Will shower steam kill my laptop?
April 17, 2007 7:33 PM   Subscribe

Will the steam from the shower in my bathroom hurt my laptop?

I have a fairly large ensuite with an open (no shower curtain or screen) spa bathtub with a shower nozzle above it. I would like to bring my laptop into the bathroom with me each morning to listen to music while I'm having my shower. The stand that I would put the laptop on is quite near the door to my bedroom and about 2 metres from the shower. The mirror, which is next to where the laptop would be, gets fairly foggy in the course of my shower, which would indicate how much steam is coming near the laptop.

So, the question: will this level of regular exposure to condensation damage my laptop?

Please, no 'just get a fan', 'use a different music device' etc suggestions - I'm definitely exploring those options too but would really like to find out if using the laptop would be okay.
posted by Lucie to Technology (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It certainly could seep into the case and corrode components much faster than your warranty. I'd also be concerned about the battery contacts with the motherboard corroding which could either render the battery cell useless or cause arcing leading to something more pernicious. But I could just be overly cautious.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:38 PM on April 17, 2007

Maybe you could hook up some speakers with a long wire and keep the laptop around the corner or something?
posted by mdonley at 7:44 PM on April 17, 2007

Also, do some googling with your specific laptop and relative humidity. Most electronic devices are rated at around 80-85% for the maximum amount of relative humidity they should be operated in. A shower-fogged bathroom is usually around 100% humidity.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:49 PM on April 17, 2007

Well, best case scenario, nothing happens and your laptop works fine.

Worst case scenario, you're laptop fries something important and stops working.

But honestly, if it's going to be next to a mirror that is getting completely fogged over, that's entirely too much moisture in which to operate a laptop. The issue is not just the immediate moisture of the steam (which is bad enough as it is), but the fact that the steam could seep into the laptop, then condense into water droplets.

I think mdonley's suggestion about long speaker wires is your best bet if you're going to go this way, otherwise what ever else you're looking into is probably going to be the winner.
posted by KirTakat at 8:01 PM on April 17, 2007

The steam won't just seep into the laptop. The laptop's fan will pull it in.

Running a laptop in a hot, steamy room seems like a bad idea. It's going to get full of moisture, and that just can't be good for it.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:23 PM on April 17, 2007

You need to get a cheap shower radio (that will withstand the steam)

Then get a simple FM transmitter. Pipe the music (audio-out) from the laptop to the transmitter. Position laptop close enough to the bathroom that you get signal, but far enough away to avoid the steam.

Tune in with the radio and enjoy.
posted by johnstein at 8:28 PM on April 17, 2007

My MacBook Pro is rated to 90% humidity, non-condensing. I have done this, but I've also left it right by the door, with the door open.

Leaving the laptop closer to the ground might help as well, especially if you're keeping the door open, but honestly, we're all spit balling here. The suggestion of looking up the specifications of your computer, seeing how far off they are from 100% humdity, and then balancing how f*cked you'd be if you lost your laptop with those chances will yield the best answer.
posted by plaidrabbit at 8:29 PM on April 17, 2007

If you don't run speaker wire and keep the laptop away from the shower, soon enough you won't have a laptop to plug speakers into.
posted by notsnot at 8:30 PM on April 17, 2007

sorry, missed the part about you exploring other options... *vows to properly read all future questions with extra care*

(but maybe it's ok since I'm still advocating the use of the laptop as the actual music source)
posted by johnstein at 8:30 PM on April 17, 2007

rated to 90% humidity, non-condensing

But a shower room when the shower is going is more humid than that, and it does condense. That's why there's dew on the mirror afterwards.

What I'd be worried about is moving parts. This seems like a really bad thing for cooling fans and the hard disk. The last thing you want is dew in the bearings.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:55 PM on April 17, 2007

Thanks everyone. It sounds like I'd better not do this. Thanks for the suggestions. I guess my follow-up question is: if I were to connect some speakers to my laptop, can I just use normal portable speakers like you buy from an electronics store, will they be okay in that same position or should I (can I?) buy steamproof ones?
posted by Lucie at 10:14 PM on April 17, 2007

If they're cheap speakers, it probably isn't worth worrying about it. Even if the humidity degrades them, it won't do it very fast, and if they stop working you buy new ones.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:21 PM on April 17, 2007

But if you were really worried about it, you could put them inside of plastic bags, which were taped tight around the wires. Sound will get out, but humidity wouldn't get in.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:21 PM on April 17, 2007

Why not put the computer in a plastic trash bag and close it up while you are bathing?
posted by hortense at 10:34 PM on April 17, 2007

I (can I?) buy steamproof ones?

Lots of cheap ones come with polypropylene cones these days, IIRC. It's plastic. Water won't do a thing to them.
posted by IronLizard at 10:55 PM on April 17, 2007

Why not put the computer in a plastic trash bag and close it up while you are bathing?

Bad idea, it will kill the airflow and probably the fan too, as it tries to suck the bag into the case.
posted by IronLizard at 10:56 PM on April 17, 2007

Excuse my terrible comma usage this morning.
posted by IronLizard at 10:57 PM on April 17, 2007

I'd imagine steam wouldn't be as bad for speakers as it would for a laptop which is much more complex. And if you get some cheap ones, then I'd bet they'll last long enough for you to get your money's worth out of them. I also vote that putting them in a plastic bag is a bad idea. I think john stein has the best idea so far. This product:
Seems to have everything you'd need all in one package.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:55 PM on April 17, 2007

My friend has done this - his laptop's still working fine.
posted by divabat at 3:50 AM on April 18, 2007

How about i Trip plus a cheap portable radio? Assuming you have an iPod of course.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:58 AM on April 18, 2007

How about i Trip plus a cheap portable radio? Assuming you have an iPod of course.

Or, eliminating the need for an iPod, something like the SF150C : SoundFeeder Computer Music FM Transmitter with USB Power Cord from this page. But really, a cheap set of speakers (even with your laptop just outside the door, you don't even really need a long cable) will probably suffice.
posted by antifuse at 5:58 AM on April 18, 2007

Wait, there are laptops with speakers people actually want to listen to?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:38 AM on April 18, 2007

alarm clocks shouldnt cost $1000, neither should shower radios.

if you're too cheap to get a soundbridge or apple extreme for wireless music in the bathroom/lounge, get one of the itrip like devices that have an AA battery and FM transmitter -> shower radio. plug it into the speaker jack, tune your shower radio/hifi into it, and you're set.

you can then get your morning podcast/wakeup/playup playlist bonanza, but not really get the track skip/pause controls wet on your laptop, that comes from dripping hands and chlorine soaked moisture and condensation from the shower.

this would be the advantage of IR remotes; so, perhaps your laptop's mp3 player might have IR support, if pause/play is something you use often away from your desk/bedroom/couch, or you want your lap for something else.
posted by toliman at 8:27 AM on April 18, 2007

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