Spilled Gatorade On Your Laptop? Use This Rescue Plan!

Accidentally knocking over a bottle of Gatorade right onto your laptop keyboard is a sure fire way to invite trouble – but all is not lost provided you tackle the spillage as soon as possible. 

Without hesitation to rescue your laptop you’ll need to enact an emergency spill response plan that consists of the following steps:

  1. Power down your laptop as quickly as possible
  2. Removing the mains plug and if possible the battery too
  3. Turn the laptop over to reverse the flow of the liquid
  4. Find a dry cloth or kitchen towel to blot the keyboard
  5. Use a damp cloth to wipe down the laptop surfaces
  6. If you can, remove keys to reach any remaining spots of Gatorade
  7. Refrain from powering your laptop back up until the liquid has fully dried – allow at least 24hrs for this stage

Your laptop may be salvageable, but Gatorade with its high sugar content and  and full fat Gatorade at that is one the worst liquids you can spill on it, because it will leave a sticky sugar residue inside the laptop as the liquid dries. 

It’s often the residue that causes the most damage to the laptop as it inhibits the key switches from travelling smoothly and reduces user experience to an annoying grind.

Fortunately I have never had the misfortune of a Gatorade spillage splashing over my own laptop keyboard, but I have tackled the inevitable Coca Cola clean up operation – and in principle these liquids are very similar to mop up.

What to do when straight after you spill Gatorade on a laptop?

Time is of the essence here so these are the immediate actions you should take if Gatorade has made its way into your laptop internals.

1. Turn the laptop off

When you spill liquid of any kind over your laptop, your first instinct is probably to panic, or possibly to try and start mopping at it instantly with whatever you have to hand. Neither of these is a great way to go.

Instead, the first thing you should do is power down the laptop as fast as possible, even if this risks losing some work. Depending on the volume of liquid that has made its way between the keys and into the chassis may risk shorting out parts of the laptop if you don’t turn it off quick enough.

Unplug the laptop and remove the battery if it is removable. For my laptop – the Dell XPS 13 – you need to use Torx screwdriver heads to open up the chassis.

If the battery is in-built, hold the power button until the laptop turns off. This is the fastest way to power it down if you can’t take the battery out.

Once the laptop is off, you can remove any peripherals, such as micro-USBs, SD card etc. This will allow all ports the chance to dry quicker than if they had an obstacle blocking air flow.

2. Turn the laptop upside down 

Once the laptop is off, immediately turn it over so that any liquid runs – out of the keys, rather than into contact with the motherboard. The faster you can do this, the more likely you are to minimize the damage done by the Gatorade.

Keep the laptop upside down for the remainder of the steps. Make sure you have balanced it securely, propping it up with books or boxes so that you can effectively work on it without having to turn it back the right way.

You may also wish to set your laptop above a towel so it doesn’t slip at the same time as catching any drips over time.

3. Blot the keyboard dry

You should now take the time to get a suitable cloth. It’s better not to use tissues or other disposables if you can avoid it, because they may tear and leave fibers or residue themselves, which could make the problem worse. While cloths do shed micro fibers, the effect of these should be insignificant.

Carefully blot away at the keyboard, allowing your cloth to soak up as much moisture as possible. Do not wipe or rub, but let the cloth’s absorbency do the work of drawing the Gatorade out. This will mean you don’t smear it into areas it hasn’t already got into by mistake.

Change the cloth where necessary, and keep blotting until you think you have got all the Gatorade that you can out.

4. Wipe with a damp cloth

Next, try wiping your laptop with a very slightly damp cloth. If you have only spilled water, you may wish to forgo this step, but Gatorade contains sugars that turn sticky when left to dry, so the damp cloth might help to get it clean around the keys. Don’t remove keys to clean under them yet.

Of course, you should remove any other Gatorade from the laptop – if it has splashed onto the screen, the casing, the touchpad, etc.

Being able to wipe the case clean without leaving behind any streaks is just one advantage of a metal laptop case over a plastic one. 

5. Clean the internals

If Gatorade managed to get into the laptop and you are comfortable with taking it apart, you can remove and pat dry any internal components that you can reach. Use a lint-free cloth and pat the excess liquid off. Don’t rub the components, as you could risk damaging them further.

When this is done and the inside is as dry as you can get it, remove any dry residue with a lint-free cloth, and then leave your laptop to dry.

Image by nicolas_ on Canva Pro

Don’t be tempted to try and use the dry rice trick to extract liquid that has been spilled onto the keyboard and has collected within the laptop body. Fragments for rice grains can lodge within ports and between keys often creating additional problems that you don’t need.

How long do you need to leave your laptop turned off after a Gatorade spill?

You should leave a laptop unpowered and switched off for at least 24hours after Gatorade has been spilled upon it, but preferably for longer. Don’t skip the waiting period. If there is still liquid in the laptop, turning it back on could cause the circuits to short and do further damage.

If you like, you can set the upside down laptop next to an open window or small fan to keep the air surrounding the laptop moving and encourage it to dry quicker.

You shouldn’t use a hair dryer or blow air directly into the laptop, as this can further spread any pools of Gatorade remaining, as well as introduce dust into the already sticky residue. A hairdryer is also dangerously hot at short distances and could damage the laptop.

When it has been at least twenty-four hours, reassemble the laptop, putting back any parts that you removed, and then turn it the right way up and turn it on.

What happens if the laptop’s not working properly after a Gatorade spill?

First you’ll need to identify what’s wrong. 

Test the different components and establish what is and isn’t working as it should – this will usually give you an idea of what got damaged by the spill. If, for example, the touchpad isn’t working properly, but everything else is fine, you know where to focus your efforts.

Any part of your laptop can be damaged by a liquid spill, so it’s important to think about all the major components. Check the battery and its ability to charge, the touchpad, external sockets such as USB and SD slots, the keyboard (of course), the speakers, etc.

Next, assess whether the damage is permanent or possibly just due to sugary residue gumming up the component. 

For example, if only a few keys on the keyboard seem sticky or unresponsive, there may be a simple fix. You have probably got some dried residue from the Gatorade in that area specifically, and it’s stopping the keys from traveling correctly.

Carefully prize off one of the affected keys and use a lightly damp cloth or a soft toothbrush to clean the area and the key. Be careful not to snap the plastic hinges that hold the key in place.

Once the area is clean, put the key back.

If the damage is more extensive, you may find it helps to make notes about which components are not working, and then you can look at the cost of replacing the parts yourself or speak to a repair shop.

If you can’t afford a shop repair, you could consider attempting the repair yourself. There are many guides online and if the laptop is defunct, there is little to lose, besides the cost of parts. 

These can be inexpensive, so it’s worth looking at and assessing this option before you scrap a laptop.

Round up

If you have spilled Gatorade on your laptop, turn it off as fast as possible to avoid the machine short circuiting. 

Once this is done, invert the laptop to get the Gatorade to drain out, and dismantle any parts that can be removed and cleaned. Once you have blotted off all the Gatorade you can, leave the laptop upside down for at least a day to dry out before attempting to power it up once again.

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