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Help! Soda Spill In Laptop

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 by | Filed Under: Hardware & Peripherals
 
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Help! I spilled a soda on my laptop keyboard. Now some of the keys won’t work at all. Is there a way to get it clean? I’m not very good with computers, so I need a simple explanation.

Please sit down. The prognosis is not good. I’m sure your computer led a full and active life until this happened.  If this were a desktop keyboard, I’d tell you to run out and buy another one. Or if you had time and weren’t intimidated by the idea of taking apart a keyboard, you could attempt to clean it.

A laptop is a different story. You’ve got a sticky mess gumming up the works and there’s no way to clean it without disassembling your computer. If your computer is still under a warranty, the spill likely invalidates that warranty.  Some premium plans do offer spill coverage, so if you have a warranty or insurance, make sure to check.

I’ve known brave tech-savvy souls who disassembled their laptops and cleaned them successfully. But this is a pretty complicated process and I wouldn’t suggest it for a novice.  I’d suggest taking it to a computer repair shop with a good reputation to see what they can do. I’ll warn you, this could be expensive.

Situations like this are why it’s important to regularly back up your important files to an external drive or a cloud service.  If at all possible, get your files off your laptop before sending it out for repair. Hopefully the soda mess did not get to your hard drive and if the computer is not salvageable, you can transfer its contents to your next computer. 

Technology has become such a part of our everyday life that we often eat or drink with it at our fingertips and forget that it can be pretty fragile. Keep liquids away from computers,or at least in cups with lids, to reduce the chance of spillage. This is one of those cases where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

- Cynthia

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9 Responses to “Help! Soda Spill In Laptop”

  1. Frank Darden says:

    Actually she might get a separate USB keyboard plug it in and go on using it. It would partially defeat the portability; but not all would be lost.

  2. Mark says:

    Sorry to disagree with you Frank but the keyboard is not the issue on a laptop that got spilled on. As Cynthia implied the motherboard is going to fry if it hasn’t already. I have had 2 family members with similar problems and have heard of many others. One daughter’s son took a spray bottle of water and sprayed her laptop. The verdict, replace the motherboard. The other daughter’s husband spilled a glass of milk on his MACbook. The verdict, the MAC store wanted $700 to repair it, probably by replacing the motherboard. They didn’t have the money so one very expensive laptop is now useless.

  3. j ford says:

    Since the laptop seems to be working, can’t a usb keyboard be used until the laptop can be replaced? I use one because of the unrealistic size of the one on my laptop and its a whiz.

  4. cynthia says:

    Yes, you can plug in a keyboard. But, since the soda spilled into the laptop could be damaging other parts of the computer, I would suggest getting it looked at ASAP. If the issues don’t extend beyond the keyboard, you could just substitute another keyboard.

  5. Lee says:

    As a PC repair tech I agree with Cynthia; take it and get it looked at. Depending on the make of the laptop you could possibly get by with having them replace the keyboard for around $30-75. Even some of the most gentle cleaners will damage rubber and plastic components of the keyboard and worse the motherboard, so don’t attempt it. Once the keyboard is replaced, back up your data and hope for the best. Short of completely disassembling the laptop there’s no 100% guarantee that spill will be cleaned if it went past the keyboard. The problem with sodas or coffee is they dry fairly quickly when spilled into electronics because of the heat inside, but leave behind a sticky sugary mess. Over time parts inside the laptop affected by the leftover sugar residue will develop problems do to corrosion and dust buildup. So even though the laptop is currently still useable, back your data up on regular intervals so that you are prepared.

  6. Ron says:

    Yes, using a USB keyboard is a workaround. My only computer is a laptop and I’ve used a full size plug in keyboard at home from the day I bought it.

    BUT, the very first thing to do is make a backup copy of your HD. MOST IMPORTANT. That way, if the spilled drink does “migrate” and cause more damage, you will still have your data.

    It may be easiest to take it in to a shop to get the backup done. They can connect the disk to another computer to do the backup from.

    Laptop keyboards are in low supply to the general public, making it very difficult to find the right one and consequently making the replacement keyboards very expensive. Even if you send it back to the builder, it will be an expensive repair.

    Replacing a laptop keyboard can be very expensive. If the repair is not covered by a warranty (not likely, “operator stupidity” is usually not covered) or by your Home Insurance, and the computer is more than a couple of years old it probably won’t be worth the expense. Equally, or more powerful, laptops can be bought for $200-500.

  7. Libby R says:

    If I was in this situation, the first thing I would do it look up online how to access the hard drive. Most laptops I’ve had and worked on for myself, family and friends are easily accessible via the bottom of the laptop. Remove the battery and a few screws, take off the back, disconnect the HD and lift it out. Check for liquid exposure and hopefully you still have your data.

    If you decide to just buy a new laptop. For less than $20 you can buy a cable that will connect the removed hard drive to your new computer and you can easily transfer the data.

  8. Keith Monson says:

    All might be lost anyway (so you don’t lose anything for trying) but here is what I would do. Take out the battery, hard drive, Optical drive and of course unplug all USB devices, place the laptop upside down on the top rack of a dishwasher (don’t use soap and make sure the lappy is the only thing in the washer). Wash it on the warm setting (not hot) and make sure not to use the drying setting. Take the lappy out and stand or lay it upside down to dry completely. I’d give it three days to a week. Put the battery, hard drive and optical drive back in and prey.

  9. bleach says:

    Cynthia,

    Two comments…
    First is that you can buy replacement keyboards for many (most?) lap top computers and they usually are not too hard to change.

    As for try to “fix it yourself” you might need a “circuit pen” because most circuit traces on flexible plastic used in keyboards is water soluable. So that soda or coke can actually wash away some of the circuit connections!

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