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I've read a related post, "Can you actually Wash a laptop?", but a more straightforward answer would be preferred (or if someone has actually done it).

Consider a water contact with the motherboard of a laptop, or insides of Kindle. But rather than plain water, let's say it has sugar, milk, or bath salt / soap.

After a few months of not being able to fix the original break I'm deciding to actually wash my device (Kindle + water + epsom salt). I'm considering a mix of 90% distilled water, 10% rubbing alcohol.

Alcohol to dissolve salts, and distilled water to make sure no new residuals remain after it dries.

Does this procedure make sense? Has anyone tried it?

UPDATE
May 23, 2012

I washed my kindle in distilled water, then in alcohol. I didn't sink the entire device, but I used a waterpik flosser that I happen to have. Water removed the salts. Alcohol replaced the water and allowed for much faster dry time.

I dried the kindle with a hair drier for about half an hour (low heat, low speed, located about 6 inches apart)

After this dry time I let it sit untouched in a dry environment for almost a week.

I also replaced the default battery with a new one I got online (about $17). Then I charged it for over 24 hours.

Then it worked.

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If the device is allready broken it is highly unlikely that you can fix it by washing. –  Baarn May 2 '12 at 19:20
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The water itself does not cause the damage directly, but it does provide electrical paths to electrically short out components on the board, so cleaning it after the short damage is usually fruitless. –  Moab May 2 '12 at 20:17
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Epsom salt is minimally soluble in alcohol. Being an ionic compound, it's actually much more soluble in the water (a polar solvent) that's used to dilute most rubbing alcohols than it is to the ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, which are both non-polar solvents. And either way, if you were to use that solution to wash your Kindle, the salt would be left behind after the water and alcohol evaporated. –  Lèse majesté May 2 '12 at 22:28
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@BonGart since it is a laptop with battery the electrical damage happens pretty quick even if you turn it off or pull the AC cord. –  Moab May 3 '12 at 1:22
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@Moab I hear that, and you are correct. There have been many laptops brought across my bench that were lost to spills. BUt, all the ones that were salvageable had been turned off pretty much immediately after a spill. Typically the keyboard acts as a temporary barrier, and most spills won't reach a powered motherboard if the unit is turned off quickly enough. –  Bon Gart May 3 '12 at 1:45
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2 Answers 2

The thing always to remember is the minerals in substances. It looks like you are already considering this, which is good.

I have washed parts of computers, not entire computers, but I have paid attention to different elements around this, and I feel confident in my response.

Since your device has already experienced "water" damage, you have voided any and all warranty you have unless you paid for some super extra warranty. If you have some super eextra warranty, I recommend you utilize it.

I actually recommend you wash your device in stages if what you spilled in it was particularly viscous (sticky) or very distant from water (milk/solvent/etc).

  1. First, remove ALL batteries you can. If your battery is not removable, you should follow a disassembly guide to remove it forceably. Such disassembly is beyond the scope of what I am writing about here. If you disassemble, it will make cleaning easier, but you should approximately follow the rest of my instructions.

  2. Once you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN you have removed all sources of electricity or electric charge, let the device sit for 20 minutes to ensure all capacitors discharge.

  3. Find a large bucket, rinse it out with distilled water to eliminate any particulates in the bucket's inner surface. You do not have to be very thorough, but this is a precaution.

  4. Fill the bucket with 100% distilled water, submerge your device in the water. Let it sit for 1 hour or so. After which, lift it up, and let it drain outside the bucket.

  5. If a significant amount of foreign material (milk or wtvr) comes out from draining, redo Step 4 until the water coming out is for the most part the same way it went in. Make sure to clean the bucket each time you repeat the step.

  6. Take a bucket (it can be the same bucket). Wash it out with distilled water. Pur rubbing alcohol into it, and submerge the device into said bucket again. Leave it for 1 hour, and drain outside the bucket so debris doesn't go back into the bucket. It is likely that there will be no particulates, but if there are, repeat this in similar fashion to step 4.

  7. Once you are confident that the alcohol draining has no debris with it. Let it drain and dry. By now all the water should be gone for it. I recommend letting it sit for 2-3 hours minimum. While alcohol DOES dry faster than water, it's better to be safe than sorry.

  8. Re-insert battery/reassemble. Enjoy.

Alcohol is frequently used to clean electronics. It is great at dissolving things. Since you are submerging the device in alcohol it will likely dissolve the majority of the stickers in the system. Be prepared for this. If you do not want to risk dissolving the glue on certain stickers you can TRY skipping the alcohol steps, but if you do, let the device dry for at least 24 hours.

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Alcohol is a magic substance that can distinguish between evil stuff to dissolve and good stuff not to dissolve. To be serious, it is a bad idea to clean certain parts of electronics with alcohol as it dissolves softeners in plastics, submerging the device completely is even worse. –  Baarn May 2 '12 at 19:30
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@Walter Maier Murdnelch It is common place for every repair shop to actually use alcohol to clean electronics, if this were the case major computer repair shops such as Memory Express would not use alcohol to clean it. –  BloodyIron May 2 '12 at 20:06
    
What kind of alcohol, there is more than one....en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol –  Moab May 2 '12 at 20:20
    
@BloodyIron: Of course, but I still see a difference between cleaning something with alcohol (eg with a piece of cloth) and fully submerging it, letting it rest for hours. –  Baarn May 2 '12 at 20:30
    
This might be acceptable as a last-ditch hail mary pass to revive broken electronics, but in most cases you should still use specialized circuit board washing/flushing solutions like Solins US (used for ultrasonic cleaning electronics), which are designed not to be corrosive to metals and safe on PCB components. –  Lèse majesté May 2 '12 at 22:49
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I've repaired enough laptops after their owners spilled something on them to know that time is one of two important factors in the difference between success and failure. The other important factor is whether or not the unit has been powered since the spill.

As has been pointed out, liquids can and in most cases will produce shorts. If the liquid will leave behind a residue when it is drying or has dried, then it is even more likely to produce electrical shorts across any contacts it is in... contact... with. Depending on the liquid, even after it has dried, the residue left behind can continue to cause the short.

Shorting any component can damage it beyond working condition. The more times you short it, and/or the longer you short it for, the greater the chance it will not work.

Now. For those times when I have successfully repaired a laptop after a spill, this is what I did.

  • I made sure the customer ceased using the laptop immediately after the spill. I have found that those laptops that were used after a spill until they failed were almost always unrecoverable.
  • I took the laptop apart.
  • I cleaned each component by using a spray bottle of 90% alcohol and a soft brush. I find toothbrushes work best.
  • I cleaned ONLY those components that had been exposed to the spill. No need to scrub down the screen if it was coffee in the keyboard.
  • I replaced the keyboard. Laptop keyboards do not come apart easily, and cleaning the plastic layers that make up the working components of a keyboard rarely result in the keyboard working properly anyway. I've attempted this process enough to know.
  • I allow all the components to dry completely.
  • I never immersed any component in any liquid. This is a sure-fire way to make sure that a component won't work. Again. Ever.

So, if you insist on trying this now, take it all apart, examine all the components before you attempt to clean them, and use a small spray bottle and a toothbrush to clean the components that were exposed to the spill.

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