What happens when water gets spilled on a keyboard?
When water is spilled on a keyboard, it can cause a few issues. First, water can short circuit the keyboard and damage the electronics inside. This is because water is conductive and can create paths for electricity to flow where it’s not supposed to (1). Minerals and other contaminants dissolved in water can also lead to corrosion of the electronic components over time (2).
In the short-term, you may notice sticky keys or keys that stop functioning properly after getting wet. This is because the water can interfere with the contacts under each key. As the water dries, it can leave behind mineral deposits that prevent the keyboard from working properly (1). If the water seeps deeper into the keyboard, it can cause shorts and damage on the circuit board and integrated circuits.
(1) “I spilled water on my keyboard, is it permanently messed up?”, https://www.quora.com/I-spilled-water-on-my-keyboard-is-it-permanently-messed-up
(2) “Spilled water on it and now the keyboard doesn’t work and …”, https://www.reddit.com/r/Corsair/comments/169g0w2/spilled_water_on_it_and_now_the_keyboard_doesnt/
How to clean up a spill on a keyboard
If you accidentally spill water or another liquid on your keyboard, it’s important to act quickly to try and minimize damage. According to Digital Trends, the first thing you should do is unplug the keyboard immediately and turn it upside down to drain out as much liquid as possible.
Next, dab dry the keyboard with a towel or microfiber cloth – don’t rub, as that can push the liquid further into the keyboard. Be gentle and dab from the outside edges inwards.
After drying off any excess liquid, set up a fan or use a hairdryer on a low, cool setting to blow air over the keyboard to help evaporate any remaining moisture. Let it dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours before attempting to use it again.
If needed, consider taking apart the keyboard to clean in between keys and ensure no liquid remains trapped inside. Be very careful when taking apart a keyboard to avoid damaging any components.
Quick action is key to giving your keyboard the best chance of surviving a spill. But if it still isn’t functioning properly after thorough drying, you may need to replace it or have it professionally repaired.
When is water damage beyond repair?
If water damage to a keyboard or laptop is severe, it may be beyond repair. According to the article on Electronics Water Damage, any signs of sparks, smoke or sizzling sounds indicate major internal damage that likely can’t be fixed. The article on Water-Damaged Electronics also notes that corrosion visible on the circuit board is a sign of irreparable damage.
Even if there are no obvious sparks or smoke, some symptoms indicate the damage is too extensive to repair. For example, if keys remain sticky or stop working completely even after thorough cleaning and drying, it’s a sign of internal damage, according to How Water Can Damage Your Electronics. In these cases, the cost and effort of repairs may exceed the value of the device.
Tips to prevent water damage
There are several simple steps you can take to help prevent water damage to your laptop and other electronics:
First, always keep drinks away from your laptop and other devices. Don’t place drinks directly next to or on top of your electronics. Spills can happen easily, so keep a safe distance.
Investing in a spill-proof laptop cover is another good preventative measure. These covers form a barrier that can block liquids from reaching the keyboard and sensitive internals of your laptop.
When you are drinking while using your laptop, try to angle the keyboard away from you. That way if a spill does occur, the liquid is less likely to directly hit the keys and seep down into the components.
Finally, if you do accidentally spill liquid on your keyboard or laptop, immediately shut it down. Don’t try to continue using it while wet. Quickly power it off and begin the cleanup process to limit potential damage.
Taking these simple precautions can go a long way in preventing disastrous water damage that may require repair or replacement of your laptop.
Alternatives to replacing a damaged keyboard
If the keyboard on your laptop is damaged from liquid but the rest of the laptop is still functioning properly, there are some alternatives to replacing the keyboard that allow you to continue using your laptop.
One option is to use an external USB or Bluetooth keyboard. Connecting an external keyboard via USB or Bluetooth allows you to bypass using the built-in keyboard and still use the laptop for typing and input (source). Look for waterproof external keyboards that can resist damage from future spills.
Another alternative is utilizing dictation or speech-to-text software. Most operating systems have built-in dictation features that allow you to speak out loud and have your speech converted into text. This allows full use of the laptop without a working keyboard.
You can also connect the laptop to an external monitor or desktop setup and keep the laptop closed. This gives you the full desktop experience for work while bypassing use of the laptop’s keyboard and trackpad. With an external mouse and keyboard connected to the external monitor setup, you can productively use your damaged laptop in a desktop-only mode.
