You spilled coffee on your laptop. A step-by-step fix.

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laptop coffee

One of our guys just dumped a cup of coffee over his laptop. Huge panic. But our tech guy sent him a list of things to do immediately.  Here they are. You migTiny Squirrelht not feel brave enough to do these things. You might worry any warranty on your computer would be voided. But as usual, The Squirrel, wants to prepare you for life on your own without tech departments and warranties. 

 

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.

Unplug all peripherals that’s things like your mouse, a hard drive and wireless cards.

Turn it upside down immediately. The liquid will stop going deeper into the laptop.

Clean the spilled liquid. Use a lint-free paper towel or cloth to clean.

Examine the keyboard. Some laptops have spill-resistant keyboards.

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.

Insulate yourself from static discharge. Static electricity can damage any computer. Learn how to ground yourself to avoid destroying a computer with electrostatic discharge.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Reassemble and test the laptop. If the laptop doesn’t turn on, contact customer service.