Operating System

Accidental Damage: Liquid Spill

Liquid Spills

Liquid spills can be one of the most disastrous things that can happen to a laptop, but there are some things that you can do to minimize damage if it does happen.

Liquid Spill

The first thing you should do is to shutdown the laptop and unplug it from everything. This means you should unplug your power adapter and any peripherals (mouse, Bluetooth receiver, HDMI cord…) that may be plugged in. Next, remove your battery. This is an extremely important step because liquid + electricity may cause short circuits which could permanently damage your machine’s internal circuit boards. Note that it may be difficult or impossible to remove the battery on certain computers, particularly Macs.

Next, use paper towels or a dry cloth to remove as much liquid from the outside of the laptop as possible. Then, open your display and place your computer face down on a dry surface as seen in the below picture. This is also extremely important as it will prevent the liquid from going deeper into the laptop where the most important computer components reside.

Turn your computer upside down

Note: At this stage, many people attempt to dry their computer by placing it in a container with rice. While this is a good step for phones or tablets, it is not something you should do with a laptop, the reason being that rice may get stuck inside the computer and cause internal damage.

Let your computer dry for at least 24 hours.

At this point, the next step depends on what type of liquid was spilled. Most computer components are manufactured to withstand contact with water as long as there is no electrical current flowing through it. So, if water was the liquid that was spilled, you can ignore the next step, and simply skip to turning your computer on.

If what you spilled was not water, it is important to clean any residue out of the inside of your computer before you turn it on. This is especially important if the liquid was something acidic or sugary (such as most fruit juices) because it could corrode internal circuit boards if allowed to sit for too long.

If you have never opened your computer, then it is good practice to search Google either a guide with pictures or YouTube video detailing how to take apart your specific computer model. In order to find out what computer model you have, look on the bottom of your computer or under its battery for a sticker that has your computers model and serial number written on it.

Clean under the bottom case

Remove the bottom case of your computer as well as the keyboard. After locating any residue, you should first try to remove it using a dry cloth, cotton swab or q-tip. If you need some sort of cleaner to fully remove the residue, you may use small amounts of (preferably distilled) water (once again it is critical for all power sources to be disconnected). If water is not enough, components may also be cleaned using isopropyl alcohol. If you do use liquid to clean the residue, allow the computer to dry sufficiently before proceeding.

Clean under your keyboard

Finally, reassemble your laptop, and attempt to turn it on. If it does not turn on or if it does not appear to be working correctly, some internal components may be broken, and further troubleshooting is required.

If your computer doesn’t work correctly after following the above steps and you are a member of the UMass or 5 College Consortium Community then you may bring your computer into the IT Help Center.