So You Spilled Water on your Laptop…

Yesterday, I was cleaning some junk off my desk and knocked over a just-filled 20oz cup of water directly into my ThinkPad T43. I’m posting this from that same laptop thanks to info I found online and got from a good friend that is familiar with ThinkPads and works for Lenovo.

Here are some tips to consider if find yourself in the same… er… boat:

  • Unplug your laptop, take out the battery.
    Be careful here – this is water+electricity we’re talking about. Notice I didn’t say “turn off your laptop”. If your experience is like mine, that’ll be taken care of for you. My T43 turned off within about 2 seconds of the incident. I found some folks online that advised keeping your laptop as flat as possible when you do this. I didn’t. You probably wouldn’t in the same situation as panic takes over. Basically you should try to make sure water flows OUT.
  • Drain.
    I tipped my laptop forward away from the display and onto some towels on the floor of my office and let it drain while I sopped up the rest of the water from my desk.
  • Field Strip.
    Flip the laptop over and remove the screws that hold it together. On my T43, that meant any screw that was labeled with a number. An aside here: IBM/Lenovo is very thoughtful – the holes are well-labled and there’s a legend showing you the actual scale/size of each screw by it’s number. Once you’ve removed the screws, open the machine up. For my ThinkPad, that meant popping off the plastic bezel and removing the top/keyboard. The ribbon cables that connect the keyboard and trackpad to the motherboard on a T43 are designed to release easily – there aren’t any clips to worry about. Remove everything that looks removable. The internal WiFi, memory, hard drive and optical drive were easy to remove.
  • Dry and Wait.
    The thing that’s going to ruin your chances of coming out of this ordeal with a functioning laptop is plugging the thing back in before it has fully dried. I turned my T43 upside down on top of some towels on the kitchen table in an inverted V, thinking that any remaining moisture would drip away from the display/hinge. I turned the ceiling fan above the kitchen table on full-blast. I left everything alone for about 6 hours. When I checked back, I couldn’t detect any moisture.
  • Cross fingers/toes/legs/arms/eyes and turn it on.
    When my T43 turned back on, it was a little confused. I had to OK my way through a couple of BIOS errors and reset the time. The errors were harmless “hey – things have changed” messages. Nothing too scary.

The only wierdish thing that I’m experiencing now is that my laptop seems to want to display on my connected external monitor on boot. Since I’ve got a boot password, it looks like it has died when it sits there with a blank screen. Type the password blind and hit enter to pass this, then wait a bit for your OS to load. Fn-F7 (switch display modes) doesn’t appear to work until the OS is booting.

And that’s it… My ThinkPad has been functioning normally for about 20 hours since turning it back on. I feel lucky. I love my ThinkPad and am even more impressed with it now. Hope your ordeal goes as well.

Oh yeah… some other water-related info: I’ve washed 2 iPods. “Washed” like all the way through the cycle and figured it out when I heard it bouncing around in the dryer. I got both of these working with an inexpensive battery replacement. Wow.

20 Comments

  1. Posted January 18, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Starting with the immediate successor to the T43, the T60, Lenovo added actual drain holes to the chassis of their laptops, and redesigned the keyboard assembly so that it had a slight rim all the way around it. So in theory, if you spill something into it, the rim will keep the liquid from spilling past the keyboard and into the guts, and the drain holes will channel the liquid through and out the bottom. It’s pretty neat, although I’ll admit I haven’t actually tried it (I had an intern last summer who *really* wanted to try it, but I never would agree).

    In addition to the inherent coolness of the design, one neat side-effect is that on the bottom, near all the nicely-numbered screw holes, there are a bunch of holes with tiny icons depicting a keyboard, and a droplet of water: the drain holes.

    Full disclosure: I work for IBM, but we fully transitioned the laptop business to Lenovo ages ago, so now I’m just a ThinkPad fan.

  2. Posted January 19, 2009 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    This is a great post. I’ve never spilled a drink on my laptop or washed one of my iPods, but I can imagine doing either at some point in the future. It’s good to know the hardware can come thru these ordeals and still function.

  3. Posted October 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    I just spilt a full glass of water on my T60. I immediately took out the power cable, battery, wiped off excess liquid and currently it is sitting in front of a fan air drying. I’m praying with all my might that it works. :(

  4. COkitten
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    I just spilled a full glass of water on my T60. Drained upside down with yanked power don IMMEDIATELY after it happened. Risked using my blowdryer on low but still melted a bunch of keys in one area (hopefully Lenovo will sell me replacements so I don’t have to face IT in embarrassment and humiliation) It powered back on about 45 minutes later…. hoping it’s ok for the most part but doing an external hard drive data backup right now just in case. Bad timing for an accident – I need this baby to last me one more year…. guess that’s what happens when you’re spending all your time working…

  5. SpilledOut
    Posted January 31, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Just spilled a few ounces of water on my laptop while it was on. Been following all the instructions here and elsewhere online, but I’m a bit concerned because it turned off IMMEDIATELY upon contact with the water. This does not seem like a good sign. We’ll see how it looks in the morning.

  6. Posted June 5, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I just purchased a Lenovo T410 and am very happy to see the drain holes on the bottom although I’m hoping to never have to try them out.

    About a year and a half ago I was working on my Dell Inspiron and accidentally poured an entire bowl of cereal (generic shredded mini-wheats and the whole bowl of milk) on the keyboard. I immediately pulled the plug and the battery and drained well over a cup of milk into my kitchen sink from the laptop.

    After that I completely disassmbled the laptop and wiped everything out, and then quite literally washed the keyboard under running water. After that I dried the keyboard with a hairdryer (keeping it at a safe distance) and reassembled everything. I’m happy to say that not only did the computer work fine, but the keyboard had never felt better…there’s always hope for a drenched laptop!

