Simple accidents can sometimes cause big problems. Liquid damage can kill your laptop quickly, so you’ll need to act fast to protect it. Whether you’ve spilled your coffee over it, or you’ve left it in the bathroom during a hot shower, liquid damage needs to be dealt with immediately and carefully.
Electronics are extremely prone to liquid damage, even those with some sort of plastic or rubber protective layer. We can’t all own military-grade Toughbooks that are water-proof and incredibly resilient to damage, as they are not sold at consumer prices.
So, having an idea about how to deal with accidental liquid damage on your laptop can help you solve the problem in no time. Otherwise, you’d be desperately looking for answers on the internet while your laptop suffers more damage over this wasted time (you might be doing this now, but we don’t judge👀) . In this guide, we’ll be looking at what you should do when these accidents happen, how liquid spills can hurt different parts of your laptop, and how you can fix liquid damage.
Types of liquid damage
Spilling liquid onto your laptop can result in different levels of damage, depending on the type of liquid and the amount of it. It might just be a splash from a drink, or your laptop could’ve been left out in the rain. Any type of liquid could also cause damage to your laptop, from water to vomit, even. By knowing the culprit behind your laptop damage, we can find the right repair solution for it.
The worst liquids to spill on a laptop
From experience, we understand how different liquids can create all kinds of damage across your device. Of course, vomit would be the first thing that comes to mind when we’re thinking about the worst kind of liquid damage. But more commonly, liquids that are hard to clean off and can corrode components are typically hard to deal with.
The thought of making this list is bizarre, but we’ve put together a list of types of common culprits of liquid damage, from the most manageable to hardest to repair. It goes from water, coffee, soft drinks or juice, wine, sea water and beer. Water, coffee, or tea, does the least damage to internal components, compared to other sugary or corrosive liquids. Water eventually evaporates and does not leave anything behind that needs cleaning. In this case, your laptop may just survive if you are lucky.
Sugary liquids like soft drinks, juice, and red wine are hard to clean off the keyboard and other parts of the laptop. Even when it has dried off, the sugar makes everything sticky and hard to clean.
Sea water and beer are also known to corrode parts of the keyboard and motherboard. The motherboard is composed of many small connecting points and circuits that are susceptible to liquid damage. We know it’s hard to prevent accidents from happening, but knowing how much damage different liquids can make might just help you be more careful around your drinks. Next time you have a beer with your mates, best to stay away from your computers.
What not to do when you’ve gotten your laptop wet
First of all, don’t panic. Panicking usually leads to doing unwanted things in hopes of saving the laptop. Unprofessional treatment of liquid damage can lead to further damage that we surely don’t want.
Some people might look to certain hacks to save their laptop, like submerging the laptop in a tub of uncooked rice. That doesn’t work for the complex components of a laptop, and will even bring dust or starch into the device. Though rice does absorb liquid, we believe many of these liquid spill repair hacks are mostly click-bait. Rice cannot undo what’s already damaged, and the leftover rice in your laptop may even cause more damage to the fan.
Using a hair dryer to dry out the laptop is also something we don’t recommend. The heat generated by the hair dryer can melt the keyboard or warp the motherboard. This makes repairing the laptop from liquid damage even harder. Make sure you’re not making things worse for your laptop, as more unwanted damages could cost you more.
What to do when you’ve gotten your laptop wet
While you might want to clean the liquid off immediately, the first thing you should be doing is to turn it off. Just shut it down by holding down the power button, don’t worry about properly shutting it down. If your working surface is still wet, you should also remove the laptop from the area.
Then you’ll need to disconnect it from power. Disconnect the laptop from the charging cable and remove the battery if you can. Otherwise, just leave it as it is, unplugged. USB drives or other peripherals that can draw power from your laptop should also be unplugged. Keeping yourself safe from a wet electronic device is also something to be aware of. You may also try wiping off any liquid on the laptop’s surface with a lint-free cloth. After this quick damage control process, taking the laptop to a repair shop might also be a good next step.
Certain models of Lenovo laptops have built-in mechanisms that act as a drainage system for liquid spills. Again, the best thing to do with laptop liquid spills is to remove it from its power and get it repaired as soon as you can.
What liquid spills do to your laptop
When liquid gets on your laptop, it can get to different parts of the system. This depends on how much liquid and how long the liquid has been on there.
The keyboard is usually the first to go once liquid gets in. It’ll have to be replaced once it’s damaged. Sometimes it may work after it’s been wet, but the keys are still hard to clean individually. They keys may feel sticky and hard to type with, and trying to clean them individually might break the keys as well.
