We’ve all been there. You’re sat at your desk, minding your own business, furiously typing away and wondering why it is that writing is so problematic, your To Do list seems to get longer every time you tick something off, and you perpetually have the Superman theme tune stuck in your head (thanks for that, Si!). You reach for your mug of tea (or coffee, or whatever is your beverage of choice…on this particular day it was tea), and rather than picking it up and taking a nice comforting sip you inadvertently knock it over.

And because you like to be efficient while working and have a large mug (to minimise the number of times you need to go to the kettle) suddenly half a pint of liquid is sloshing all over your desk.

Yes, you spilled tea on your laptop.

Ooopsie.

In your defense (and by ‘your’ I at this point clearly mean ‘my’ because this is a true story, of real events, that actually occurred earlier this year) you immediately grab a towel and clean up the spectacular mess you’ve just made.

Nice and quickly.

Quietly.

So as not to attract attention to yourself and incur the mockery of your co-workers who (mercifully) all happened to be in the other room at the time.

You breathe a sigh of relief – crisis averted! – and sit back down at your desk to continue pondering the diminishing returns of productivity, and the general existential crisis that is 2020.

All appears well, until, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, your laptop dies.

You’re baffled.

What could possibly have caused this?!?!?

Naturally, you holler for your favourite technician, who has an impressive track record of fixing stuff you break simply by coming and standing next to it. (Seriously, it’s uncanny.) He, naturally, asks if anything happened and you, quite reasonably, reply that you have no idea.

Because you genuinely don’t.

After all, it’s not like the tea actually got on it, right?

Erm, wrong.

See, as it turns out, laptops have air vents and various other orifices, so while you may not have spilled tea directly on top of your keyboard, the tea still got inside the damn thing regardless.

And, surprising as it may seem, having a large quantity of liquid sloshing around inside an electrical device is not actually good for it.

😲 Who knew? 😲

Fortunately, as I was working in an office filled with tech Geeks, my laptop was soon stripped down, dried out, and reassembled, good as new.

Spilled Tea On Your Laptop? It Happens To The Best Of Us...
Spilled Tea On Your Laptop? It Happens To The Best Of Us...

At this point I feel it’s important to point out that I, myself, am not a technician. I just do the marketing. So when something breaks I leave it to one of the boys. 

No, that is not a sexist commentary on the male-dominated nature of STEM, it just so happens that neither of the two female members of staff are technicians. Just like none of the guys can write for sh!!…

Given how shocked I was to learn from the experience that pretending everything is fine and carrying on is not, as it happens, the best course of action to take when you’ve spilled tea on your laptop.

This was quite the revelation to me, and consequently I simply had to share what you SHOULD do if you find yourself in just such a quandary…

What To Do When You Spill A Drink On Your Laptop…

There’s a reason we all collectively gasp when someone spills liquid (tea or otherwise) on a laptop, computer, or other electrical device. 

Liquid and electronics seldom mix. (The exception being liquid cooling systems, which are actually rather spiffy…as long as the liquid stays in the purpose built tubes and tanks!)

And yet, spilling a drink on your computer doesn’t have to be the kiss of death and one way trip to buy an expensive new machine.

Liquid has a very fast, very detrimental effect on electronics, but if you act quickly you may be able to save it. Here’s how…

Turn It Off… No, REALLY, Switch It Off Immediately…

Before you do anything else – like continue working as if everything is normal – switch your computer OFF. Physically unplug the power cable and then press and hold the power button for at least five seconds so the machine completely shuts down.

Leaving the machine on – even for a few minutes more – can cause short circuits which damage internal components in your computer. The faster you switch it off, the better chance you have of saving it!

If there is a way to easily remove the battery, do so. Some laptops have a quick release latch that lets you pop the battery out. Others require unscrewing the whole of the back plate before you can reach the batter. If you’re not confident opening up the back, leave it.

Next, remove any external devices (USB drives, dongles, etc.) that are plugged in – these could potentially continue trying to draw power from the machine, and you don’t want that.

Also, remember you’re dealing with electricity. If you’re standing in a pool of water holding a potentially malfunctioning machine, you’re not in a safe position. If there’s liquid all over the place, remove yourself and your machine from its vicinity. If your clothing is wet, that’s also a potential hazard. If you’re at all unsure, instead of unplugging at the wall, go directly to your circuit breaker and flip off the power entirely. 

In the event you see or feel heat, steam, smoke, or any kind of bulging, bubbling or melting coming from your computer, don’t pick it up. 

Get A Professional Geek To Take A Look…

At this stage you have two choices, you can switch your laptop back on and pray, or you can get a professional geek to sort it out properly. See, the problem (as was painstakingly explained to me by Brad, as he dried out each individual component of my laptop) is that while your laptop is still in piece, you may think it’s all dried out, but the odds are good there’s still a whole load in place and you really don’t want it to be. 

Add to this the fact that, once whatever you spilled on it has invaded your machine, even if it has dried it’s likely left behind minerals that have the potential to carry electricity where it shouldn’t be, causing corrosion and further damage as time goes on.

If you’ve spilled something other than water – like coke, coffee, or tea with sugar in it – there’s a whole load of stuff in your machine that was never supposed to be there and won’t go away just because it dries out.

A professional tech will not just dry your machine out they will clean each individual component, replace anything damaged, and – if needed – retrieve your data if there’s been damage to your hard drive. 

The Moral Of The Story…

Returning to the inciting incident of this tale of my technical ineptitude, I’m happy to report that 5 months later my laptop is still going strong. In fact, I’m currently penning this blog on it. It might also interest you to know that it’s not the first time (and I’m quite certain won’t be the last time) I’ve had the misfortune to mix tea and technology with disastrous consequences. I once dropped my phone in a full cup of tea.

That was the end of the phone.

I also once spilled tea on a different laptop, which swiftly died an unspectacular death from which it never recovered.

What was the difference this time?

This time I immediately had a tech geek look at it and, hero that he is, save it from what would otherwise have been certain doom.

The moral of the story?

Should you find you’ve spilled tea on your laptop, turn it off immediately, step away from the machine, call 01606 531631, and tell them you’ve screwed up and need them to save your beloved laptop.