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krx Sep 18, 2007 12:29 PM
coffee spill!!
I finally did it. I just dumped a whole cup of hot coffee right onto the key board. Pretty quickly got a psychedelic screen and some disturbing hard drive humping noises. I sopped up everything I could, took out the battery (it was already unplugged), popped off the keyboard (for ventilation) and have it resting on a towel (for absorption) in a warm spot in the house.

1. Is there anything else I should do?
2. How long should I wait before trying to start it?
3. What is the worst case scenario?
4. Anyone else ever done this and lived to tell about it?


PS, I did a search for "coffee" and "spill" and found nothing, to my surprise.
MacinTommy Sep 18, 2007 12:38 PM
I think I heard someone on here say something about using rubbing alcohol because it evaporates the liquid.. But then again they were talking about cell phones. This is def. a bigger issue. Sorry to hear about this. I too dread doing this but I try to keep my drink on a little table next to my comp.
peeb Sep 18, 2007 12:58 PM
1. Calm down.
2. Don't do ANYTHING else with your machine until you've thought everything through.
3. You've done the right thing so far.

a. How do you take your coffee? Cream, milk, sugar? This matters.
b. Pop the drive out, and pack it in dry paper towels too.
c. Get some distilled water (it must be distilled) and a squirt bottle.
d. The bad news is that the worst case scenario is pretty bad.
e. The good news is that you might get away with it.
krx Sep 18, 2007 01:05 PM
I take it w/milk and sugar. Bad?

I will pop the hard drive when I get back this afternoon. Got to get to a meeting right now. Hope the delay is not critical.

Thanks for replies.
peeb Sep 18, 2007 01:12 PM
OK, this is my advice. It may cause your computer to be in worse shape than it is now, so use your judgement.

Yep, that's bad...
The extra crap needs to come out - if it's just coffee, you can do it with a hairdryer.

You will have to evaluate whether there is so much in there that the sugar residue will cause shorts. Ideally, you should flush it with DISTILLED water before it dries. The hard drive might be shagged - I hope you had a backup?
If you think that there is not too much coffee in the machine, and that you sopped up most of it, you could try drying it REALLY thoroughly (maybe near a forced air vent) for 24-48 hours, and then trying to restart it. If there is a lot of coffee residue, then I would recommend carefully spraying distilled water on the worst parts to clear it out, then doing the same thing.

Don't spray the hard drive - that will either work or not. I would recommend replacing it anyway, and trying to recover the drive with an external firewire enclosure. I would not rely on a drive that has been dipped in coffee, even if you can get it to work.

It is VITAL that you get the machine completely dry BEFORE you try to restart it.

Good luck! I spilled coffee down an IBM thinkpad once and did this - got it working fine.
applemacbook Sep 18, 2007 01:37 PM
Worst case scenario your hard drive should still work so you can pop it out and get all your data backed up.
krx Sep 18, 2007 06:38 PM
Alright. I'm going take a look inside. I've never opened the case on my iBook before. I don't imagine it's too complicated, but any pointers would be welcome.

I'm a little concerned because, post-spill, it was on for several minutes before I pulled the battery. I also turned it over face down thinking it would drain better that way. When I turned it back over, the screen had gone psychedellic and the hard drive started making funny noises.

On the upside, I backed up everything last night.
peeb Sep 18, 2007 06:41 PM
I, too, am concerned if it was switched on for several minutes after the spill. Well, never mind. Take it apart using the instructions here:

Fixit Guide - DIY PowerBook, MacBook, & iBook Repair & Disassembly

Clean it as best you can (with DISTILLED water), then dry it THOROUGHLY before switching back on. Thankfully you have a backup!
krx Sep 19, 2007 11:21 AM
First, thanks for the link to - what a great resource! Made the job of removing the hard drive totally straightforward. Really appreciate it!

