I Spilled Liquid On My Laptop! Now What?

shocked

This may be your face when it happens to you. Every day, 1 in 20 Americans spill something on their laptop (Also, 48% of statistics are made up). So something liquid finds its way onto your laptop or smart phone whether by accident or angry significant other and now you must act, or weep in the corner.  With the steps outlined below, you will be able to confidently jump into action and try to keep the damage to a minimum.

I’ve been in the repair industry for about 9 years now and have cleaned the following liquids out of laptops which then went on to live normal computery lives: beer(lager and porters), wine, milk, water, coffee, juice, cat pee (grosses one by far), “mystery white substance”( basically looked like a HAZMAT guy on that job), “mystery smells like human urine substance”(from a frat house), and a couple others I know I’m forgetting.  I haven’t been able to revive every single one of these without a hardware change out, but I have been successful in a good portion of them.  Follow these quick thinking steps below and you will stand a fighting chance!

Water Everywhere!

We are going to show you a quick “not-to-do” section here so you know what to avoid to not put yourself in danger of a possible liquid to laptop unwanted interaction.  See the pics below for a jump start on what not to do…..

nottodo

Now the above is mostly for comedy’s sake but you can gather some good insight on what to stay away from as well.  Don’t go around swimming pools, lakes, beaches, or Atlantis with your laptop or smart phone. They are not designed to keep out liquids. They do a pretty poor job of keeping out solids for that matter too. There are too many holes and vents all over them to make them proficient at keeping most stuff at bay.

Don’t drink or eat around your laptop.  I already hear the whining and moaning about how you don’t have enough time in your day to do homework and eat or play WOW and function in normal society without having a soda or water right next to you.  Try and schedule yourself a couple minutes away from the laptop to munch down food and drink.  If you HAVE to have food or a drink around, look around and find a good place to set them so if they do get knocked over you wont be making up new curse words because your laptop just became water cooled.

It Happened! What do I do?

That dreadful time has come and your dog has just spilled a gallon of water all over the keyboard of your precious new Alienware RAIDed, super max GPU, RAMy goodness and you think you may be on the verge of a breakdown.  Now is not the time for panic!  **Immediately pull the AC adapter from the laptop and flip it over.  Quickly remove the battery and breathe a sigh of relief.  If you got to these steps without your laptop shutting down or making a popping or zapping sound, you stand a fighting chance.  Go grab a towel or paper towels and set your laptop, keyboard side down, on the drying apparatus.  Let it sit for as long as possible.  There isn’t a good rule of thumb for how long you should leave it sit like this because it could be anything from a drop of water to a 5 gallon bucket full that assaulted your lappy.

Personally, I would leave it for a day with a small fan pointed at it to help the evaporation process.  The next day gently lift it up and see if you notice any still wet areas.  If so, repeat the waiting game.  When it is fully dried out, to the best you can tell, is when you should start crossing your fingers.  Look over the laptop and see if you can see any residue pointing you to where the liquid may have came in contact.  Did it stay on the keyboard?  Did it make it to the touchpad?  Was it fully submerged in the Pacific?  If it only got a little on the keyboard, you may be at looking at worst a new keyboard.(About $25-$60)  If it was a lot, time to take it apart.  If you are not comfortable taking your laptop apart, take it to a professional.  If you plan on that, then you can skip the next paragraph.

Taking apart a laptop can be a challenge but if you are up to it, time to dive in and see where all of the liquid made it.  Heavily inspect the keyboard and touchpad circuit boards and their connectors.  If you see any wetness, dry it off with a non-conductive method such spray air.  Look over the motherboard and see if you notice that it made it that far.  If you see anything like the below picture, clean with alcohol or electronics cleaner and a soft toothbrush or Qtip.

spilldamage

This pic above is from one where the liquid either got to the board before it could be fully powered down or was something like milk/soda/juice/water and started to corrode the contacts.  Be careful when cleaning corroded points like this because if they have been this way long, they can eat at the solder joints making them weak.  If so, then you could dislodge a component and be in even bigger trouble.

After making sure the liquid residue is dried up and cleaned off can we finally see if what we had done above is going to pay off.  Plug in the AC adapter without the battery and try to power it on.  Hopefully it will power on and fully POST and boot.  If so, put the battery back in and try to boot again.  If both went smoothly then it is on to testing out all of the keyboard keys and the touchpad.  If they are sticky or stuck, you can try cleaning them with electronics cleaner.  My favorite is from the Blow Off brand.  If you want to make sure each button is being registered, run over to this keyboard testing site and try out each of your buttons.  If they both work, try your wifi, camera, and any other devices your laptop has to make sure everything made it out unscathed.  Hopefully by your quick actions you have saved your laptop and don’t have to replace any parts!

Conclusion

What have we learned from all of this?  First and foremost, don’t try and put yourself in the situation to possibly contaminate your laptop with a foreign substance.  Don’t eat or drink by it if possible.  Stay away from the beach or swimming areas and leaky toddlers as well.  If it happens, DON’T PANIC.  You now are equipped to minimize the damage done with these steps and quick thinking and acting.  The steps you take immediately after it happens could determine the fate of your laptop!

**Realize you are dealing with electricity here.  DO NOT put yourself in a position where you could be wet/damp and come into contact with any electrical contact or shocking will occur.  Most laptops operate at 19V DC and about 3-5A.  All it takes is .5A to disrupt your normal heart rhythm.  Be careful and realize what you are grabbing before blindly doing so.