What to Do If You Spill Water on Your Mac

If you have spilled water on your Mac, don’t panic. If you can stay calm and follow some straightforward steps on time, there’s a good chance you can get through this with little to no damage to your computer.

The main things you want to do are get the power disconnected, the computer shut down, and do not try to turn it back on to see if it is still working! At least not for a while which we will discuss further below.

My name is Eric and I have been using a variety of technology devices for over 40 years. I’ve seen lots of different types of accidents happen with many of them and there are often ways to prevent further damage and recover many of them.

Water contamination is one of the more common types of accidents that I have seen and although it can often cause permanent damage leaving a device useless, the majority of times, there are ways to save the equipment as long as you don’t panic and cause further harm.

Keep reading and we will try to work through this issue the best we can and keep your system running as well as it was before the spill.

Your First Priority

I know that Macs are expensive and your computer equipment may seem vital to you, but your safety should be the highest priority. If your computer is plugged into a wall outlet, you will want to take extreme caution. Remember that the combination of water and electricity can be deadly.

If you have dropped your Mac into a pool, tub, or some other large quantity and it is still plugged in, DO NOT TRY to grab it out of the water! This is a recipe for disaster. 

Make sure that you get the cord unplugged from the wall first. If the water has pooled near the wall outlet, shut your power off to the outlet first by going to the circuit breaker or fuse panel. Never touch live electronic devices while you are in contact with water.

What Should I Do?

Follow the general steps below to try to save your laptop from water damage. These steps can vary depending on the type of accident you have had. 

Step 1: Cut Off Power

The first thing you need to do is disconnect the power cord if it is plugged in. Be sure to follow the safety warnings we have given above. While your Mac could still be running on its battery power, we want to cut off the power source for safety and keep it from charging any further.

Step 2: Shut Down Your Mac

If your Mac is still running, you want to shut it down as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about saving anything or closing any apps. At this point losing data is far less important. The quicker you get it shut down the less likely water will cause a short circuit and burn up components.

At this point, you are trying to prevent the immediate harm that may take place from liquid getting into the circuitry of the computer. Press your power button, and hold it down until it shuts down completely. 

You will now need to be careful not to accidentally press the power button again and turn it back on. If your Mac was not still running, DO NOT TURN IT BACK ON! You may be tempted to do this to see if it still works, but trust me, do not try it yet. You need to be patient.

Turning it back on greatly increases the chances of permanent damage to the system. Also, if you have an older system with a removable battery, remove the battery so that it cannot be turned back on.

Step 3: Disconnect Peripheral Devices

If you have any external devices such as keyboards, mice, monitors, external drives, or anything else. Carefully disconnect them and examine them to see if they have any moisture.

Step 4: Wipe it Down

Get a soft cloth and begin wiping any moisture that you can from the laptop, being very careful not to hit the power button and turn it on. Gently wipe all parts and if needed, get a cotton suave to dry out any ports or around the keys if needed.

If any of your external devices had moisture on them, you should wipe them down as well.

Step 5: Drying

Here’s where you will need to be patient and you will need to make a judgment call. You want to make sure your mac and peripherals are completely dry before attempting to turn them on. The drying time will depend on the severity of the spill.

If you completely soaked the keyboard with a full cup of water you might want to wait as long as 72 hours before attempting to turn it on. If you just splashed some on it and it does not appear to have penetrated the computer casing you might be ok after a couple of hours.

Warning: Since I don’t know the severity of the spill, I can’t give you a definite time frame of how long to let your system dry. When in doubt give it a longer period such as 72 hours just to make sure. You may be without your Mac for a few days but it’s better than the cost of replacement.

Drying Tips

#1. Again, be careful to not power the laptop back on. Avoid the power button, but also avoid opening and closing the computer. Many models will automatically turn on when you open the laptop up. Once you have it open and shut down, do not close it or it may turn on if you open it back up.

#2. When drying your Mac, try to prop it up so that the area where you spilled gets good ventilation. If you spilled on your keyboard, you might want to have the screen halfway closed and stood up as shown below. This will allow good airflow and any moisture to run out of it.

#3. It’s ok to use a fan or something to blow air on it to promote drying but never use a heater or a blow dryer. Hot air is not good for your system and can ruin keyboards, screens, and even internal components.

#4. You have probably seen people use rice to help dry out phones with water damage. I do not recommend this with your Mac. The rice particles can get stuck in your keyboard and ports which may cause other issues.

Step 6: Power Up

When you think your computer is sufficiently dry, then you may be ready to try turning it on. Do one last check in the ports and keyboard to search for any signs of moisture. If you are still seeing some then you need to wait longer. If not you can try starting your system up.

Keep a close eye on it as it starts, if you see anything odd, power back down immediately and let it dry out another day. Once you do get it started, test your system out and look for any abnormalities such as the battery not charging or ports not working.

Step 7: Normal Use

If all looks good you can go back to normal use but do take note if you see anything strange going on with your system. If you continue to see problems, you may have to take a trip to the Apple Store to have it looked at, but hopefully, that is not the case.

Spills vs. Submersion

Whether or not you can save your Mac and at what level, largely depends on the type of damage you have. As you probably already know there will be a huge difference in spilling half a cup of water on your keyboard compared to dropping your Mac into the hot tub.

The latter, full submersion situation is likely to let far more liquid into your computer than a lawn sprinkler spraying you while you’re using your laptop on the patio. All I’m saying is to base your level of action and expectations in recovering your machine on the severity of the accident.

Final Words

By taking quick action and then using some patience to ensure your Mac is completely dried out, it is possible to save it from water damage for most small spills. Larger spills are likely to create more difficulties but it is possible to recover from them as well.

I hope these tips have helped you to save your Mac from any damage and please be safe while using any equipment around water.

Do you have an amazing story about recovering a phone or laptop from liquid damage? Let us know, we would love to hear from you.

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  • Sandt

    It seems to me the best thing to do would be to, after, making sure you don’t electrocute yourself by unplugging the laptop, turn it upside down in the open position, so that water can drain away from the laptop vital innards. Then I would take a vacuum cleaner to the laptop while it is in the upside down position. Then I would put it in front of a fan.

    • Eric

      Hi Sandt

      I agree with you. The main goal is to not get electrocuted. While I know these are expensive and important devices, they are not worth getting shocked and injured or worse. Once you can safely get the laptop out and away from the water the best thing to do is get it drying as quickly as possible. Your vacuum idea is a great one. Many shop vacs and other types are made to be able to suck up water and this would be a great way to get some of the initial water and moisture out of the way at the beginning. Fans work great and if you live in a hot and dry environment, putting it out in the sun can also help. Thanks for your response, it is great to hear from you.