Spills That Kill: What to Do When You Have a Wet Device

That’s right, people spill. All the time. Even the best of us can be caught off-guard and let something slip. Sometimes the spill is harmless, such as tipping over a glass of water on the counter. Sometimes, however, a MacBook logic board meets its demise.

We’re people, after all, and accidents happen whether we like it or not. Heck, I managed to get a bit of egg white on my old Dell Inspiron “kitchen” computer last weekend. Thankfully the egg white landed on the speakers, which only “work”  when I wiggle the headphone jack (thanks Dell). Other people aren’t as lucky, and they come to our forums asking for help after the spill.

Some notable spills of late, which occurred on all sorts of laptops, phones, music players:

  • Water on laptop that was placed under a window overnight
  • Coffee Patron (didn’t know they even made Coffee Patron)
  • Coffee, sugar, and milk
  • Good old coffee, black
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Egg whites

We’ve had people contact us about giving their iPods/iPhones a good wash in the washing machine or dropping them into the toilet. We even had a soldier from Iraq ask about an iPod that was dropped into 2,000 gallons of jet fuel. The iPod got a new battery and ran fine — but we’re not sure how it smelled after that ordeal.

These are but a few of the liquids people manage to spill. The more pressing question is, however, what to do once the accident has occurred. Unfortunately the answer varies from case to case, depending on the type and amount of liquid, as well as where the liquid lands.

For example, we had a co-worker’s friend accidentally knock over an entire mug of beer on his MacBook. He was obviously at the scene of the accident (compared to leaving your MBP under a window overnight) and so he managed to react quickly. He immediately disconnected the charger and battery, and flipped the MacBook upside down. He let it air dry for a day or two, crossed his fingers, and turned it on. Thankfully nothing was damaged, but he currently has one of the manliest-smelling MacBooks around.

So here’s a few tips in case a spill ever happens to you, whether it’s on a laptop any other electronic product:

  • Don’t panic. Panic just complicates things.
  • Remove power to your device as fast and soon as possible. If that means not saving your blog post, so be it. You can always view the auto-save, but there’s no auto-save function for your logic board.
  • Shake out any liquid as soon as the device is turned off.
  • Let the device dry in a manner that is conducive to getting the liquid out. If it’s a laptop, place it upside-down on a counter and let it relax for a day or two.
  • Possibly disassemble parts of the device to verify that it’s dry, and/or to use a hair dryer to finish the job.
  • Cross your fingers, and turn the device on.

At this point you may or may not still have a functional device, and potentially any component may have been affected. For example, if your MacBook doesn’t turn on, it may be the logic board is fried, or just that a component on the upper case failed. Liquid damage can be one of the worst accidents to have to diagnose, but hopefully the steps above will prevent any major damage from taking place.

Wet device with signs of liquid damage
A device with liquid damage

Spilled something unique? Want to share? Post a comment and we’ll add you to the list above!