Spilled liquid onto your laptop? The trick to saving it is knowing what to do, and doing that fast

The quicker you do these things, the greater your chances of saving your laptop. Do the wrong thing and you'll make an even bigger mess.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

I've noticed that since there's been a massive increase in working from home, there's been a lot more accidents involving liquids and laptops.

It used to be smartphones that were more vulnerable to liquid damage, especially to going for a little swim in the toilet (yes, that seems to happen a lot), but as smartphones have become more water-resistant, laptops haven't kept up.

And laptops really are susceptible. Spilling even a small amount into the keyboard can spell disaster.

The trick to saving a drowned laptop is knowing what to do and doing it fast.

The repair specialists over at iFixit have put together a guide to help people who have spilled tea, coffee, water, milk, soda, or even beer onto their laptop (they've even been asked to help after a cat allegedly urinated onto the keyboard). And just like me, iFixit has seen an increase in traffic to pages related to liquid damage on its website.

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So, what should you do if you're unfortunate enough to spill something onto your laptop?

  • Don't panic
  • Forget all the nonsense about using rice
  • Be safe, unplug the device and turn it off
  • Get the liquid out
  • If possible, open the laptop up to help it dry out
  • Disconnect the battery
  • Clean the board -- either yourself or take it to a repair shop
  • Turn it back on when it's dried out

Speed is of the essence when trying to save a drowned bit of kit, and in my experience,  it is possible to completely resuscitate a drowned laptop. However, the liquid makes a difference. 

Clean water offers a good chance of success (although higher mineral content can sometimes cause problems such as short-circuiting), while liquids such as sodas can be very corrosive and cause problems down the line, causing premature failure.

And if you are reading this after having spilled liquid into your laptop, good luck!

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