What do you do if you’ve spilled liquid on your laptop? Do this!

We’ve all done it at some point or other, but what do you do once liquid is drowning your keyboard, apart from panic? Look online and there are all sorts of myths and misinformation that quite frankly will probably damage your laptop so badly that it’ll end up on the nearest skip!

So, let’s say you’ve just spilled a drink over your laptop. What’s the first thing you need to do? Well, time is of the essence. You absolutely must turn your computer off immediately and unplug it. If you have a removable battery, remove it pronto! Press the Power button until your machine shuts down. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS IMMEDIATELY. Every second is vital. It’s a race against time…

After we’ve gone through possible repair steps, we’ll also give you some information about how to make your laptop water-resistant.

OK, let’s go through it in easy-to-follow steps

Step 1: Remove all easily-detachable components. Unplug your mouse and any cables, and remove any flash drives and DVDs.

Step 2: Dry the outside of your machine with a cloth, and then open your laptop as far as it goes, hold it upside down to let any accumulated liquid drain out, and use a towel or a lint-free, absorbent fabric to wipe wet surfaces until they’re dry. Do not try to dry the computer with forced hot air from a heat gun or hairdryer.

Step 3: At this point, you should ideally take a look at your warranty if it’s still applicable, or take your machine to a repair shop. If your brand has a designated repair shop (like Apple), give them a call or take it in to them as soon as possible. Otherwise, look for local repair shop which specialises in your laptop brand.

What type of liquid did you spill?

Different types of liquid can affect your laptop differently. Water is the least acidic, while sugary and alcoholic fluids are more corrosive, and they can quickly cause permanent damage. Either way, the aim is to mitigate their effects as much as possible by drying the computer immediately. If you don’t want to have a professional take a look at it for you, though, there are more steps you can take to try and dry your machine out. Some of these steps do involve opening your machine, so you must accept responsibility if you go down this route.

Opening your laptop

While opening up and removing components from laptops in the past was relatively easy, that’s not the case with modern-day machines. We don’t recommend trying to take anything apart unless you have an older laptop model that’s not mainly glued together. That said, here are some steps you can attempt if your laptop allows it. But remember, if you damage anything whilst doing this, any warranty you had will probably become void.

Step 1: If you haven’t already, and your laptop allows it, remove the battery. The battery is usually removed by pressing a switch or button on the underside of your computer.

Step 2: If you’re concerned about liquid leaking into the entire system – to components like your memory and storage drive, you can remove those, too. On some laptops, you’ll find panels that allow for their removal on the underside. However, in most cases, you must use a Phillips or Torx screwdriver to remove them. For the memory, press the side clips to eject each stick. With the solid-state drive or hard drive, you likely must undo more screws to free it from the frame. Be sure to detach it from the power and data connection ports or cables with care. Of course, these steps may be too difficult and intimidating for many people – and this, combined with the possibility of making your warranty invalid is enough to stop most people from proceeding.

Step 3: Examine each component you’ve removed to check for any sign of wetness or corrosion. Any wet parts should be dried, but if the liquid is anything other than water, wipe it off using a clean toothbrush dipped in 99% isopropyl alcohol — this will dissolve gunk without causing damage and it will then evaporate without leaving a residue.

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Step 4: Once everything is clean and examined, and you’re certain you’ve brushed away any signs of corrosion, you have to leave everything as it is for a day or two. Preferably in a warm, dry area. A fan will speed up the drying process – but do not be tempted to use a hairdryer, as this could cause static problems. Once you’ve picked your machine apart and given the components time to dry, you can follow the instructions in reverse to put your laptop back together and see if it works.
Once you’ve reassembled your laptop, it should work, with a bit of luck. If there’s nothing happening, then take it to a repair shop.

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What do you do if your laptop cannot be taken apart?

If you have a Surface Book 3, MacBook, or any other laptop that you cannot take apart or even remove the battery, then you have little option but to take it for repair as soon as you can.

Between the time that liquid spilled on your keyboard and the time that you take it to the repair shop, here’s what you can do: Hold your machine upside down and use a towel to wipe dry any visible wetness. Then, lay it down on a dry surface, and give your laptop as much ventilation as possible — it may not help much, but it’s better than nothing while you wait to get it seen by a specialist.

Myths

How many times have you heard rice suggested as a way to help ‘repair’ your laptop? Firstly, placing your laptop into a bag of rice is likely to cost you a small fortune in rice – and this popular online piece of advice is likely to cause more problems.

