Reader Mailbag: What to Do if Your Computer Gets Wet?

Submitted by Allison B.

Sooner or later it will happen to all of us. Whether a sudden rainstorm soaks you to the bone with your cell phone in your pocket, or a broken pipe floods your home office, there are a few easy things that you can do to increase your device’s chances of surviving, or sometimes even bring it back from the dead.

First things first, a disclaimer; some of the steps listed below have as much potential to do harm as they do to do good. Use caution, and if you feel uncomfortable with anything, consult a qualified technician for help. I will list steps in order from safest to the most risky.

Here at CompuClinic, we like to focus on prevention rather than repair, so that's where I'll start. The best way to fix a computer or other device that gets wet is to not get it wet in the first place. Common sense I know, but common sense these days can be pretty uncommon. Avoid having any liquids anywhere near your electronics if at all possible. Coffee shops and restaurants with free Wifi are some of the most common places for laptops to meet a watery demise. Another tip that most people don't know is, never keep a computer on the ground. This especially goes for laptops, but applies to desktops as well. Always keep a desktop on a desk top (pun intended) or if you will put it on the floor, elevate it at least a few inches. Two scrap pieces of 2x4 or 4x4 work great for this. If you have a minor flood or spill, this should be enough to protect your desktop 90% of the time.

What if your computer or other device gets wet somehow anyway? The best thing to do is immediately turn it off and remove any power sources. Don't forget the battery. If you act quickly, you may be able to stop any damage from happening.

The next step is to dry out the device. Some websites recommend putting the device in dry rice so that the rice will suck up the moisture. This is not a good idea. Getting all of the rice dust out of your computer afterward is a real pain. The best thing to use is silica gel. These are those little moisture remover packets that come in everything from shoes to vitamins. Your best bet is to find new packets, not use old ones. All gun stores should carry containers of the gel that are normally used to keep gun safes free from humidity. Put your device in an airtight container with one of these containers and wait a minimum of 48 hours. Longer is better and impatience could ruin everything.  Where possible, it is best to disassemble your device first.

At this point, if your electronics were exposed to clean water only, you should be fine to put them back together and try turning them on. If you can't power up your device, it is probably time to start shopping for a new one.

If you want to try one more step, or it was juice, not water that your toddler spilled on your new laptop, try bathing the device in pure rubbing alcohol to remove any residue that may be left over from the liquid spill. After this, repeat the drying process and try again.

Hopefully no one will have to try this, but in my experience spills and floods happen quite often.  If these steps work, great, if not congratulations on your new paperweight.  Be more careful next time.





DISCLAIMER: Use the information in this article at your own risk. CompuClinic LLC takes no responsibility for any damage to hardware, software, or data as a result of following the advice above. While we do our best to be thorough, if you are not comfortable with anything described above, please contact a qualified technician for help.

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