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Spills – What Happens?

It finally happened. One moment of distraction and SPLASH! You’ve spilled your coffee, soda, or beer on your laptop keyboard! DON’T PANIC. Here’s what to do to maximize the potential of saving your device.


First, let’s answer the question: What happens when you spill liquid on an electronic device?


  • Causes a “short circuit” or electrical “leakage”. Instead of following the wires it is supposed to, the electricity travels along the water. This can cause malfunctions, and can even lead to some things seeing too much power and being irrevocably damaged.
  • Many integrated circuits are not moisture-proof. Water can fairly easily get inside of them. If this happens when they are turned off, it can lead to bad things when they are then powered up and the integrated circuit chip gets very hot very quickly. The trapped water can turn to steam and expand, causing the packaging to rupture, sometimes violently.
  • Oxidation (rusting) happens quickly around the very thin traces of wire in these electronic devices, eventually eating away the metal and breaking the electrical connection. It happens hundreds of times faster if there is an electrical potential on these wires. Electronic devices are significantly more likely to survive if you take the battery out immediately.


All that being said, the following steps should help you increase the chances of saving your computer.


  1. Immediately turn the computer off! Don’t check your email first, or wait till your game is at a save point. TURN IT OFF.
  2. Remove the AC adapter and the battery.
  3. Unplug anything attached by other ports (USB, HDMI, etc.)
  4. Stand the laptop like a tent, so any liquid inside can drain out.
  5. Prop the machine up, away from surfaces, so that air can circulate in and around the entire unit. Leave the machine to dry for 24 to 48 hours. While it is drying, place the laptop battery in uncooked rice. This will draw moisture out of the battery.
  6. Wipe exterior of laptop to remove any excess liquid.
  7. At this point, there are two options:
    1. Once the computer has had time to dry out, bring it in for inspection by technicians. The best chance of being able to save a system from a spill is to have the computer looked at before components have a chance to short-circuit. This is especially the case with non-water liquids. Sticky liquids like soda, juice, beer or wine will leave residue and the inside components should be cleaned before powering the computer on. Other liquids like soup, sauces or other liquid foods and even water can leave salt residue or cause oxidation and corrosion even if they don’t short out the components.
    2. If you’re not able to bring the system in for a professional look and cleaning, you can try to power on the laptop. First try it with the battery still out and the laptop connected to AC power. Watch the startup process for any noticeable glitches or changes. After that, try it with the dried-out battery inside.
  8. If you have us look at it, we’ll let you know what needs to be done next. If the computer is still having issues working after trying it yourself, you can bring it in to have a technician diagnose the issue and let you know what it will take to repair.


Accidents happen. Usually at the worst of possible times. Geek Easy Computers is here to assist you in those times of computer misfortune!


Geek Easy Computers – Making Technology Easier


 me_smile Adonis Pointer is a photographer, a collector of vintage razors, and a certified technology geek!
Adonis has been involved in computer technology since well, a LONG time! He has been involved in nearly every aspect of the industry from sales to repair to training to consulting. As the Social Media Manager he writes the majority of the posts on the Geek Easy Computers blog.


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