Firstly, rice isn’t nearly as useful when dealing with liquids which possess sugars, alcohols, or other substances besides water. And secondly, rice doesn’t efficiently absorb moisture trapped deep in your laptop, where the problems happen. It’s worth remembering that most damage is caused in the first few seconds of a spillage. Thirdly, almost all rice has lots of microscopic flakes of debris that can get inside your laptop and create even more issues. It’s just not worth the risk to try something like rice.

If the computer repair shop is closed (of course, your spillage is probably going to happen in the evening, when it’s most inconvenient). If this is the case, then it’s vital that you let your laptop ventilate and air dry for at least 24 to 48 hours before trying to turn it back on again. If you try to power on your PC before it’s ready, you’re asking for trouble. This can cause a massive ‘short’ on your system and completely wreck your laptop. And then it’s ‘skip time!’

Can you buy a waterproof laptop?

While there are many spill-proof or water-resistant laptops, there is no such thing as a waterproof laptop – yet. There are covers available which help to make them waterproof but the laptop alone is just water-resistant and not waterproof.

Unless specified by the manufacturer most keyboards are not waterproof. However, sometimes keyboards can survive small spills as long as the proper steps are taken afterwards.

• Mechanical keyboards tend to be more water-resistant than other keyboard types.
• If you have a membrane/rubber-dome keyboard, the chances of your keyboard breaking are much higher with water spills.
• Mechanical keyboards don’t tend to break as easily when covered in water. The extra durable construction really pays off.

If you happen to spill a lot, it could be worth upgrading your keyboard.
The mechanical switches underneath each key are less likely to break when wet and the metal plate protects the PCB better than the membrane layer on a normal keyboard.

What should you do if you spill water on your keyboard?

Here is our full guide on how to clean water off your keyboard. But we’ll give you the spark notes here to save you some time.

Step 1: Unplug Your Keyboard
First things first, power off your keyboard. Shut down everything. Water and electricity don’t mix well.
Using a wet keyboard with electricity flowing through is a great way for everything to break.
Take out your backup keyboard (if you have one), you’ll need to go a couple days without your main keyboard to clean it properly.

Step 2: Remove the Keys
The bulk of the water should be on top of the keycaps, so go ahead and wipe that up quickly. A microfiber cloth is ideal because it won’t leave behind tiny pieces of fluff or scratch the keycaps.
Once the keycaps are dry, go ahead and remove them. We have a full guide on how to remove the keycaps. You’ll need a keycap puller or you can DIY if you’re feeling up to it. Otherwise you can try and use your fingers which is not ideal, but can still be done.

Step 3: Wipe Up Excess Water
With all of the keycaps removed, you should have easy access to all of the water that accumulated underneath the keycaps. It’s time to wipe off all of that excess water so things dry a bit faster and the water doesn’t seep into the keyboard any further. We recommend wiping off the keyboard with a microfibre towel. We suggest a microfibre towel because a paper towel will leave small paper particulates behind that stick to the keyboard and can jam the switches.

Wipe down the surface of the keyboard until there are no more drops or pools of water on the surface of the keyboard. If there are smaller areas you can’t hit properly with a towel, grab a few cotton swabs and hit those sections.

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Step 4: Flip The Keyboard Over
Now that everything is wiped up, flip your keyboard over and place in a sunny area. Anything that dripped in should come out over this time (if there is anything). Don’t dunk it in rice, just let it sit for a while. Patience is a virtue, so avoid getting impatient and resist the urge to plug in the keyboard.

Step 5: Wait for 48 Hours
You can do this, but you do have to be patient. Just grab your backup keyboard and get to work. Once two days have gone by, you can move onto the final step!

Step 6: Plug In And Test
Before plugging the keyboard back in, give it a gentle shake and inspect if there is any visible water remaining. If there is, I would wait another 24 hours before plugging it back in. If not, plug the keyboard in and see if everything is working! We recommend doing a quick test to see if all of the keys still work. There is a program called key-test which will allow you to check every key on your keyboard super-fast. If all of your keys are working properly, all that’s left to do it put the keycaps back on, then you’re good to go. Congrats!

Finally… Most keyboards (gaming keyboards or otherwise) aren’t waterproof, but small spills here and there aren’t the end of the world. You can usually salvage your setup after an accident.
Just remain calm, act quickly, and avoid being impatient during the drying process, and everything should be fine.

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