How to save your laptop after liquid or water spill

At MyCrazyMachine.com we’ve heard the best and worst stories of liquid damaged laptops.

There was the party guy, who brought his laptop in 3 times due to beer spills.

There was the “multi-tasker” who brought her laptop into the shower with her.

Then the evil cat, that just happened to knock over a glass of wine on a $1,500 Macbook Pro.

Without sounding like a laptop nazi, the moral of the stories are – KEEP YOUR ELECTRONICS AWAY FROM LIQUIDS.

Sounds easy enough right? But who hasnt been tempted to have a beverage while engaging with friends on Facebook, or writing a term paper. I myself, break my own safety rule more times than I can catch myself.

But lets move on. What do you do when your laptop has suffered a liquid or water spill?

    1. Unplug the laptop from the power adapter. Take out the power cord.
    2. IMMEDIATELY take out the battery. If you have access to the CMOS battery, unplug that too.
    3. Open the laptop as far as it will open and lay on a flat surface upside down.

4.  Wipe off any access liquid with a dry towel on all sides.

5.  DO NOT TURN ON LAPTOP – RESIST THE TEMPTATION

6.  Determine type of liquid spill.

While water can short out or over time damage critical circuit components, it is the least caustic and damaging.

The most caustic and corrosive liquids are sugary juices, wines, beer and liquids that turn “sticky” when dried. These are the most difficult to treat and must be treated immediately.

Step 7Intended for the tech savvy and professionals ONLY .

It requires you to disassemble your laptop.

If you feel you need help at this point, please contact a professional at MyCrazyMachine.com at (773) 789-8417 or shoot us an e-mail .

We are not responsible for any misinformation or causing any further damage to your components.

Disassemble your laptop immediately after the liquid spill. Time is of the essence and the longer you wait, the more damage the liquid spill can inflict damage.

Remove – Battery, keyboard, top panel/housing, optical drives, hard drives, wi-fi cards, memory modules and finally the motherboard.

Carefully inspect all components and towel dry the wet areas, soak up as much of the liquid as possible. Be sure to check underneath taped wires, ribbon cables, laptop housing, optical drives, hard drive, vents, fans and devices. Liquid tends to seep underneath tape and stay there.

If the liquid is sugary/sticky, the area MUST BE CLEANED. Any left over residue will eventually eat away at the solder joints and circuit pins.

Use a clean toothbrush and a a 99.8% or better Isopropyl alcohol solution. Alcohol both dries out liquids and is a great cleaning solution.

I use Techspray 99.8% Isopropyl alcohol. It is non-agressive, fast evaporating and great for electronics.

Techspray 99.8% Alcohol

Dip the toothbrush into the Alcohol, and shake off any excess.

Gently, start cleaning off the liquid spill residue and dabbing with a clean cloth. Repeat until the component is clean of any traces of residue. Again, I stress GENTLY, as there are many fragile components on a laptop that can easily break such as ribbon connector latches.

**For severe liquid spillage from sticky substances that may have dried, I would use luke-warm distilled water (heat in a pot) and mild dishwashing soap.  Use the toothbrush & distilled water solution  to loosen and clean sticky substances.

After cleaning, use the 99.8% alcohol to clean the area again, and to expedite the drying/evaporation of water.

Step 10 – DRYING

This is probably the most crucial and important step in the entire restoration project. I can not stress enough not to rush this.

Take all components, and lay them on a towel in a warm or heated room. Let the components AIR DRY  for a minimum of 3-4 days.  

If you have a ceiling or circulating fan, this will improve drying process.

There is some debate whether the drying time can be shorter by using a hair dryer or just air drying 1-2 days. I have never risked damaging a motherboard due to impatience, so if you can’t resist the temptation to speed through the drying process, and decide to fire it up – drop me a note. I’d love to see if the drying time can be less than what works for us.

Reassemble the laptop and fire her up.

Most likely if this was a spill on the keyboard, your keyboard is permanently damaged and will have to be replaced. Most laptop keyboards are designed with a protective seal/sheathing/tape on the bottom, to contain any liquid spills and prevent it from reaching critical and more expensive internal components.

I’ve had some luck washing some keyboards in a sink with hot water and soap.  The drying time for a keyboard would be 7-10 days. Most keyboards are about $20-$50 so I would not invest too much time trying to salvage it.

If water has seeped into the LCD, the LCD will have to be replaced. Remove the LCD immediately to check for and remove any residue.

Good Luck!

