September 23, 2010 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Just spilled a few tablespoons of coffee containing unsweetened almond milk onto a MacBook keyboard. What now?

This model of MacBook (aluminum unibody, 13 inches)
Less than 1/3 of a mug of warm coffee with a little almond milk.
It mostly landed on the top right side of the keyboard (where the power button, delete key, etc are. There are no speakers on the keyboard of this model).

Within the first ten seconds, I immediately turned laptop upside down, turned it off, blotted the keyboard dry, and pulled out the battery (which is in the lower right part of the body, and which did not have any coffee visible on or around it). There was a little bit of coffee dripping out between the keys- not too much, just a few drops.

I'm certain that a little coffee got into/around about 15 keys on the upper right side of the keyboard.
I don't think it was enough to pool inside the computer, but I don't know for sure.
The coffee was made in a French press and probably had a bit of cinnamon in it, too, so it might have more fine particles than ordinary drip coffee.

Laptop is currently upside down on a towel with the battery out.
Already called the Apple store & made an appointment to take it in on Saturday (it's Thursday now).

In the meantime, is there anything else to do?
Any soothing anecdata to share?
Aargh, thanks.
posted by pseudostrabismus to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, I made a mistake. The battery's on the left. The thing on the right is something else, maybe hard drive? The silver & black thing in this image. You need to unscrew it to get it out. That's what's on the same side as where the coffee spilled (it's not under the keyboard though, it's under the wrist rest). It's screwed in, and I don't see coffee around it at all. Should I unscrew & remove it? I've never done that before. (I don't know anything about the innards of laptops).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2010

Usually letting things dry completely does the trick. What usually causes components to fry is the shorting that can occur when conductive liquids bridge circuits. If the unit's still wet, taking the battery out could help...but just be sure not to power it back on until its dry.
posted by samsara at 1:42 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, take the battery out. Don't turn it on again for at least 24 hours. With luck, it will be fine once it dries out.
posted by vorfeed at 1:43 PM on September 23, 2010

Can't take the battery out of a macbook pro, btw
posted by Michael Pemulis at 1:46 PM on September 23, 2010

The silver and black thing is the hard drive. The huge silver thing is the battery.
posted by zsazsa at 1:46 PM on September 23, 2010

Yeah, the black thing is the hard drive. The battery is the big grey thing that's way easier to take out. Take it out, and let it dry for the next 24 hours.
posted by General Malaise at 1:46 PM on September 23, 2010

Response by poster: Should I take out the hard drive? I don't see any coffee in the cracks around it. It seems to be kind of compartmentalized away from they keyboard too, but I guess there's some sort of connecting part that I can't see, and it's possible that part may be wet.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:48 PM on September 23, 2010

Just the battery should be fine. You'll want to avoid it sending current to any of your components, wet or dry.
posted by samsara at 1:54 PM on September 23, 2010

Do you have a large bag of rice? Or a big jar of those little silica packets? Seal it up with one or the other, which will help draw out moisture. (NB: I've done this successfully w/ a phone, not a laptop.)
posted by cyndigo at 2:00 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Did this to my MacBook a few months ago. Give it at least 24 hours to dry- my keyboard keys mostly started working at that point, but I then gave it another 48 and all but one kicks back in. Once dry, some stickiness reminded in one key, so I took the keycaps off and cleaned things with rubbing alcohol. All good now.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:04 PM on September 23, 2010

Liquids versus laptops: it's a crapshoot. I hadn't even owned my MacBook for a week when my friend accidentally dumped a whole mug of hot tea onto the table next to it. The underside of the computer was soaked and it immediately shut itself off. I did what you did... I opened it up and propped it upside-down on a towel to dry. I removed the battery and dried it off as well. I even took a hair drier to it, to air it out as well as possible. After letting it dry, I carefully wiped clean the remaining residue from the various connectors (the pins on the battery, the I/O ports), crossed my fingers, and turned it on. I was relieved; it still worked. This happened three years ago this month and I'm still using the computer today as if nothing ever happened.

About a month after the spill I upgraded the memory in there and found a bunch of nasty white residue on the RAM itself. It was obviously from the spill but fortunately it hadn't affected anything. If your computer still works after you dry it out, you might want to double-check that there's no moisture clinging in there. It might manifest itself later on, if not now. Good luck!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:41 PM on September 23, 2010

I should've mentioned, I let mine dry for at least 24 hours. It's very important not to get impatient. Put it in front of a fan for extra effectiveness.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:43 PM on September 23, 2010

Leave it to dry for a day or two. Don't turn it on or even plug it in. Go read a book or something. I recommend George Orwell's Animal Farm, though it's a short book, so read slowly. After that, turn on your working and perfectly fine Macbook. In future, I recommend against spilling things on it, or getting into situations where things can spill on it. I also recommend reading the 63 other threads of "I've just spilled something on my laptop, now what?"
posted by Biru at 3:45 PM on September 23, 2010

Nthing "let it dry". Worked on my mobile. Worked on my keyboard (mac).
posted by vidur at 6:14 PM on September 23, 2010

My wife did this with some wine on her Macbook Pro; we didn't think any got inside, but when I turned it on the display was screwed up. I immediately powered it down, took out the battery, then turned it upside down in a large ziploc bag with a couple of packets of silica gel (I scrounged around in the boxes some camera gear or electronics came in; we don't normally save those things but they seem to be easy to find, at least in my house). Left it there for 2 or 3 days and it has worked fine ever since (this was several months ago).

Short version: What everyone else said.
posted by TedW at 6:12 AM on September 24, 2010

Response by poster: Well, left it turned off and open for just over 48 hours, blow-dried it on low heat for a few minutes during that time, and then finally turned it back on. A couple keys are slightly sticky, but everything works, phew. Thanks, hive mind!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:44 AM on September 29, 2010

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