According to research from Sewelltech, 60 percent of all accidents that send laptops to the computer ER or computer graveyard are from spills, with 40 percent of said spills being coffee. This totally happened to me two weeks ago. It was like some kind of devil force lifted my cup of coffee into the air and dumped it on my MacBook. The screen immediately went black, and after mopping up as much as I could, I began furiously Googling what to do if you spill something on your laptop. Unfortunately, if you are in the 40 percent of people who spill java on their laptop, the news is not good.
"Spilled coffee on laptops is a computer killer," David Sewell wrote on Sewelltech's blog, noting that all the stuff you like to put in your coffee — creamer, sugar, etc. — makes your brew even worse for your beloved computer. What's more, even if you spill something less toxic on your laptop, like water, Sewelltech reports that the average cost of repair is $600. The cost to fix my MacBook Air was $800, only slightly less than the cost of buying a new one. However, if your spill is small, and you act fast, you could get lucky and save both your laptop and your bank account from ruin.
"It’s important to note that if your laptop gets wet, time is of the essence. You must turn it off, unplug it, and remove the battery at once. Every second counts," John Martindale advised on Digital Trends. While this is great advice, a lot of newer Apple computers don't have batteries that are easy to remove. Once you've removed and disconnected everything you can, grab the most absorbent towels you own and wipe your computer off, open it up as wide as it will go, and turn it upside down.
If you've ever dropped your phone in a pool or the toilet, then you may have saved its life by putting it in the cellphone ICU, also know as a bag of rice. You can try this with your laptop, too. "Lay it down on a dry surface — an excellent option is a large bag of rice because rice is absorbent enough to help draw out any liquid that made its way inside through the crevices of your keyboard," Martindale recommended. "Use a big bag, a lot of rice, and place it all in a warm, dry room. Feel free to turn on a fan to speed the process along until the time when you can carry your laptop to a repair store."
Not everyone recommends rice, so it's really up to you whether or not you want to give it a try. Joe Silverman, owner of New York Computer Help, and Kay-Kay Clapp, repair analyst at iFixit, told The New York Times that inverted drying is more effective than rice for laptop spills. "Rice doesn’t do much in the way of fixing a spill," Silverman said. "What winds up happening is that you have to do more work in cleaning out rice, which could pop some of the components." Silverman recommended letting your computer dry for 24 hours before trying turn it back on.
"That’s ideal. If you don’t have the time, I’d say a minimum of four hours. Even though it seems dry, these parts do absorb a lot of water, so that just gives it time to dissipate any liquid," he advised. If your computer is still under warranty, and the warranty covers spills, call them ASAP to ask about getting the repair covered. Unfortunately, not all warranties cover spills.
AppleCare doesn't cover spills, so I was out of luck. However, in 2017, AppleCare+ was introduced, and it includes coverage of two accidental damage incidents, including damage covered by spills. If you're a Lorelai Gilmore-level coffee drinker like me, this extra insurance policy might be worth it, but it will cost you around $400 extra. If you've tried everything on your own, and your computer still won't turn on, take it to a trusted repair shop ASAP to see if it can be saved. The day I rushed my computer to the Apple ER, I was told I was the third person in two hours to come in with a spill.
The computer doctor will likely have to keep your laptop for a few days because other injured computers are already waiting to be looked at. After four days, I learned that my computer was a total loss unless I wanted to shell out $800 for a repair. But the good news is that they were able to recover all of my data and transfer it to an external hard drive because I acted quickly, mopped up the coffee, and let it dry upside down for seven hours. In the end, this experience taught me an expensive lesson — drink your coffee from a cup with a lid.