How to Save a Laptop from Liquid Damage

If you have spilled your soda, water, coffee, tea, wine, milk or juice on your laptop, things can happen. Follow the steps below to save your laptop from damage by a liquid.


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    Turn the laptop off. Immediately remove the AC adapter and the battery. If the liquid touches the circuits on the laptop, then it will short out.
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    Unplug all peripherals such as mice and wireless cards.
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    Turn it upside down immediately. The liquid will stop going deeper into the laptop.
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    Clean the spilled liquid. Use a lint-free paper towel or cloth to clean.
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    Examine the keyboard. Some laptops have spill-resistant keyboards.
    • Pour out the liquid contained in the keyboard enclosure.
    • Remove and clean an easily removable keyboard.
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    Clean the sticky residue. The screen, the keyboard and the buttons may be dirty. Use a lint-free cloth that is clean and slightly wet.
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    Insulate yourself from static discharge. Static electricity can damage any computer. Learn how to ground yourself to avoid destroying a computer with electrostatic discharge.
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    Take apart the case. You may need to take apart the case if you cannot clean the whole spill. Some spills can damage the circuit boards.
    • If you don't feel like taking your laptop apart, then have someone else do it.
    • Remove all cards and drives as possible.
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    Remove dry residue. Use a lint-free cloth to gently remove non-water stains. Use compressed air or a vacuum cleaner to blow away the residue.
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    Rinse off the residue. If you spilled anything that is not water, then rinse it clean. There are several ways to rinse your machine, depending on the kind of spill, and how much risk you are willing to endure:
    • Think about what has been spilled on/in your computer, and determine whether it is water soluble or not. Use deionized water for water-soluble stains such as cola. Otherwise, rinse with alcohol then water.
    • Rinse with water. Take any components that have residue and rinse them under water. Most circuit boards handle water as long as they are not powered. Moving parts such as CD drives and fans may not handle water well.
    • Rinse with deionized or distilled water. Many people choose deionized water over tap water. Regular water will leave deposits that can cause electrical shorts, but deionized water will not.
    • Rinse as much as possible and carefully remove excess water.
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    Let it dry. Make sure that the parts are dry. As with rinsing, there are different theories on drying:
    • Dry naturally. 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.
    • Dry with light heat. Use moderately warm sources of heat. Let it dry for approximately 12 hours. A dehumidifier may improve drying time.
    • Never use a hair dryer, as this will cause static problems and contaminate your laptop. A hair dryer at a high setting could also melt some of the plastic components. In extreme cases the hair dryer will drive moisture deeper into the circuits and components and that moisture will oxidize and create capacitive load connections under and inside of integrated circuits and connectors, eventually failing the laptop. The best way to remove all residual moisture is to patiently draw it away with a vacuum cleaner held over the affected areas for up to 20 minutes in each accessible area, having already removed the majority of liquids and moisture manually and dried all visible moisture by hand, so that none enters the vacuum cleaner. This method is preferable to leaving it to dry naturally as it halts any oxidation from occurring deep inside small surface mount components and connections, that can result in issues later on.
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    Clean with a solvent. Some people like solvent-based cleaners as a second rinse. It is recommended if the unit has been sitting long enough to be subject to corrosion and oxidation before repair and cleaning is attempted. Always use gloves and ensure good room ventilation when handling any solvent or alcohol based cleaners as some are known carcinogens.
    • If you suspect that your first rinse did not remove all of the residue, a chemical rinse of this kind may be worth the risk. The advantages of such a rinse are: there is only one substance to apply and remove; that substance, typically, evaporates; long drying times are not required. The disadvantage is that, if you use the wrong solvents, you can literally dissolve your computer.
    • Buy and use 99% isopropyl alcohol. Never use gasoline or acetone to clean computer parts, as the plastic will dissolve in the gasoline or acetone.
    • Use a cotton swab to carefully wipe each component of the board, until it is clean.
    • You can also use flux remover from an electronics store.
    • The damage occurs when the current from the battery short circuits due to the water, which is costly. Make sure the laptop is completely dry before turning it back on.
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    Reassemble and test the laptop.
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    If the laptop doesn't turn on, contact customer service.


