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Liquid spills on laptops from leaky roofs to spilled coffee on the keyboard

We see many laptops that have spill damage.  We also sometimes see desktops with spill damage but that is more rare.  Recently we had a Lenovo All in One that had been damaged due to rain from a leaky roof.

However I will focus this discussion on the more common laptop spill damage.  We have seen laptops that have had coffee, beer, water, ice tea, wine and even melting popsicles spill onto them.  Usually it is onto the keyboard of the laptop but not always.   When they come to us, many times they have stopped working, are sticky and are sometimes filled with rice.  Let me suggest that putting a laptop in rice is a bad idea.


First let’s address what should you do if the spill has just occurred:

1)      Turn the laptop off

2)      Unplug the power (AC adapter) from the laptop

3)      Remove the battery (if possible)

(Skip #4 if you have a Lenovo Thinkpad)

4)      Open the lid and turn the laptop upside down so the keyboard is facing down. Try to shake as much liquid as possible out of the machine.  If it is a Apple Mac or another laptop without holes on the bottom – skip #5

5)      Turn the machine right side up and try shaking as much liquid out as possible.  Note that Lenovo Thinkpads have a gutter system under the keyboard that channels the liquid away from the electronics and out holes on the bottom of the laptop.

6)      Wipe the outside of the laptop with a slightly damp cloth to remove sticky substances and then use a dry cloth to remove any liquid on the outside of the laptop.

7)      At this point, you can bring it to us or leave it sit to dry for 36 hours . During this time, DO NOT plug in the AC adapter, DO NOT put the battery back in and DO NOT power up the laptop.

8)      After 36 hours , replace the battery and try starting and running your laptop.  If it works – great – see (1) below and our comments about sugars / minerals migrating under a surface mounted component.

9)      If it isn’t working – bring it to us.

If you are reading this the day after the spill and didn’t do some or all of the above – don’t give up hope yet – bring us your machine.

Here is what do we do:

1)      First we disassemble your laptop and clean the internal components such as the motherboard, etc..  Then we do a full diagnostic to determine what is operating and what is not operational.  Note that after this internal cleaning, the laptop may be working correctly.  We will normally run the laptop over night to insure it is still operating correctly.  We can clean the substances off of the surfaces of the motherboard for example, but if some of the sugars/ minerals in the liquid got under a surface mounted component – we may not be able to remove that hidden material.  The hidden material may conduct electricity. If it does, it can cause a short that we can’t fix with cleaning.  Note that we run the machine overnight to determine if any of those trapped / hidden materials migrate due to electric fields and cause a short.  If it is still working correctly the following day, we will return your laptop with merely a fee for cleaning.

2)      Most times with liquid spills, the liquid gets into the keyboard and causes damage.  So in most cases, we do find that we need to replace the keyboard along with providing an internal cleaning.

3)      If there are shorts on internal components, then we will offer to do that repair.  Many times this involves replacing the motherboard, which can be quite expensive.  We will only do those things that you want us to do and never pressure you to spend more money.  On some occasions, we may have been known to strongly  recommend to customers to spend less money because in our opinion the cost of the repair is more than the value of the computer.

If you think you are likely to spill liquids on your laptop, there are flexible mats that can be placed over the keyboards.  That might be a good option.  We also recommend Lenovo Thinkpads because they are the only laptops that have a gutter system that keeps liquids off the mother board.

Finally even if your motherboard is toast and it isn’t worth the repair, your data on your hard drive is probably just fine.  We can almost always recover the data from a computer’s hard drive if the computer has suffered a liquid spill.

We offer   free diagnosis of your problem.  We are conveniently located at 2446 SW Cary Parkway, Cary, NC 27513 for customers in Apex, Cary, Morrisville, Holly Springs, Raleigh, Garner and Durham.   Email us at contact@absoluteraleigh.com or give us a call, if you have any questions.