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How to Save Your Laptop after a Spill

How to Save Your Laptop after a Spill

We all can be proud of our multitasking skills. But juggling two or three things at one time can come for a hefty price, especially if two of those tasks include a drink and a laptop.
Arun Prabhu
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
It's in our nature to be clumsy the moment we let our guard down and spill the drink on the laptop. The consequent panic is also natural, sadly. In case you don't panic, there are some things that you can do to save your laptop.

Steps to Clean and Save Your Laptop

Shutting Down
Regardless of the drink that you drop, the first thing you need to do is shut your laptop down. I would prefer a cold stop, which is pressing the power key till the laptop shuts down. After that, remove the laptop battery and A/C adapter attached to your laptop. If you have any external devices or other cables attached to your laptop, take them out before you move around. If we spill a drink on the laptop, we will naturally panic and do something unnecessary. Try not to get tangled in the wires when you're getting up, you will just add to the damage.

Draining the Liquid
After you're sure the laptop is switched off and the battery and all the devices are disconnected, turn your laptop upside down and gently shake it. Most laptops now come with spill-proof keyboards so the liquid should just flow out of the keyboard. Bear in mind, 'spill-proof' means the liquid won't reach the internal components, but even that's not a guarantee. Depending on the liquid, your laptop may suffer damage to the keys and internal components.

If the liquid is something like water, you won't have to face too much damage. Just keep the laptop inverted for as long as possible (at least 6 hours), after which you can use something that can absorb water to wipe the keyboard clean, like paper towels or fresh Q-tips, as long as it won't deposit lint into the keys.

Apart from water, you have two other common drinks that can be spilled on the laptop. If it's sticky like soda, it will corrode the keys and internal components over time if left untouched. If it's hot like coffee, it will seep towards the internal components of the laptop, instantly damaging them. Your first step would still be to shut down the laptop and invert it.

Wiping the Liquids
If you spilled water, your laptop should be fine. All you need to do is drain the water out, wipe the keys on the inside with a water absorbent material that doesn't leave lint. Leave the laptop alone for at least 24 hours to completely dry out (6 hours to drain the water and 18 hours to dry the laptop). Do not turn your laptop on before 24 hours, even if it is important. If there's any water left inside, it might short a component. Remember that electronics and water do not go hand in hand, so you need to be sure all the water has dried off.

If you spilled soda or juice or coffee on your laptop, you need to do more work as these liquids will do some real damage. First, you will drain out the liquid from the laptop. Do not keep it there for too long. You need to clean the sticky liquid off before it dries out too much. The best stuff that you can use for cleaning is denatured alcohol. The denatured alcohol makes sure all the liquid is cleaned off. Any sticky liquid that remains on the keys or the components will slowly corrode the surface, wearing down your laptop.

Dos and Don'ts
There are some tricks that you can use, to dry out your laptop faster and some mistakes that you need to avoid.
  • One trick that works is to drain off the liquid from the laptop quickly, take a bag full of rice and stick the laptop in the bag. The rice will absorb all the liquid that seeps out of the laptop, making sure your laptop dries out as fast as possible.
  • When you dry out your laptop, don't use a hair-dryer. The heat from the hair-dryer will destroy your laptop in two ways; it will fry some components, leaving them useless; it will only encourage the liquid to heat up and dig deeper into the surface, speeding up the corrosion.
  • The best way to dry out the laptop is place it in indirect heat or slightly away from a direct heat source. The best spot is on a table or window sill just out of the sunlight's reach. If the laptop comes in direct contact with a heat source, it may melt some parts or make the liquid burrow deeper into the surface.
  • Make sure, whatever you use to clean the laptop (including your fingers) is lint free and static electricity free. You may not feel the shock, but the parts of the laptop surely can.
Prevention is better than the cure, they say. Don't drink anything around your laptop if you don't want to fry it up. If nothing works, you best go over to a professional and hope your laptop isn't dead.