  • Some companies have a spill provision in their warranties; it won't hurt to check before removing the case. Several Manufacturers will instantaneously void a warranty the moment they feel there is evidence that a computer has been tampered with by an unauthorized technician or service provider. They keep thorough databases of when machines are taken to authorized service centers. If the system has been tampered with, and there is no record of prior service, the manufacturer may not cover the repairs.
  • When drying the computer, allow air to circulate all around the machine, by propping it up away from surfaces, so that air can get under it. Allow several days to dry for safety.
  • Never force the case off, or you will break plastic or bend metal. If the case does not come off easily, look for more screws.
  • Deionized water is used often in the semiconductor industry, as tap water contains many ions or chemical impurities that may leave a residue on very sensitive electronic components.
  • If there are many different screws in the casing, then you can make a drawing of the layout on paper, and tape each screw to the drawing. This way you won't be in doubt about which goes where when you're putting the whole thing back together.
  • If at all possible, attempt to take a video of the entire disassemble process. Understanding the orientation and placement of cables and brackets is pivotal. It only takes one screw punching through a cable or ribbon to fry entire circuit boards.
  • Removing the case on most laptops is not easy. Typically, you must remove all screws. The screws are tiny and will be all over the place. Check for screws on the outside, of course, but also in any internal compartments, such as, behind the battery or under labels.
  • Case screws may be star screws, in which case you will need the correct-sized, star screwdriver set.
  • Some tablet machines have no keyboard to spill into (or break), and come with rubber protectors to protect ports. You can still spill liquids into them, you'll just have a tougher time doing it.
  • Several companies sell keyboard covers/membranes for laptops. It does take a little getting used to, and you have to turn up the keypad sensitivity, but it doesn't allow spills to get between the keys.
  • Look for a service manual or hardware maintenance manual for your particular laptop on the manufacturer's website. These guides can tell you, step by step, how to disassemble your laptop.
  • Be aware that laptops are often designed with custom components and connections that vary by manufacturer. A component that slides into place, and is held there by a screw on one model, may need to have a cover removed, and an entire retention bracket loosened on another model.
  • Set the Power Options of your laptop to Do nothing when you close the lid. While the coffee gets served, you can close the lid to guard against damaging spills. This way, when you re-open, you don’t have to re-enter a password. Also, while you are downloading you might want to close the lid without the system shutting down. Closing the lid will always turn off the screen, independent from software settings, to avoid overheating and to save energy.
  • You can buy total replacement 'notebook insurance' for the machine on an annual basis fairly cheaply (at least until it's depreciated enough not to bother with). Don't buy an extended warranty or 'replacement' contract at the store unless you've shopped the price on-line. You should also be aware that these "third party" warranties will often only cover repairs that are performed "in house", and not repairs that are only available through the manufacturer. In some cases, these "in house" repairs will use parts that are not approved by the manufacturer and will void your eligibility to extend your warranty with the manufacturer.
  • You could consider a 'rugged' notebook that is liquid and shock proof if you are prone to accidents.
  • Consider purchasing an "accidental spill" warranty, if you know you are going to be around liquids frequently. This may add a few hundred dollars to the purchase price of your laptop, but it will be much cheaper than having to buy a new one.
  • Check a tropical fish store for tablets to deionize water.
  • Several companies also sell laptop vests and laptop jackets. The vests are a light cover that merely protects the top and bottom of a laptop from scratches (one model comes with a handle) while the jacket zips completely shut around the laptop like a binder (also has a zipper for back access ports). There are some more expensive models of laptop jackets meant for use in extreme conditions, and they have enough padding to protect against moderate falls.
  • The manufacturer is usually willing to disassemble and diagnose a liquid damaged system for a nominal fee, depending on who they have contracted to furnish repairs for your model of computer. A call to your manufacturer's technical support will provide all of the details.
  • Most spills can easily be avoided. Keep your computer away from food and liquids.
  • Try turning it off and on again, first.


  • Whatever you do, do not power your laptop on to check if everything is okay. Give the laptop at least 24 hours to dry completely on its own before attempting any sort of power on at all.
  • Water and electricity do not mix! Make sure all power is off or deactivated completely.
  • Even "clean" tap water can destroy electronics as it contains minerals and many added chemicals including chlorine, a strong oxidizer and bleach.
  • Organic solvents can be dangerous and even explosive. Use only in a well ventilated environment with the correct personal protective equipment, such as gloves and an organic solvent respirator.
  • If you choose to let the spill dry without cleaning, be aware that any acid present will slowly "eat" the circuit boards, until the device fails.
  • A heavily soaked AC adapter will need to be replaced.
  • Opening the case will void the warranty. However, spilling acidic liquid into the device probably already did that anyway, as few warranties cover this kind of damage.
  • Many, if not most, laptops contain a CMOS battery that is constantly providing a small amount of power to the laptop. Even this small amount of power may be more than enough to cause an electrical short. It would probably be best to remove this battery (it looks like a watch battery), as soon as possible, after a spill. Note, though, that this will erase any modified BIOS settings.

Things You'll Need

  • Deionized or 'reverse osmosis filtered' water or isopropyl alcohol
  • Various small screwdrivers
  • Plastic bags to hold small parts and screws
  • Paper towels, a clean soft toothbrush and cotton swabs

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