Spilled Milk On Your Laptop? Act Quickly Using These Steps!

We all know we shouldn’t risk drinking near our laptops, or setting down liquids next to them, and yet pretty much everyone does it, sometimes with catastrophic results. 

If unfortunately you’ve spilled milk on your laptop act quickly using these steps!

  1. power down your laptop as quickly as possible and remove charger from the mains
  2. turn the laptop over to reverse the flow of the liquid
  3. find something clean to blot at the keyboard
  4. use a damp cloth to wipe down the laptop
  5. begin the internal clean up by opening the chassis to reach the remaining spots of milk

Your laptop is salvageable, but milk is one of the worst things you can unfortunately spill on it owing to the residue it will leave as the liquid dries. 

It’s often the residue that is most damaging to the laptop as it inhibits the key switches from working smoothly and even interferes with the electrical circuits.

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What to do when you first spill milk on a laptop

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. The liquid may short out parts of the laptop if you don’t turn it off quickly.

Unplug the laptop and remove the battery if it is removable. 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 external plug-ins, such as a mouse, SD cards, USBs, etc. This ensures they won’t get damaged and allows you to focus on the laptop.

Turn the laptop over

Once the laptop is off, immediately turn it over so that the liquid runs in the other direction – out of the keys, rather than in. The faster you can do this, the more likely you are to minimize the damage done by the liquid.

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 on a towel so it doesn’t slip.

You want to make the most of gravity to pull the milk out of the laptop, rather than having it pull the milk in.

Blot the keyboard

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 residue themselves, which will only make the problem worse. While proper cloths do shed small fibers, the effect of these should be insignificant.

Carefully blot 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 pulling the milk 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 milk that you can out.

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

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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 milk 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 just yet.

Clean the internals

If the milk got 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 damage 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.

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.

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How long do you need to leave your laptop turned off after a milk spillage?

You should leave it off for at least twenty-four hours, but preferably for longer. 

If you like, you can set a small fan to keep the air above 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 milk 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.

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.

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 milk spill?

So, what happens if you turn the laptop back on and damage has been done to the point where it isn’t working properly?

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 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 milk in that area specifically, and it’s stopping the keys from travelling correctly. If your laptop has a mechanical keyboard then it might be worth re-applying clean lube to the switches and stabilizers whilst the key caps are off.

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.

Before you go…

If you have managed to save your machine from short circuiting – good on you – however there might be some collateral damage which will appear over time. You can remedy that by genning up on the articles below.

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