. No problems! I have no idea why the the shut-down symptom vanished or if it will later return. But, for the moment, I have a very clean and fully recovered iPod nano.