Comments

Short story. I had my laptop on a table with the lid closed and the next morning i woke up and it was soaked, soon to find out a sprinkler soaked it. the first day there was lines on the screen and a couple days later the screen went black. i had insurance for personal spill from best buy but get this. its only if you spill a cup of water. it cant be excessively wet. so now they wont cover it and im stuck. what should i do to fix my laptop.

follow instructions in tutorial, take apart, clean and air dry

I recently recovered a laptop from a house that burnt down. The laptop was not near the fire, however, the laptop obviously got wet from the fire department. The fire was three months ago. The laptop was unplugged when I retreived it. Can the laptop be saved? It appears

to be dried out already, however, it has been 3 months since the fire too. There appears to be some corrosion around the HDM port and one of the USB ports. Again, is it worth trying to salvage, and if so, what do I need to do?

Sounds like you got the shaft on the warranty and they are trying to wiggle out of it. I would contact ‘Consumer Affairs’ and in Hillsborough

County they have something called a Citizen’s Dispute process involving a mediator. It’s FREE and a hearing is set within 10 days. The mediator hears both sides – then makes a decision. At that point a paper of agreement is written between parties, signed right there re: responsibility & consequences. Check with the court info. line in the county you are in. A SPILL or Seepage into the laptop should not matter. A comparison to use is: no one can prove whether a CUP or more went into the laptop (since it was closed). That would be like me telling a cop that ‘you’ were speeding – when I can’t prove it because I don’t have a radar gun. Good Luck.

Pat on May 27th, 2013 12:48 PM

Hi, I am not tech savvy at all and it seems last night I knocked over a quarter glass of water over the keyboard of my laptop while I think it may have still been running. It was only this morning that I discovered when I tried to turn it on and the windows error recovery page started and I could not press to start the computer normally that I noticed the empty glass of water next to it and I without knowing that I was not supposed to, tried to start it a couple more times when finally when I and the screen was black with a bunch of short green lines running through it…like in the movie, the matrix. Does this mean it has shorted? Has all my data been lost, in your opinion? I have since turned it upside down and am waiting 3-4 days to turn it back on.

Bram on May 27th, 2013 1:03 PM

Sounds like the keyboard & LCD have gone bad. Most likely data/hard drive is OK. Needs to be properly cleaned. Letting it air dry may work for a while but not a permanent solution.

You will prob need an external monitor and keyboard after drying to get to windows

Sharon, it actually is very easy to detect water damage, as almost all liquids will leave a trace of residue. Most warranties do not cover liquid damage

Thanks for the quick response Bram! Luckily I have another laptop to use in the meantime, I’m just worried about losing all my stuff. Keep you posted when I try to turn it on in a few days.

Hello, I use an Acer laptop, and roughly five days ago I had an accident where a small amount of water ended up spilling onto the uppermost part of my keyboard. I didn’t think it was a serious spill and so just wiped it off and a few moments later my whole laptop shut off. Since day 1 I’ve been keeping it completely flipped over, but I’ve been doing it with the laptop closed and not open in an A shape. I’m hesitant to turn it back on and am wondering if a week would be enough for moisture to completely dry up inside of it? Thanks.

My son spilled some bottled water on my dads laptop this morning. It wasn’t a lot a d most of it was under the computer when I finally discovered it..but as soon as I grabbed the computer to unplug it and take the battery out, the screen went all crazy and then went black. I tried to hold down the power button to shut it down, but it wouldn’t shut down until I took the battery out. I have taken the computer completely apart, I used a hair dryer on the cool setting to help in drying it. I don’t see any more water, but I’m afraid to try and start it back up…any other suggestions as to what I can do to help along the drying? Placing it in front of a fan for a day or so? Is it completely ruined, because of what the screen did and the inability to shut it down?

Hi, so I finally turned on my laptop and it makes a clicking noise on startup but then is fine when the login screen comes up. The problem then became a key was constantly being pressed down so I could not fully enter the laptop (even when plugging in a usb keyboard) since it would not stop to let me enter my password in correctly to finish loading. I have since disassembled the keyboard and was wondering what to do now? Could I run the laptop without re-installing the keyboard and just using a usb plug in one or is it dangerous to run the laptop with some of the inner circuitry exposed without the keyboard to cover it? By the way, it is a dell N5010 inspiration. Also, would properly cleaning the keyboard stop this problem of a key being constantly pressed down? If so, what is the best way to clean it?

Update: I started the laptop (without the built in keyboard, just a usb keyboard) and there was no clicking noise anymore on startup and everything seemed to be running fine – just a little slower than usual to start up – then the usb keyboard stopped working as well so I removed and inserted it again and it worked for a little while then stopped again and now stopped working at all…what can I do? Meanwhile, the laptop is still running as I am backing up all my data just in case…Help?

I had my laptop on the ground on the livingroom and cat spilled a cup of water that was above my laptop which was on a tv tray and got right in the middle of the keyboard and I dried the outside and then I turned it back on and was on for a sec and went back and it was was a 2010 Dell laptop

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