Get coffee out of a Macbook keyboard?
April 15, 2009 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Just spilled coffee into a 13" macbook. Remediation tips?

Splenda and cream, no sugar. Any ideas on stuff that can be done to mitigate the damage while it's still wet?
posted by Orb2069 to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Turn it off, pull the battery and cord, open it and flip it upside down. Let it sit for far, far longer than you think it should. At least three or for days.

If it's out of warranty or you don't mind you can after a day, remove the keyboard and clean/dry it out separately. Flush it with rubbing alcohol, etc. There are lots of resources on the net, and many similar questions here.

Do not attempt to boot it for several days, at least.
posted by Science! at 2:02 PM on April 15, 2009

I recently saved my wife's Dell laptop from a major coffee spill (milk, no sweeteners). I immediately unplugged it and removed the battery. After discovering that coffee had gone all the way through and was dripping from vents on the bottom of the unit, I completely disassembled it (taking many pics to help with reassembly) and rinsed all parts except the drives in distilled water. I let it dry for a long time (months, actually, because I assumed it was a lost cause), and when I put it back together (with a new $20 keyboard) it was fine. Subsequently, a local computer shop told me that you generally have only a couple of hours to get the electronic parts clean before corrosion starts.

If it was only a little bit of coffee, you may get away with replacing just the keyboard.
posted by jon1270 at 2:05 PM on April 15, 2009

I'm averaging about two years between coffee or wine related macbook deaths. I spill water, coffee, or wine in my macbook every six months or so - it seems that pulling the plug and battery and leaving it to dry for a few days does the trick about 75% of the time...
posted by foodgeek at 2:51 PM on April 15, 2009

I second Science!'s advice. After I spilled coffee on my humble G3 iBook, it would not boot even after I let it dry. I took it to an independent Apple technician who took it apart and cleaned it, but it still would not boot. However, once he replaced the keyboard, it worked fine for another year until it just finally died. I'm sure the MacBooks are built better/differently than my old iBook, so your mileage may vary. I wish you the best of luck!
posted by Houyhnhnm at 2:54 PM on April 15, 2009

As far as I know, damage due to such spills is not covered by AppleCare - taking it into a shop will likely be a waste of your time.

If it's out of warranty or you don't mind you can after a day, remove the keyboard and clean/dry it out separately. Flush it with rubbing alcohol, etc. There are lots of resources on the net, and many similar questions here
posted by ripple at 3:06 PM on April 15, 2009

Best answer: Spillage is definitely not covered by the 1-year, nor the 3-year AppleCare Extended warranties. It's quite obvious when a user has spilled liquid in his/her MacBook. I see this several times a month. Every now and then, someone will get lucky and the Apple Store will fix their machine under warranty despite the accidental damage, but it's quite rare. The Store technicians are trained to look for liquid damage.

Now, having spoken the Party Line, I can tell you that in most cases (I'd say 8 out of 10), all that needs replacement is the top case, which contains the keyboard. It really depends on how much liquid was spilled into the keyboard, the consistency of said liquid, and whether it reached the logic board or other circuitry underneath the top case. I've seen several instances where replacing both the top case and logic board still didn't fix the problem, because the liquid had damaged other circuitry like the inverter board or the mag-safe charge circuitry.

So, your best bet is to:

1) Do as Jon1270 suggests and give it a nice long airing out and cross your fingers. Open it up and let it sit in an inverted V with a fan running for at least 48 hours.
2) Take the top case off and disconnect it from the machine. Blow a fan on the exposed logic board area for many hours to help any liquid evaporate. Use the take-apart guide you can find at A Google search will reveal it quickly.
3) Put it back together afterwards and see if it turns on. If it does, you're probably in the clear.
4) If it doesn't, then consider purchasing a top case on the gray market. If my memory is correct, the retail for about $80 - $100 or so.
5) If you replace the top case and it still won't power on, you should consider scrapping it. The Apple Store will likely charge you the cost of a logic board + labor to fix it, which is more than the machine is worth.

If you do decide to scrap this, MeMail me and I'll give you fair market value. You could also try your luck on eBay.

If you're in the NYC area, MeMail me and I can help you with this repair, if you're interested. I can get parts for you also.

Good luck!
posted by at 3:32 PM on April 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Yeah, if there's any actual damage to the machine your warranty is voided. But you didn't give any info about whether the machine shut down, or freaked out, or what.

How much liquid was it? A tablespoon, a mouthful, a whole mug? What happened to the computer? The latest revisions of the macbook have reactive indicators that will tell a technician if it's been exposed to liquid, older macbooks do not.

I recommend checking the support and forums at and, I recently spilled some liquid on my macbook and fried the keypad. A used replacement keyboard was cheap and fixed everything.
posted by Science! at 3:52 PM on April 15, 2009

Pull the hard drive, wipe the connectors and circut board (usually covered wih a little metal sled) down with a Q-tip and rubbing alchohol.
posted by now i'm piste at 6:13 PM on April 15, 2009

posted by devnull at 12:34 AM on April 16, 2009

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