If you paid attention in grade school science, then you should know that liquids and electricity don’t mix. We know what can happen when you touch a lightswitch when wet hands, and that same accident can happen when you spill something on your laptop. It can also cause significant damage to the electronic circuits on your laptop.

When these accidents happen, it’s always important not to panic, and always put your safety before the laptop. At the same time, there are also ways to save your laptop from liquid spill damage, as much as you can.

What happens to my laptop after I’ve spilled something on it?

Sometimes an innocent knock from your arm can tip your drink right all over your keyboard. It happens, sometimes these things just do. Just how much trouble are you in? Depending on the type of liquid and how much of it was spilled on the laptop, it can go from completely fine to completely dead. Let’s see why.

Steer clear of these liquids

bottled juice

As computer technicians who have been in the game for a long time, we’ve repaired a fair few liquid spill damaged laptops. It’s not just water spills too, we’ve seen different kinds of liquid damage from coffee, wine, or even seawater. The amount of liquid could also affect the scope of the damage on your laptop. It could be just a splash of water, or a flood from leaving it out near an open window during a rainstorm.

Some common kinds of liquid spills include water, coffee, wine, or soft drinks. Naturally, the more pure the type of liquid, the less trouble it will bring. With drinks like water and black coffee, repairs jobs are quite manageable. This is because it does not leave much residue that needs cleaning up when the liquid evaporates naturally. In certain cases, laptops with water spills can survive without needing any repair work. Still, water can definitely damage or rust up the circuitry and connective points on your laptop.

Sugary drinks and corrosive liquids on the other hand though, are much trickier to handle. These not only ruin electronics, they also leave behind sugary residue that can stick up and ruin your keyboard. This makes it harder to clean the laptop. Even if your keyboard does survive, the sugary substances can cause sticky keys and wreck the keyboards mechanisms.

Corrosive liquids like beer and seawater do the most damage. If these liquids get into the motherboard, they can corrode the connective points and complex circuitry on it. The motherboard is the nervous system of a computer, so this sort of damage could possibly kill your laptop entirely.

Some accidents are hard to avoid, but it’s still a good idea to get a good understanding of what could happen to your laptop if it does happen. It might also make you more careful of your surroundings while you use your laptop too.

What not to do after you’ve spilled on your laptop

You may have heard of certain urban myths or hacks to clean and fix liquid spill damages. Some people may tell you to soak your laptop in a tub of uncooked rice. It is believed that rice can absorb the liquid in the laptop and fix it.

A laptop has a lot of complex components that can’t possibly be saved by rice. This will even bring in starch and dust into the laptop. After a liquid spill, you can’t necessarily undo what’s already damaged with these repair hacks. You might even cause more damage with the rich dust and starch inside the laptop.

What to do after you’ve spilled on your laptop

We’ve mentioned this before, but remember to keep a cool head when dealing with accidents. First thing you should do after you’ve gotten your laptop wet is to turn it off first. Don’t worry about properly shutting it down, just press and hold the power button until it shuts off. We have to be quick and dirty about this.

Remove the laptop from the wet surface, and disconnect it from the power adaptor if it is still connected. If your laptop has a removable battery, take that out too. You should also disconnect other peripherals like USB drives and mice. They draw power from your laptop, so it’s better to be safe.

Now that you’re safe from electrical shock, you can try wiping off the liquid on the laptop’s surface with a lint-free cloth. Turn it upside down to drain and dry, and that’s it.

Run diagnostics on your hardware

After the above steps, you might just be able to turn on your laptop again. If not, you should probably take it to a professional instead.

If you can turn your laptop on and it still runs, the next step is to run diagnostics on your hardware to access the damage. Sometimes it’s not apparent how much of your laptop is affected by the liquid damage, so it’s a good idea to run checks on your system.

Most computers have a built-in diagnostic tool that runs before your laptop boots up. This is known as boot diagnostics, or pre-boot diagnostics. It’s a simple and basic tool you can use to find possible faults and errors on your hardware. You can test parts on your laptop like the hard drive, RAM, or battery.

To run boot diagnostics, you’ll need to press a key specific to your laptop’s brand. This might be “D” if you have a Macbook laptop, or “F12” for Dell, “Esc” for HP, and “Enter” for Lenovo, Acer, Asus, and IBM. Press and hold this key after restarting your computer to run the tests. Your laptop will then detect and report any possible errors on your hardware.

If you do find errors, you should then take it to a computer repair shop. Liquid spill repairs are quite complicated and difficult to perform, especially on parts like the motherboard and keyboard. For badly damaged laptops that are completely dead from liquid spills, it’s best to check with a repair shop to see whether it’s salvageable.