  7. jose
    Posted May 9, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    just wanted to say thank you for the calming and helpful blog post. this just happened to my hdx 18 and was frantically looking for information on the internet. My back up was current so was mainly worried about repair cost.

    As people said, don’t panic, remove power fast, remove battery fast. Don’t shutdown, just remove the battery asap.

    Depending how well you are with putting stuff together, you may or not want to disassemble your laptop. Gave it about 10 hrs to dry.

    Thankfully mine came back with no problem. Left shift key seemed to get stuck at first, which was problematic for entering passwords, but became ok after a few hours.

  8. Kim
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I feel so much better after reading these posts and wish Gateway was as considerate with design and/or technical support. I just dumped a full glass of water on my laptop. I unplugged it, removed the battery, and dried as much as I could. I attempted to remove the case but some of the little screws were so tight that they wouldn’t budge. It’s drying in an upside-down V now. I contacted Gateway technical support and as soon as they checked my serial number and found out that my computer was out of warranty, they refused to offer any advice or assistance. I am now hoping and praying for the best. I kept meaning to back up those thousands of pictures of my son and never did get around to purchasing an external hard drive. I am kicking myself for being such an idiot.

  9. Roisin
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    This is weird, because we have the exact same laptop, and this was the very first thing to be found on google of the matter.
    So I only had some drips of water, but some of the water slipped through the keys, and I was worried as hell! Thankfully, and I do not know about strange coicidences, but my sister had unplugged the computer out of selfishness, because she wanted to use the socket, so that was no issue, and it was already lying flat in the first place, so that was great, and it didnt even stop working or anything. I actually didn’t notice the water dripping for a while, because I was distracted, I had it playing music and it didn’t even stop! I’m using it to comment right now, and this was like, twenty minutes ago. I feel like I really dodged the bullet here..
    Great post, thanks so much, it helped a lot, and I thrilled to hear about the drain holes! That was the cherry on the cake ;)

  10. Annu
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    My dell laptop was in vertical position, closed inside bag..somehow water from the bottle entered laptop. When I took out the laptop, water was on the keyboard, monitor and at the junction between monitor and keyboard. I tapped them dry, then i switched on (was not knowing anything hw to handle that situation)..cursor was behaving crankily for a while, now whenever I switch on laptop, cd drive will eject out automatically…i didnt dare to open up the laptop..now I am scared what will happen..

  11. Scott Reston
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    ThinkPads are known for their decent water-handling. Dell? Not so much…

    But the rule of thumb (with ANY electronic device) is to make sure it’s 100% dry before you turn it on. Getting wet doesn’t ruin a laptop. Powering it up while wet is what shorts it out and kills it.

  12. Tablet Advice
    Posted March 26, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this post. I think it just saved my daughter’s Dell netbook.

  13. taco demon baby chocolate
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    thank you.i hope this works!

  14. Tawanda
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday, spilled a small amount of water onto my T61 keyboard, system immediately shut off and I panic’d. So, at that point it wouldn’t turn back on, so I made sure there was no more water draining out and just let it sit. Hadn’t read a post like this before my incident, so I was looking for any help in the Lenovo Troubleshooting book. Later that night, I pulled the battery and put it back in and the laptop came on to my surprise. So, I took the battery back out and left the system the rest of the night, doing a backup now and will let it dry out some more. Hopefully, I’ll have a full recovery with no issues. Thanks for this post.

  15. Liz
    Posted January 20, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Right now you are the absolute only folks who have given me any hope. I spilled a few drops of seltzer water on my laptop. I didn’t worry until I saw that they were on the touch pad. I wiped them off. 30 seconds later the laptop just turned off – no smoke, no smell, no zpptt sounds. My first resonse was to try to power it back on, but nothing happened. I checked the socket and the ac adaptor, but there weren’t any problems. That’s when I started to panic. At this point my laptop is upside down in a v with the battery taken out. I do not know enough about hardware to do anything else. I will wait until the morning and pray – a lot. A recent divorce has left me struggling financially and I can not afford to replace my laptop. At least, I know there is hope. Thank you.

  16. JG
    Posted May 5, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    I just spilled a least 2 cups of water over my laptop. I quickly got my pillowcase and dried the excess water on top of the laptop. Then I held it place upside down, while the water inside the keyboards dripped. I dried the keyboards again, and shut it down completely. I flipped it over and took out the battery. Thank goodness that it was dried, so I placed it back in, and turned on the laptop. Until now its working as if I never spilled anything on it. I’m wondering that maybe it wasn’t enough water to damage it, idk but im glad i didn’t mess it up.

  17. Monica
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    I spilled a little water on my T420. Turned it off, dried it with cool air, waited some hours, and turned it on. No problem.
    However, after two days my keyboard starts acting weird (makes a noise when the computer starts, some keys will no work, etc). I tried cleaning around some keys, but no success. I plugged in a usb keyboard and looked it was working fine, so I ordered a new keyboard in Amazon (50 usd), and got in two days. It was pretty easy to change (youtube videos). Now looks like it works perfectly. Love thinkpads!!! :D

  18. Thinkpad - owned 5-6+
    Posted October 6, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    I just want to say — Don’t rely or buy a Thinkpad thinking you are covered from water damage. It is complete bullshit. Spilled water on my T60P with water drainage holes – the mother f@@@@@r still fried.

  19. sreston
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    Yeaaaah. It’s stupid to think you’re “covered” if you spill water on any laptop. Be happy if you survive. Call it a learning experience otherwise…

  20. samuel tezare
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    about 8 hours earlier i spilled water into my assus laptop.the water just drained into the keyboard.i immediately removed the power plugin but forgot to remove the battery.but till now i have only considered only one problem my laptop cant work any more.what can i do to fix it?