How To Save Your Keyboard After A Spill

If you've used a computer for any significant amount of time, you've probably facepalmed after spilling some potentially sticky substance into the recesses of your keyboard. (If you haven't, your day will come.) Here's how to save your keyboard after that spill.

As I was finishing up work last night, I accidentally knocked a half-full glass of Diet Coke over and got some in my keyboard. Argh! I shook it out and went on my way, but then this morning 7's and 8's were mysteriously inserting themselves into words, and the spacebar was only working intermittently.

A spill doesn't necessarily mean keyboard death, but resuscitation can take some elbow grease. Unplug the keyboard (or for wireless models, remove the batteries), break out the screwdriver, and take that baby apart. It can take some time; with my compressed air handy, this is a great time to blow out any dust, too.

When all the parts are as dry as a bone, carefully reassemble them. All's well for me now; I'm typing this very post on the keyboard. Here are some photos of my keyboard's innards from this morning's clean-up.

How to Save Your Keyboard After a Spill [Smarterware]


    Regarding spills in keyboards......

    As an Apple service engineer of many years, I can offer the following advice.....

    Laptops: If you spill a liquid on the keyboard get it unplugged from the mains and remove its battery as quick as possible. Liquids can cause short-circuits, short circuits damage components, no power means that possibility is reduced.

    Conductive / sugary liquids are far more problematic than plain water for obvious reasons.

    Most keyboards nowadays are membrane construction for the contacts, and liquids can/will creep between the membranes by capillary action and spread out over a surprisingly large (but very thin) area.... altering the very sensitive electrical characteristics of the contacts - often resulting in weird keyboard behaviour and / or total failure.

    Because the liquid is trapped between the plastic membranes it can take 'forever' to evaporate naturally - even when the rest of the machine seems perfectly dry.

    Complete disassembly of a laptop membrane keyboard is not for the faint-hearted and is time consuming and fiddly - but we have done so on a number of occasions with some success.

    In instances where liquids such as 'cola' have been spilled and allowed to remain and 'fester' within the membranes, the corrosion damage is usually permanent.

    Where the spill is known to be water only, we have also had good results by removing the keyboard deck (e.g. Macbook Pro),
    then removing the black plastic sheet on its underside (carefully and retain it)..... the deck is then placed in a warm air circulating oven (NOT a gas oven!!) at 45'C for about 3 hours. In about 70% of cases the keyboard works normally afterwards.

    Other liquids are a different matter as, even if dried out, they leave a residue between the membranes which usually has some detrimental effect.

    As far as the dishwasher comments in previous posts I can only assume the people concerned had very early switch-construction keyboards for this to work OR its a joke.

    Knowing the construction of current keyboards I would venture to suggest that a dishwasher would be a guaranteed way of finishing it off completely.

    Regards.......... John H

      I spilled "mate" (water with a herb). Immediately turned it over, put an absorbing towel on the keyboard and cleaned it while being upside down. Turned the computer off, took battery and electricity adaptor. Used a hair dryer for about 10 minutes.
      Do you think this will do?
      I have a Macbook, unibody model (the gray one).

    I spilled coffe onto a Microsoft Laser Keyboard 6000 v2.0 and in the morning the keyboard would not work. A few months later I opened it (tonight in fact). I found that these keyboards have a splash tray under the keys which probably catches all but the worst coffee spills. Upon careful examination I saw some shiny and sticky spots where coffee had gone inside (two sugars and milk in mine!). This was present on the small circuit board at the top right which has a row of finger contacts which are clamped onto the plastic backboard, but which make contact with the board merely by pressure from the top down (a metal plate and screws holds the board down so tightly).
    Anyway, I carefuly sponged off the sticky parts and also washed the rubber membrane under the keyboard in warm water with dishwashing detergent.
    After all was dry I reassembled it.
    At present it seems to work. Note that I broke two of the screw mounts when I dissassembled it. THERE ARE SEVERAL SCREWS HIDDEN UNDER THE LABELS ON THE BACK. AT LEAST SIX!! AAARGH! But there are plenty of other screws so they were not essential.
    Good Luck.

      Thanks for posting! I have that same 6000 V2.0 keyboard and you saved me breaking the screw tabs. I pulled off the stickers and found the screws. One less keyboard in the landfill, and my kids got to help take something apart and fix it.

    I spilled soda on my keyboard a few days ago, and suffered nothing but some annoyingly sticky keys. So last night, I tried to do the same thing, but with rubbing alcohol, thinking nothing bad would happen. This morning, not a single key works, and I'm stuck using a USB keyboard.

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