Spilling water or any other liquid on your MacBook Pro can be a scary situation. Your expensive laptop is suddenly at risk of serious damage if you don’t act quickly. Thankfully, there are steps you can take right away to give your MacBook the best chance of survival.
What to do immediately after a spill
If you’ve just spilled water or another liquid like coffee, soda, etc. on your MacBook Pro, follow these steps immediately:
- Unplug the laptop if it’s connected to a power source.
- Turn the laptop off by pressing and holding the power button for 5-10 seconds.
- Disconnect any peripherals like external drives, chargers, hubs, or cables.
- Gently shake the laptop to drain out as much liquid as possible from ports, vents, and openings.
- Quickly wipe away any pooled liquid on the keyboard, trackpad, and exterior with a clean towel or tissue.
- If possible, place the laptop keyboard-side down on the towel to help drain out liquid and prevent further spreading.
Getting the laptop powered off and draining away exterior liquid right away can prevent short circuits and fires. Avoid wiping the screen, as that can damage the display coating.
Assessing the spill damage
Once you’ve done the immediate steps above, assess the situation:
- What liquid was spilled? Water? Coffee? Soda?
- How much liquid was spilled? A few drops or a whole cup?
- Which areas of the laptop got wet? Just the keyboard or other parts too?
- Is there any visible damage already? Cracked case, malfunctioning keys, etc.
- Are there any unusual smells coming from the laptop?
Ideally, it was a small amount of water, limited to the keyboard and palm rests. Larger spills reaching the trackpad, ports or display are more concerning. Spilling sugary or acidic drinks can also lead to quicker corrosion.
Dry out the laptop
Once you’ve done the quick cleanup, the next goal is to thoroughly dry out the laptop. Water and moisture trapped inside can short circuit components and lead to corrosion over time. Here are some dos and don’ts:
- DO let the laptop dry out for at least 24-48 hours before turning it on again. This gives time for any residual moisture to evaporate.
- DO keep the laptop on an inclined surface so the liquid can drain out. Place it keyboard-side down at a 45 degree angle.
- DO use dry towels, tissues, or paper towels to absorb moisture from the keyboard, ports, vents, etc.
- DO leave the laptop in a dry, warm area to speed up drying. Near a fan or dehumidifier is best.
- DO consider carefully disassembling the laptop if you’re comfortable doing so in order to clean and dry the inner components.
- DON’T try to dry the laptop using an external heat source like a hairdryer, which can damage the internal components.
- DON’T turn the laptop on or plug it in until you’re sure it’s 100% dry.
- DON’T close the laptop or position it in a way that traps moisture inside.
DON’T use rice to try to absorb moisture, as rice dust can get inside and gunk up components.
Cleaning up and drying out the internals
If you have experience taking electronics apart, consider carefully disassembling your MacBook to clean up and dry out the insides. This allows you to remove any residual moisture and assess any internal damage. Here are some tips if you go this route:
- Completely power down the laptop and disconnect the battery before disassembling.
- Use an iFixit guide for your specific model to disassemble correctly.
- Thoroughly clean the logic board, connectors, fans, ports, etc. using 90% isopropyl alcohol and soft brush.
- Gently shake out trapped moisture from crevices and openings.
- Let the bare logic board and internal parts dry out for 24-48 hours before reassembling.
- Inspect components like the logic board, keyboard, trackpad, battery connectors, etc. for corrosion or damage.
- Consider replacing damaged components like the keyboard or battery if needed.
Note that opening up your laptop and disassembling voids the warranty. So only attempt this if you’re experienced working on electronics.
Reassemble and test out the laptop
Once everything is fully dry:
- Carefully reassemble the laptop by following the disassembly steps in reverse.
- Reconnect the battery and any other cables or connectors.
- Before turning it on, inspect for any debris, damaged screws/clips, or loose connections.
- Power on the laptop and test basic functionality like keyboard, trackpad, screen, ports, etc.
- If it works, backup any data ASAP in case of issues down the line.
- Use for a short period to verify it’s working properly and nothing delayed pops up.
- Consider getting a professional to inspect and validate everything is OK if you can.
Hopefully at this point your MacBook survives the spill intact. But issues could show up later, so continue monitoring it closely.
Potential issues after liquid spills
Even if your laptop seems to be working fine initially after a spill, problems can show up over time. Here are some common issues to keep an eye out for:
- Corroded connections: Liquid can corrode metallic contacts and connectors, leading to flaky connections or component failure over time.
- Short circuits: Residue from the liquid can create short circuits between components, especially on the logic board.
- Component rust: Any exposed metallic parts like screws can rust with enough moisture.
- Damaged circuits: Sensitive components on the logic board can malfunction or fail if exposed to moisture.
- Battery issues: Liquid getting into the battery compartment can short circuit the battery cells.
- Keyboard/trackpad failure: These intricate components can easily malfunction if liquid seeps underneath.
- Fan issues: Fans can get obstructed by dust and particles in liquid residue.
If you start noticing any of these problems, it’s best to get professional help assessing the damage and fixing the faulty components before it gets worse.
When to get professional help
Here are some signs you should stop trying to troubleshoot on your own and get professional assistance:
- You spilled a large amount of liquid, beyond just the keyboard/trackpad area.
