Spilling water or another liquid onto your MacBook Air can be a scary situation. Water and electronics don’t mix well, and liquid damage can quickly fry the components inside your laptop. However, there are steps you can take right away to help minimize the damage and potentially save your MacBook Air.
Step 1: Immediately unplug the MacBook and turn it off
As soon as you spill water on your MacBook Air, the first thing you’ll want to do is unplug it from any connected chargers, devices, or external accessories. Any power source can make liquid damage worse and cause shorts or electric shocks. After unplugging it, press and hold the power button for 5-10 seconds to turn the MacBook completely off.
Turning the device off immediately isolates components and circuits from each other and reduces electrical conductivity through any water on the logic board or internal components. Allowing the MacBook to remain on could short circuit the components and cause permanent damage.
Step 2: Dry the exterior and ports
With the MacBook powered off, use a clean microfiber cloth to gently blot up any excess moisture on the exterior and dry it as much as possible. Be sure to check around the ports, battery indicator lights, speakers, keyboard, trackpad, and any other openings.
If possible, hold the MacBook at an angle or upside down to allow any collected water to drain out through the ports or keyboard. Dry each port carefully with a cotton swab as well. Remove any connected accessories that got wet.
Step 3: Don’t turn it on until completely dry
No matter how dry the MacBook Air seems on the outside, water may still remain inside where you can’t see it. Because of this, it’s crucial you do not turn on the MacBook or attempt to charge it until it has had time to fully dry out – usually at least 24-48 hours.
Powering up the device before all internal components are completely dry risks short circuiting and permanent electrical damage. Be patient and allow enough time for any residual moisture to evaporate.
Step 4: Disassemble the MacBook (if you’re comfortable)
For the best chance at saving your water damaged MacBook Air, consider disassembling it to remove the battery, logic board, and other internals. Lay these components out individually to air dry for at least a day or two.
Keep in mind that taking apart your MacBook requires technical skill and comfort with electronics. Only attempt this if you have experience with DIY repairs. Follow an online visual guide for your specific model.
Step 5: Use a fan, rice, or desiccant packs
To help speed up internal drying time, set your disassembled MacBook components or whole device near a fan blowing gently on low speed. The airflow will help evaporate any moisture faster.
Another common recommendation is to submerge the MacBook in a bowl or bag of uncooked rice. The rice will slowly absorb residual dampness from the internal cavities and ports. Packets of silica gel desiccant (like those in shoe boxes) can also effectively draw moisture out.
Step 6: Check for corrosion before powering on
Once completely dry, inspect the logic board and ports for any gray, blue, or white corrosion buildup from oxidized metal. Use a cotton swab dipped in distilled white vinegar or isopropyl alcohol to gently clean any areas of corrosion you find.
If the MacBook was fully submerged, small amounts of minerals or oxidized metal could have been deposited internally. Check thoroughly under good lighting and magnification.
Step 7: Attempt to turn on the MacBook
When you feel confident no moisture remains, reconnect any removed components and batteries, close up the MacBook casing, plug it in, and attempt to turn it on. Press and hold the power button for at least 10 seconds.
If the MacBook powers up normally, inspect the screen and peripherals for any apparent damage. Run diagnostics, back up data, and schedule a Genius Bar appointment if needed. Dry liquid spills often don’t immediately cause damage.
Step 8: Do not turn on if you see corrosion
If your MacBook shows no signs of powering on, or you notice any electrical shorting, sparks, or smoking, disconnect the power immediately. Significant liquid corrosion requires professional repair or component replacement.
Attempting to operate a corroded MacBook can permanently destroy components like the logic board, CPU, or battery. Take it to Apple or an authorized service center for inspection before powering on again.
My MacBook won’t turn on but doesn’t appear corroded
If your dried MacBook Air does not respond or turn on at all after a spill, a couple internal parts may still have residual moisture even if you don’t see external corrosion:
- Logic board – Liquid contacting the logic board can short vital circuits and components.
- SMC chip – This controls power functions and failed power-ons may indicate it got wet.
- Battery – Liquid can trip battery safety circuits and prevent charging or operation.
Give it more drying time and inspect again under magnification for any hidden moisture or unseen damage. You may need to take it to a repair center if it remains unresponsive.
Some ports or features aren’t working
If your MacBook powers on but specific ports, speakers, camera, keyboard, or trackpad are unresponsive, those components likely suffered localized liquid damage:
- USB-C ports – Liquid corrosion can block power and data contacts.
- Headphone jack – Water corrosion can cause sound to cut out.
- Keyboard and trackpad – These can short circuit and become unresponsive.
Inspect each non-functioning component for corrosion. Clean any you find gently with a cotton swab and distilled white vinegar. If they remain unresponsive, internal replacement may be required.
My screen is glitching, flashing, or scrambled
An erratic, distorted, or scrambled screen display after a water spill indicates damage to the display cable connection or corroded integrated circuits:
- LCD cable – Loose/corroded connection between display and logic board.
- GPU – Liquid shorted graphics circuits on logic board.
- LCD controller – Corrosion on circuits that drive the display.
Try reseating the display cable connection on both ends. If the issue persists, there may be irreversible corrosion of display-related circuits requiring logic board or full display replacement.
Preventing future liquid damage
To avoid needing these steps in the first place, be mindful when enjoying drinks or other liquids near your MacBook Air. Consider using a spill-proof cover or case to minimize the chance of a direct splash or pour into the ports or keyboard.
Ideally, avoid exposing your MacBook to liquids altogether. Some additional preventative tips include:
- Keep drinks away from your laptop when working.
- Don’t work with your MacBook resting on your lap around liquids.
- Close your MacBook whenever moving it near or consuming liquids.
- Avoid working in excessively humid rooms where condensation forms easily.
- Shut down and store your MacBook away from sinks, showers, or other wet areas when not using it.
- Use a protective case or bag when transporting your laptop around drinks.
When to seek professional help
While the steps outlined can resolve many minor spills, liquid damage can sometimes be severe enough to require professional assistance. Seek help from an Apple Store Genius Bar or authorized repair center if:
- Your MacBook suffered a significant drenching or submersion.
- It remains completely unresponsive even after thorough drying.
- You see any evidence of burning, smoking, or unusual odors.
- Any corrosion is extensive and widespread.
- Key components like the logic board or battery won’t dry out.
- You lack the technical skill for self-repair.
For any amount of apparent liquid damage, it doesn’t hurt to have a repair technician inspect for proper function and potential underlying issues. Water and spill damage can sometimes cause problems well after a laptop initially dries out and powers back on.
Spilling water or another liquid into your MacBook Air can certainly be alarming. However, by immediately powering the machine off, thoroughly drying all areas, and cleaning any corrosion, you can often recover it successfully. In some cases, component-level repairs may be required by a trained technician.
The most important things are to unplug power immediately after a spill, wait for at least 1-2 days before turning it back on, and avoid using it if any interior corrosion is present. With rapid action and plenty of patience for drying time, even significant spills can often be resolved with minimal lasting damage.