This is true especially for thin keyboards like Apple’s butterfly keyboard on Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros. Trying to clean the butterfly keyboard on its own might damage other components on the Macbook. So it might be a good idea to get the whole keyboard replaced by a professional.
The motherboard, or logic board for Apple computers, spans across the laptop as its main circuit board. It is located right under the keyboard, where liquids can seep through. This makes it easy for liquids to destroy any part of the motherboard.
Other than overheating, liquid spills are one of the main factors of motherboard failure. When any part of the motherboard is damaged by liquids, it’s likely that your laptop won’t turn on at all. The motherboard is the nerve centre of the computer, so when it is down, other components can’t communicate with each other. Nothing else will work when this happens.
Even if your laptop does turn on and seem to work properly, residue left behind from the spill can create problems for later. These might be sticky sugary residue, or minerals that can escalate corrosion damage on the motherboard. So just because your laptop still works, preventable problems can arise if not dealt with.
Motherboard failures are known to be very difficult to repair as it involves careful navigation among delicate components. Learn more about motherboard failure and how to test for them in our guide to motherboard repairs here.
Hard drive / SSD
Liquid spills can also cause damage if it gets to the hard drive. Whether it is a traditional spinning hard drive or a solid-state drive, once it gets wet, the drive will die immediately. Hard drives store data electronically either on disks or memory chips. When these electronics are damaged, data loss is almost certain in this case.
This is why we always encourage keeping data backups. As data recovery from liquid damage can be very expensive and not worth it, having a backup can keep your data safe from accidents that you can’t prevent.
While keyboard and motherboard failures are pretty apparent after liquid damage, you can’t really test your storage drive when your laptop doesn’t turn on. Should you want to test your hard drive for failure after liquid damage, you can try taking it out and testing it on a desktop computer. Follow our guide to testing a hard drive for issues here.
Lithium batteries are vulnerable to liquid damage. Even with its outer layer as protection, it can only withstand a certain amount of liquid. You’ll need to replace the damaged battery if any liquid gets inside. Batteries that have been tainted by liquids are extremely unsafe to use.
This is why you have to act quickly to remove the power source from the laptop after any liquid spills. The battery’s outer layer can usually be wiped dry if only a small amount is spilled on the laptop.
What to do when your laptop doesn’t turn on after you’ve spilt on it
If you’ve done everything in your power to save your laptop from further damage, it still might not turn on. It might be time to get help from a professional technician. While a brand authorised service provider might be your first choice to get a free repair while your warranty is still valid, they might not be able to help with liquid damage. Service providers like Apple do not usually offer motherboard replacements after a liquid spill. This sort of accidental damage might not be covered under warranty either.
Let’s face it, often times your warranty will not be able to cover liquid spill damages. If liquid traces are found inside your laptop, your warranty cover has been voided. This may also include liquid damage that you aren’t even aware of.
Manufacturers like Apple use built-in indicators to tell whether liquid has gotten inside the computer. This is a small round white pad that turns red when it comes into contact with any liquid. A small amount of water would make it turn pink. If the indicator has turned red, this means that there was a large amount of water inside the computer. This is how Apple Support can detect the problem with a simple indicator test.
If your device is under Apple Care, you might be able to get repairs done at discounted prices. The good news is that you may be covered by insurance if your policy covers accidental damages. That said, always check with your insurers first.
The other thing you can do, is to bring it to a third party repair service like us, at Safemode Computer Service 👍. We can offer expert liquid spill repairs on your laptop, and replace damaged parts like the keyboard and motherboard.
How do we fix a laptop damaged by liquid spills?
With a dead laptop, we usually can’t test everything on your laptop, even after a motherboard replacement. We can assess the damage from looking at the liquid residue on the keyboard and motherboard, and attempt repairs and replacements on parts of the motherboard. We also replace small components on the laptop, just to make sure we’ve covered all our bases. If it does need a complete replacement of the motherboard and keyboard, we can do that as well.
Liquid spill damage can be unpredictable, and each repair process is different. This depends on the type of liquid and how much damage it has caused on the system. With that said, the repair process can differ in duration and scope of repair. This also affects the cost of each liquid spill damage repair.
For a first-rate repair on your drowned laptop, consider us! We are in Inner West Sydney, a convenient location both from the city and Inner Sydney. Rated highly among computer repair services around Sydney, we can help you with any computer issues. This includes possible data recovery from a dead laptop and motherboard repairs. Got any questions for us? Call us or drop by our Enmore store today.