- There are visible signs of external damage like cracks in the case.
- The laptop won’t turn on at all, even after drying out for over 48 hours.
- It powers on but is clearly malfunctioning, like display distortions or no keyboard/trackpad response.
- You notice corrosion, damaged ports, non-working components, etc. when inspecting the internals.
- Problems start occurring like random shut downs, battery issues, corrupted data, etc.
For any of these situations, take the laptop to an Apple repair center or trusted third-party Mac repair shop. They have the expertise and tools to accurately diagnose any liquid-related damage and fix it professionally.
DIY MacBook spill damage repair tips
While professional help is recommended for liquid damage, some basic DIY troubleshooting and repairs are possible if you have the skills.
- Replace a non-working keyboard or trackpad with a new replacement part. Carefully transfer any intact sensors/cables.
- Clean corrosion off connectors or logic boards using 90% isopropyl alcohol and a soft brush.
- Replace the battery if it won’t charge properly or hold a charge anymore.
- Swap out corroded ports like MagSafe, USB-C or audio jacks.
- Use compressed air to clear out obstructed fans and heat sinks.
- Reapply fresh thermal paste between CPUs and heatsinks if temperatures are elevated.
For any extensive repairs involving the logic board, it’s wise to get expert assistance to avoid further damage. The same goes for troubleshooting complex issues.
Costs of liquid damage repair
Repair costs for liquid damage vary widely based on factors like:
- Model of MacBook – newer models with compact designs can be harder to fix.
- Extent of damage – was it a minor vs. major spill?
- Type of repair needed – replacing keyboard vs. entire logic board.
- Use of official Apple parts vs. third-party components.
- Shop repair rates – independent shops often cost much less than Apple.
Minor repairs like a keyboard swap could be $150-300+, while a serious logic board fix might be $500+. A completely damaged device may need $1000+ in repairs.
Apple out-of-warranty service for a mid-tier fix like a logic board replacement typically costs $700-900. Always get a repair quote upfront so you know the expected costs.
When to cut your losses & replace the MacBook
At a certain point, the cost of repairs from liquid damage can exceed the value of an older MacBook. Other times, the repairs may not be reliable for the long-term.
Consider just replacing your MacBook if:
- Repair costs exceed 50-60% of the laptop’s replacement value.
- It needs very extensive repairs approaching $1000+ in parts and labor.
- Critical components like the logic board are irreparably damaged.
- Liquid leaked onto the display, risking delayed damage.
- You don’t feel the repairs will restore it to reliably working order.
Also note that cosmetic damage from liquid may be impossible to fully remove, even with outer casing replacements.
Back up your data
No matter how the saga ends with your liquid-damaged MacBook, an essential step is to safely back up your data before issues worsen. Options include:
- External hard drive, SSD or cloud backup: Manually copy over all important files and folders.
- Time Machine backup: If still functioning, do a full Time Machine backup to save your entire system.
- iCloud backup: Sync critical data like contacts, photos, calendars, etc. to iCloud.
- Apple repair data preservation: Apple Geniuses can sometimes preserve user data from a damaged machine.
Taking these steps ensures you won’t lose any important documents, photos, settings and other irreplaceable data, no matter what happens going forward.
Could AppleCare+ have helped?
AppleCare+ is Apple’s extended warranty program. It provides an extra layer of protection in case of accidental damage from spills or drops.
Here’s how AppleCare+ could have helped in this water damage scenario:
- Covers 2 incidents of accidental damage, with only a service fee – $299 for a MacBook Pro.
- Get Apple-authorized repair service using genuine Apple parts.
- One-stop service at Apple Stores and authorized providers.
- May limit costly repairs if provided quickly to Apple.
- Extends hardware warranty coverage from 1 to 3 years total.
While AppleCare+ does add to the upfront cost, it can really pay off by covering certain spill and drop repairs. Just be sure to act quickly after an incident to get service, before more extensive damage occurs.
Could spill damage have been prevented?
While you can’t avoid every potential mishap, there are ways to reduce the risk of spill damage happening to your MacBook Pro in the first place:
- Use a protective case or shell that creates a buffer around the device.
- Don’t eat or drink right next to your laptop.
- Manage cables carefully to avoid tugging or tripping over.
- Keep it safely on a stable, clean surface when in use.
- Carry it in a laptop bag or sleeve when traveling.
- Get a waterproof keyboard cover to protect against minor spills.
- Close the lid when not using for a while.
- Keep young kids and pets away from your workspace.
Practicing these cautious habits can help avoid disasters, but accidents can still happen unexpectedly. So also be prepared with the proper response when a spill does occur.
Spilling water or another liquid onto your MacBook Pro can be alarming. But by quickly powering off the device, gently drying it out, and getting professional help for any damage, there’s a good chance it can be restored to working order. Just be ready for potential prolonged issues to show up down the line.
Having an extended warranty like AppleCare+ can be a lifesaver as well, by covering repairs you’d otherwise have to pay for out-of-pocket. But even without coverage, third-party repair specialists can often get a liquid-damaged MacBook operational again at an affordable price.
While the situation may seem dire in the moment, just stay calm, act quickly, and get help from the experts. With some luck and the right actions, your precious MacBook Pro can pull through just fine!