Second, it looks like all the coffee infiltration was limited to the left side, around the ports and hard drive. I took it all apart last night and there were still some wet areas on the inside of the case. But it appeared to be dry under the top and bottom shields. However I could see discolored areas in the circuitry, along the left edge, and especially under the hard drive where the coffee clearly infiltrated - sticky to the touch. One or two spots looked especially caked up w/dried coffee/sugar residue.

It's all been airing out all night and it's dry now. Does application of distilled water to the affected areas still seem like a good idea? I would probably need to spray it down, let it sit for awhile to soak in, then spray again in order to dislodge/wash away the detritus. Are there any parts/areas I should not get wet, or just go at it liberally and then let it all dry for a few days?
peeb Sep 19, 2007 11:37 AM
Anywhere there is residue of sugar or other crap, I think you should wash it out. Obviously, doing this introduces an extra risk. It is possible that you will end up doing more damage, since water is not a good idea in the abstract. The danger is in restarting, and the sugar / crap causing a short that damages something.
In the abstract, you should not get any of it wet... But you need to get the crap out, unless you are sure that the area affected houses no circuitry. Try to minimise the amount of water you use, and keep it targeted at areas that really need it, and make sure it really is DISTILLED - you don't want to get dissolved salts and minerals into the mix.
In the end you'll have to make a judgement call about whether you think the greatest risk is shorting from the coffee dregs, or possible damage from the water.
Good luck!
JonoMarshall Sep 19, 2007 11:58 AM
As long as the water is distilled and is the circuitry is left to dry COMPLETELY (I've left a TiBook drying for 10+ days before), then I thought the water should pose minimal risk to the circuitry?!?
krx Sep 19, 2007 12:12 PM
I have a bad feeling that I've already fried it. But I will pick up some distilled water this afternoon and see what I can do to clean it up, at least the clearly caked up areas (which are over circuits).

Obviously I don't want to overheat it, but would a blow dryer set on low at a safe distance be an option for drying it out afterwards?
JonoMarshall Sep 19, 2007 12:24 PM
I'm not sure why you'd want to dry it out quickly? If it was me I'd simply let it drip dry, then place it in an airing cupboard or similar warm safe place...
peeb Sep 19, 2007 02:11 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by JonoMarshall (Post 3487177)
As long as the water is distilled and is the circuitry is left to dry COMPLETELY (I've left a TiBook drying for 10+ days before), then I thought the water should pose minimal risk to the circuitry?!?
In theory that's true. In practice it's still risky. Water is not pure, it can warp things, moisture gets trapped etc.

BTW you may want to use a large syringe to squirt the water in controlled jets.
krx Sep 20, 2007 11:48 AM
I got it all cleaned up, dried out, and back together. Fired it up and, amazingly, my iBook appears to be alive and well. So far so good, anyway.

Here's what I did, for future reference:
  • Took it all apart and removed the hard drive.
  • Using a plant mister and distilled water, rather aggressively sprayed down the affected areas of the logic board ~ basically the entire left side, front and back.
  • Used my finger, where necessary, to LIGHTLY dislodge visibly discolored/encrusted spots.
  • Positioned it on a towel in front of a blow dryer, set on low.
  • Turned it over/around every 15-20 minutes.
  • Used an air hose set at 40 psi to clear water out of crevices, ports, etc.
  • Continued blow drying for several more hours.
Rather than spraying "aggressively" it would probably have been safer to soak it down with a light mist repeatedly for several hours, until the caked on crud dissolved and washed away. But I'm not sure. Even then, it may have taken more "force" to remove the sugar residue. In retrospect, a very fine brush like an art brush would probably have been safer and more effective than my finger.

Also, I realize the incipient danger in using both the air gun and the blow dryer. But, man, they got the job done quickly. I think it was perfectly dry in under an hour. I let it go for several hours just to be sure.

Anyway, all's well that ends well, as they say.

Thanks for all the help on this.
peeb Sep 20, 2007 11:53 AM
Good job!
MacinTommy Sep 20, 2007 12:17 PM
Hard work and patience paid off. :thumbsup:
JonoMarshall Sep 20, 2007 12:21 PM
Well done, not sure about the patience part, but all's well that ends well.
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