I’ve spilled coffee on my keyboard!
Spilling liquid on your keyboard is not necessarily disastrous
Wherever there’s a Mac being used for work, there’s often a mug of tea or coffee close by. For those of us who need a regular dose of caffeine to see us through the day, having a steaming cuppa joe close at hand is a necessity.
While coffee and work go together like sausage and mash, Java juice and keyboards have a more acrimonious relationship – introducing one to the other is best avoided. If you do happen to spill coffee on your keyboard – or worse, knock the entire mug and its contents onto the lower half of your MacBook – don’t revert to the recovery position and start bawling; disaster can still be averted.
Okay, first the bad news: liquid damage caused to a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro is specifically excluded from warranty coverage under Apple’s terms and conditions. Worse, even if your notebook is fine in the immediate aftermath of a spillage, any subsequent problem with its electronics won’t be covered either. Apple has even installed liquid submersion indicators, or spill detectors, under the keyboard and trackpad. These permanently change colour when they come into contact with liquid, allowing a technician to tell immediately if you’ve been careless with the Kenco.
The good news is that many spillages, with a little help from you, don’t need the attention of a technician. If your keyboard is external, you should disconnect it from your Mac immediately. If it has batteries in it, remove them. Mop rather than wipe up any residual liquid, preferably using a micro-fibre cloth. If you don’t have one, a handkerchief (or, as a last resort, kitchen towel) will do. Hold the keyboard upside down to allow the liquid to run out.
What you do next depends on what was spilled and how much liquid there was. For water, your average cup of rocket fuel or anything else that has no sugar in it, you may be able to give the surface a quick rinse with clean water and let it dry out. For larger spills, you might need to open the keyboard up with a screwdriver and mop the components individually. Wait until it’s completely dry before you re-assemble it.
If the liquid did have sugar in it, it’s a good idea to flush with clean water first. The key mechanisms will be sticky too; you can lift the tops off the keys by carefully prising them away with your fingers. Be careful, though; the scissor mechanism underneath is delicate. It’s worthwhile Googling the
keyboard model to find out exactly how to remove its keys. Clean the keys and mechanism with a damp cloth, or a with a soft toothbrush and distilled water.
Laptop keyboards, unfortunately, are trickier to clean. First, unplug the notebook from the mains. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to remove the battery, because batteries in Apple notebooks are now sealed in. But if you’re confident and brave, check ifixit.com for details on how to access the battery in your model.
If you don’t want to take your MacBook apart to dry it, tip it back so that the air vents are pointing downwards, and so any residual liquid can run out. Leave it like that for a couple of days so it has a chance to dry properly and then try starting it up.
If your MacBook boots and works okay, you’re in luck! You’ve dodged a caffè catastophe. If not, it may just need more drying time. Placing it in a warm room (some people recommend your car if it’s a warm day) or direct sunlight will help.
Do not use a hairdryer. This will blow air, dust, and liquid back into the MacBook! If all seems lost, some people have used a vacuum cleaner on a very low setting over the keyboard, to suck out the last of the liquid.
To avoid future spills and further coffee trauma, consider putting your MacBook on a riser and use a USB or Bluetooth keyboard instead.