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We accidentally spilt vinegar on netbook (EeePC). What should we do about it? Should we try to wash vinegar out or just let it dry?

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+1 how on earth did you do that? :) –  Nate Koppenhaver Oct 6 '11 at 0:48
    
Tolerably good copper etchant. Yipes! –  Fiasco Labs Oct 6 '11 at 2:42
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+Nate Koppenhaver Kitchen + some bottles + 3yo daughter. –  Kuroki Kaze Oct 6 '11 at 9:52
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4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I spilled lemonade on mine a week or 2 ago. It was a lot. My laptop immediately shut off (without being told). I immediately removed the battery and power cable (minimizing damage) and set about removing all the moisture. I have some experience taking laptops apart, but not a whole lot. I removed the keyboard and enough covers to access just about all the internal components. The keyboard was had most of the moisture and I found some drops on the pcb under the memory and various drops elsewhere on the pcb.

After soaking up as much as I could by spot blotting with a towel (don't just throw your towel on and mash away--only blot where you see drops) and letting it air dry for about a half hour, I reassembled and tried firing it up. It didn't work. It was as if the power button was inop. The power light did come on with the cable plugged in though.

The final step in solving this was spraying a lot of contact cleaner in the keyboard (had to remove the keyboard to do this) letting it soak a bit and then spraying copious ammounts of compressed air in/on it to dry it completely. After that, it's worked like a champ. If you got a lot of moisture on the pcb under the keyboard, it is probably more dangerous but still worth trying the contact cleaner & air dry method I used on the keyboard.

Here's a video to use as sort of a guide on disassembly http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0Jlq_mbqkI

Here's the contact cleaner I used for the keyboard: http://www.amazon.com/CRC-Electrical-Contact-Cleaner-Aerosol/dp/B003NTQCA2

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Contact cleaner is definitely the way to go, it's designed to clean and protect electronic components. If you have spilled anything other than water on electronics you need to clean it, not just remove the liquid. In your case you spilled acidic vinegar, this will greatly increase the rate of corrosion/oxidisation of the electrical components, so you need to get as much off as possible. –  Hydaral Oct 6 '11 at 2:22
    
@Hydaral, I disagree. Contact cleaner is isopropyl alcohol, it is meant for bare metal ends in electrical components to remove contaminants and ensure a better connection, it is not designed for circuit boards. Isopropyl alcohol is part water, meaning it is just as damaging to use as the vinegar itself. Penetrating fluid is the defacto method of safely lifting liquids off of circuit boards. If you do insist on using anything with Isopropyl alcohol, ensure it is 90%. –  MaQleod Oct 6 '11 at 14:24
    
@MaQleod - I did failure analysis and repair at a contract manuf of printed circuit boards for years. Your comment is almost entirely bogus regarding alcohol. We used it all the time in the manual cleaning process. Also, our automated machines used water based solutions for cleaning at various steps in the process (see also smtnet.com/Forums/Index.cfm?CFApp=1&Message_ID=50372 for what some other folks still use). The only thing you got right was to suggest a higher concentration as this will dry faster. –  Flotsam N. Jetsam Oct 6 '11 at 17:37
    
@MaQleod, I have only used three different brands of contact cleaner, but all contained lubricants and protectants, and all were rapidly evaporating. –  Hydaral Oct 7 '11 at 2:03
    
@MaQleod > Isopropyl alcohol is part water, meaning it is just as damaging to use as the vinegar itself. Isopropyl alcohol is isopropyl alcohol is isopropyl alcohol. it is not water. One is C3H8O, one is H2O. Now, isopropyl alcohol is usually sold mixed with water, and the 90%+ advice is sound - but a bit of pure water doesn't hurt, either, and is far less conductive than water with free ions (salty water, vinegar, etc.) in it. So, water itself is nowhere near as bad as vinegar either. –  Bob Mar 26 at 14:37
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I think adding more liquid is not the way to go.

See here for some good tips.

  1. Turn it off. If need be, do a hard shutdown.
  2. Blot up excess liquid with a soft cloth. Don't use a wiping motion, that just pushes the liquid around.
  3. Remove any cables, external drives, removable bays and external Network Cards.
  4. Blot up the liquid that may have gotten on the removable media.

See the link for more.

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Actually, adding liquid is what saved my laptop (though there is a bit more too it--see my answer) –  Flotsam N. Jetsam Oct 6 '11 at 0:41
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Vinegar (acetic acid) is conductive, but has a very low conductivity rate. That said, it can still do damage as circuitry in a computer is fairly sensitive. Washing it out would be a bad idea, as the water that comes out of your tap would be far more conductive and far more damaging than the acid. The first step is always powering down and removing the battery as quickly as possible. If you flooded the device, it would be best to take as much apart as you can and remove the liquid carefully with a sterile cloth by blotting and not wiping. If there isn't much, simply blot lightly with a cloth, but don't pour it out, as it could flow over something that you would rather it didn't. You can use a light amount of penetrating fluid (such as wd-40) to get into harder to reach spots or remove moisture that the cloth is not removing. Leave the device in pieces for a while so that it dries out completely before attempting to power on again. You should also do a visual inspection to ensure that there are no blown or distended capacitors on the board.

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This is just a guess, but I would:

  1. Turn it off

  2. Take out the battery and anything else that's removable

  3. Let it dry, and dry anything possible with a cloth or something

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