Cost of repairs for a damaged keyboard
The cost to repair or replace a keyboard that has been damaged by a water spill can vary significantly depending on the extent of the damage, the laptop make and model, and whether you do it yourself or take it to a repair shop.
For basic cleaning of the keyboard and minor repairs, most laptop repair shops will charge $100-200 on average according to sources like Yelp’s laptop repair cost guide. This assumes the underlying electronics are still functional and mainly the keys or other physical parts of the keyboard need cleaning or minor fixes.
However, if the entire keyboard needs to be replaced due to corrosion or other irreparable damage, the cost can jump up to $200-400 or more depending on the laptop model. More premium brands like Apple or Razer with proprietary keyboard designs tend to be on the pricier end for full keyboard replacements.
To save money, some laptop owners attempt DIY repairs on keyboards by purchasing replacement parts online and watching tutorial videos. However, DIY repairs do come with a risk of further damaging components if not done properly.
When to replace vs repair a damaged laptop
Deciding whether to repair or replace your water damaged laptop depends on several factors:
The age and value of the laptop is important. If your laptop is several years old and not worth much, it may make more sense to replace it rather than paying for expensive repairs. According to this source, newer laptops tend to have more expensive components that are costly to replace.
You’ll also want to consider the cost of repairs versus the cost of an equivalent replacement laptop. Water damage often requires replacing multiple internal components like the motherboard, which can get pricey. If the total repair cost approaches the price of a new laptop, replacement may be the better option.
The likelihood of recurrence is another factor. If the laptop is likely to get exposed to liquid again, investing in repairs may not be worth it. Replacing it with a new damage-resistant model may be better.
Finally, check on the availability of replacement parts. For some older laptop models, parts can become scarce. If the specific parts needed are no longer in production, replacement may be the only viable option.
Taking all these factors into account can help determine if repair or replacement makes the most financial sense when deciding what to do with a water damaged laptop.
Water damage protection plans
Manufacturer warranties may cover water damage if it occurs within the warranty period, usually 1-3 years. However, the warranty likely won’t cover damage from liquids spilled intentionally or due to improper usage. You’ll need proof of purchase and may need to send the laptop to the manufacturer for assessment.
Extended protection plans from retailers like Best Buy can cover accidental damage, including spills, for 2-4 years after purchase. There is usually a service fee per claim. Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may also cover damage to electronics from liquid spills and other accidents. Check your policy details for coverage and deductible amounts.
Purchasing an extended warranty or protection plan provides peace of mind if an accident happens. Just be sure to read the fine print on what types of water damage are covered under different policies.
Safety precautions when drying out electronics
When drying out water damaged electronics, it’s important to take safety precautions to avoid causing further damage. According to Repairing Electronics: Water Damage Dos & Don’ts, you should never turn on wet electronics, as this risks short circuiting and permanent damage.
It’s also important to use low heat settings if using a hairdryer or other warming device to dry the electronics. High heat can potentially melt plastics and other components. The article Water-Damaged Electronics: Causes, Prevention, and Recovery recommends air drying first before using any heat to minimize chances of damage.
Work in a well-ventilated area when drying electronics, as you want plenty of air circulation. Avoid drying in closed spaces which could lead to condensation forming again on the electronics. Follow these simple precautions, work slowly and carefully, and you may be able to revive electronics after a spill.
If you spill water on your keyboard, it’s important to act quickly to dry it out as much as possible. Turn the keyboard off right away and disconnect any cables or batteries. Try to soak up excess moisture gently with a towel or dry cloth. You may be able to thoroughly clean the keyboard and salvage it.
However, water damage can sometimes be beyond repair. Be prepared with a backup keyboard or laptop in case the spill causes irreversible issues. You may need to get the keyboard professionally repaired or replaced.
Take preventative measures to avoid spills on your electronics when possible. Use water bottles with sealable lids and keep drinks away from your work area. Invest in a waterproof keyboard cover or protective case if you’ll be working in an environment where spills are likely.
With some quick action and proper cleaning methods, a spilled keyboard can often be revived. But water damage is unpredictable, so have a backup plan ready in case your device needs professional repair or replacement.