Usually when I am working with the computer's internals, I have to speak clearly and loudly so that whoever I'm working with can hear me, with my head pointing down. However, sometimes this causes me to spit, and I don't want saliva getting into my computer.

We all know that saliva is composed of 99.5% water plus electrolytes, mucus, enzymes, and blood cells. I'm worried that if I accidentally spat on the motherboard, it could it result in a short circuit, destroying the whole motherboard.

What can I do to prevent this, or do I even need to be concerned about it?

  • 1
    You have asked more than one question in your post. Please limit it to one answerable question. The question about wearing a mask will only result in opinions, therefore should be removed. – CharlieRB Aug 2 '16 at 13:34
  • How is this too broad? There is a clear yes or no answer. – oldmud0 Aug 2 '16 at 14:14
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    To which of the four questions? – random Aug 2 '16 at 14:38
  • The question I see is if a mask is neccessary. I agree it will spawn opinion answers. I could only find one reference which was a user tech forum – Lister Aug 2 '16 at 15:46
  • So where should I ask? Looks like nobody in the world cares. – oldmud0 Aug 2 '16 at 16:25

As you yourself said, most of saliva is water. That should give you the information you need.

This question boils down to how water damages electronics and what you can do about it if you get water on electronics.

Water does two things:

  • If the water comes in contact with a piece of metal (a trace on the board, a pin, anything that's electrified) while it's powered on, the water dramatically changes the electrical characteristics of the circuit. Because water conducts electricity fairly well, the other risk is that water can effectively bridge the gap between two circuits that are ordinarily separate on one of the components, causing it to short out. This can cause components to be "fried", which means that due to the altered resistance properties of the new circuit of "circuit #1 plus water plus circuit #2", a component received far more current than it was designed to handle, which caused it to fail.

  • If the water comes in contact with circuitry while it's powered off (not in a "warm" state but completely off), there's the possibility that it will cause corrosion. Now, according to this answer on EE.SE, it's not so much the water itself that causes corrosion, but the impurities in it (other chemicals that are more corrosive than water). Corrosion is effectively adding oxygen (usually O2 or O3) to molecules that don't need to have an oxygen bond on them; the typical example of iron is that "rust" -- corroded iron -- is iron oxide.

Anything that's a strong corroding agent that's mixed with the water will do this, moreso than the water itself. So, while it's safe to get perfectly pure water on powered-down electronics, it's not safe to use tap water, or even purified drinking water, because there are still a lot of mineral salts left in the water that are corrosive to the metals used in electronics.

If you're worried about accidentally getting water -- er, saliva, but same thing -- on your electronics, then obviously using a mask is a good solution.

And if you do get water on your equipment, the rice method doesn't work. Here is a video explaining why; Warning: strong language in video.

  • My initial reaction to the rant in the video was that Louis had misinterpreted the purpose of the rice. Obviously, its purpose isn't to clean or repair, and it can't do the job he did in the video. It was merely to serve as a desiccant to absorb moisture to dry the air over the course of days, which encourages evaporation from the equipment. I've been using it as a MacGyver solution for years. The video encouraged me to research it. Turns out rice actually sucks (not in a good way) as a desiccant. So now I need to go back and correct answers where I recommended it. :-( – fixer1234 Aug 2 '16 at 17:46

In the strictest sense, yes it can. If you were to perfectly glob between two contacts, you could cause a short. If it was to stay in there it could corrode the contacts.

If the machine is turned off then you won't cause any shorting unless the saliva was still there when the device is turned on.

I work with laptops myself repairing them, and I have can't say I've damaged one yet (I'm quite the sneezer!) I would would say not to worry. Anti static wristband is a good idea, mask I would hold off on unless your drenching the computer with some severe loony tunes style duck globing.

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    LOL. The only way you could have made this better would be to get into the possibility of giving the computer a virus. – fixer1234 Aug 2 '16 at 17:09

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