When water, coffee, or liquid spills on your laptop, do this

Work quickly and you might be able to save it.

spilled water laptop stock
leeser87 / iStock

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An 11-year-old (whose name I won’t reveal) accidentally spilled water on a laptop, and wanted to know how to clean it up before any parents found out.

Liquid and electricity don’t mix. When the two meet, the liquid can destroy a great deal of electronic circuits. It can also send you a serious shock if you’re not careful.

I’m going to assume here that you’re not reading this on the wet PC. Best not to use it until everything has dried up.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

Immediately after the spill, make sure your hands, and the laptop’s power button, are dry. Use a towel if necessary.

Turn off the computer…and I don’t mean shutting down Windows properly. Press and hold the power button. The computer will shut down completely after five seconds.

Next, remove any source of electricity. Unplug the AC adapter from the wall socket. Then remove the battery, if the battery is removable.

You’re now safe from shock. Unplug anything else that’s plugged in—mouse, cables, flash drives, and so on. Open and remove anything that can be opened and removed with relative ease. For instance, remove the RAM and the hard drive or SSD.

If the liquid was something that dries sticky, such as alcohol or sugared drinks, send it a professional to give it a thorough cleaning.

But if you just spilled water, you have a chance of drying it out yourself.

First, dry the outside thoroughly with a towel. Then clear off a table and put a fresh towel over it. Open the laptop as wide as you can, so that the screen and keyboard are on the same plane. Then put it, face and keyboard down, on that towel-covered table. Leave it there for at least a couple of hours so that the water can drip out.

0519 drain

Then put it all back together and see if it works. If it doesn’t, take it to a professional.

By the way, I gave entirely different advice to the young reader who asked the question. I recommended confessing and apologizing for the mishap.

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