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What to do in case your laptop gets liquid on it

It has happened to the best of us. The misplaced glass or coffee mug on the desk gets knocked over and the liquid contents spill all over your laptop. Now the question is, what do you do?

The very first thing to do, if it is possible to do quickly, is lift the laptop from the desk or table and move it away from the spill. Do this immediately and try to follow the steps outlined below before you start to clean up after the spill itself. The quicker you react, the more damage you can prevent from occurring to the computer’s sensitive internal hardware.

  1. Turn it off

    Cut off all power to the laptop by removing the battery or unplugging it. If necessary, hold down the power button until it shuts down. The big risk with a liquid spill onto a laptop is that the device will short out. This happens when the liquid interacts with the circuit boards inside your computer and ruins these electronic components.

    Laptop batteries are easily removed by turning the machine over and sliding a switch or panel. Each laptop is different in this respect, and note that some machines do not have removable batteries.

  2. Unplug external devices

    Look around the base of the laptop. Do you have a USB drive, a mouse, or any other cords or devices plugged into any of the ports (openings) around the edge of laptop? Remove or unplug any attached devices to prevent water damage to these and help with the drying process.

  3. Turn the laptop upside down

    The best position for this is to have the laptop upside down so that it makes an upside-down V. This allows the liquid to drain away from the sensitive components inside.

  4. Use a lint free paper towel or material to wipe up excess liquid.

    If it was a big spill, you may be able to speed the drying process and prevent more liquid from getting inside by wiping the outside of the laptop. Be sure to use something lint free, like a glass-specific wipe or a paper towel. This will prevent the lint fibers from clinging to the moisture.

  5. Wipe up anything sticky

    If the liquid you spilled was a sugar based juice or soda, you may need more than just a towel to wipe up the liquid. Be sure to use a screen-specific cleaner or wipe. You can find these products at most drugstores or electronics stores. Using a household cleaner on your laptop can cause damage — especially to the screen.

    What do I do if I get my laptop wet?
    A screen-specific cleaner like this one can help with spills.

    You may need to have your laptop cleaned by a professional. Do not attempt to open up the case of your laptop yourself as the parts are very sensitive and you may accidentally cause more harm than good.

  6. Allow the laptop to dry

    The last step is just to let it air dry for 24-48 hours. If you need use the computer sooner than that, you can place it in a warm space (but not in direct sunlight) or near a dehumidifier to speed up the process.

    Note: DO NOT use a hair dryer or place the laptop near a radiator — the heat could cause further damage to your laptop.

  7. Dry the battery

    While the laptop is drying, place the battery that you removed earlier in a container with rice. The rice will draw out the moisture from the battery.

    What do I do if I get my laptop wet?
    Placing the battery in rice can draw out the moisture.

  8. After 24-48 hours, try to restart the laptop. First try it with the battery still out and the laptop connected to AC power. Watch the startup process for any noticeable glitches or changes. After that, try it with the dried-out battery inside.

A wet laptop is not the end of the world. Quick action by powering down the laptop, removing power sources and turning it into an upside down V can help to prevent serious damage to your laptop.

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