I recently had a spine-chilling, blood-curdling experience. I accidentally spilled a whole cup of hot, steaming coffee on my MacBook. I’ve always been the cautious type, taking very good care of my electronics and everything else in general. When I read about other Mac users spilling coffee on their MacBooks, I wonder – how can people be so careless? Now, I know. Sometimes, shit happens.
For your information, the terms and conditions of Apple’s warranty excludes damages due to liquid spills, among other things. This means that you will have to bear the repair costs. This also means that if you’ve had a spill accident in the past, even if your Mac is working perfectly fine after the spill but has to be repaired for some other reason later on down the line – Apple has the right to refuse warranty.
What makes matters worse, even if you are willing to fork out the money to pay for the repairs, Apple says that if your Mac has to be dismantled into multiple parts to be repaired – it is not eligible for service. Wait, it gets better. Apple recently implemented spill detection into the unibody MacBooks and MacBook Pros. These ‘Liquid Submersion Detectors’ are small sensors located under the keyboard close to the trackpad and change color if they come into contact with liquid.
Does this mean that it’s the end of the line for your Mac if it suffers from a spill accident? No. There are a lot of things you can do, assuming that the logic board isn’t fried from the spill.
If the liquid gets into the keyboard, there is a very high chance that it may penetrate through the gaps into the guts of your Mac. The very first thing you should do is shut it down (press and hold the power button) and pull the power cable and other attachments out.
The next part of the article was written based on the early 2008 MacBook, not the unibody model. Video guides for dismantling unibody 13″ MacBooks can be found here.
Here is a list of things you will need to dry your Mac:
- A hairdryer
- A very small Philips-head screwdriver
- A coin
- Clean cloth and cotton buds
- A spare computer connected to the internet
- A heart full of courage
I’m serious about that last point. Your Mac isn’t eligible for warranty. So if you have spilled coffee or Coke on your MacBook the best you can do for it is be courageous.
My aim was to take my Mac apart to dry it out. I followed the instructions from ifixit to slowly dismantle everything up to the upper panel holding the keyboard, exposing the logic board. Their dismantling guide is pretty easy to follow.
The next thing I did was remove the battery. Use the coin to rotate the battery lock to the unlocked position and take out the battery. Wipe it down and place it somewhere safe. Use the Philips-head screwdriver to remove the screws holding the L-shaped memory cover in place. After removing it, release the 2 sticks of memory from their slots and carefully place them in anti-static bags, if you have any.
Once the memory sticks are out from their slots, you sort of have an air vent to the internal compartment of your Mac. I stuck a hairdryer close to the memory slots and directed the hot air into them for about 5 to 10 minutes. I left the LCD lid open so that the air flowed into the internal compartment through the gaps in the keyboard and out again. Try to keep your Mac level so that the liquid doesn’t pool into a corner.
After I felt that the insides were drier, I proceeded to dismantle it. Follow the instructions from ifixit. Tip: keep the screws in the order which you removed them. That way, you can just reverse the order when putting it back together.
The tweezers come in handy when some screws get stuck in the case; and to remove the keyboard cable from its connector.
Once the logic board was exposed, I used cotton buds to dab any drops of liquid (in my case, coffee) I saw. Most parts were dry and left coffee stains all over so I got a damp cotton bud, wet that stain a little and quickly wiped it up. Slowly, I got most of the stains off.
After I was satisfied that everything was nice and dry, I used the hairdryer one more time to dry up anything which may have eluded me.
Next, I proceeded to clean my keyboard. Most Mac users have complained that their keys felt sticky after a spill. Especially, if it was a sugary drink like juice or soda. I pressed some of my keys and they indeed were sticky and didn’t have that elastic feeling. So I removed the keycaps from the keyboard. The thing about the keys are that they are latched on and oriented differently.
There is a specific way of removing the keycaps and their plastic scissors mechanism but I felt comfortable just using my fingernails to lift up a side of the keycaps and snapping them off leaving the scissors mechanism intact. The whole process took 3 minutes tops. Like I said, the keys are latched on differently. Try pulling up the right edge, if that doesn’t work, then pull the top.
Dump the keycaps into a container with warm, soapy water and give them a good rub to remove any crusted sugar patches. Dry them with a cloth then reattach them. Tip: take a photograph of your keyboard to remember the layout of the keys.
Right, now is the moment of truth. Make sure everything is nice and dry and put your Mac back together by going through the dismantling instructions in reverse. Hopefully, it will turn on. Mine did.
Personally, I find that exposing the guts and using a hairdryer is far better than letting it dry out naturally. I’ve read that some people even put their MacBooks in a bag of rice to absorb the moisture. What a plather.
I wrote this article because I tried searching for what others did for their spill accidents but unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything substantial. I hope this will help spill-sufferers in the future. Feel free to ask questions in the comments area.