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A few days ago I got a laptop that had spilled coffee on it. I did dry it, cleaned it as much as possible (with with dry paper towels) and let it dry in a warm place.

The laptop works fine, even thought I had to replace the keyboard. What's needed is to clean the fans, because sugar being sticky, can attract dust particles and make fans work slower or even stop.

The question is: Can water with sugar do anything bad to the motherboard in the long run? Is it possible to stop after 1 month for example. If yes, why and what should I do to further protect it?

Ps: I didn't find anything relevant to water-damage tag

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    Yes, it's possible for liquid residue to cause issues in the future. May 20, 2014 at 21:09
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    Be sure you used distilled water of even better alcohol for this exact purpose
    – Ramhound
    May 20, 2014 at 21:14
  • @Ramhound Distilled water or alcohol in his coffee? I'm not sure you read the question. May 20, 2014 at 21:15
  • Talking about cleaning the fans....covering the basics
    – Ramhound
    May 20, 2014 at 21:16
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    @Keltari - I don't do jokes well when talking about serious topics.
    – Ramhound
    May 20, 2014 at 22:18

3 Answers 3

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If cleaned properly, water with sugar should not be a problem.

Possible problems after liquid spill:

  • A conductive connection between not to be connected parts can occur, leading to random and hard to detect failures.
  • If the spilled liquid contains acids or Lyes, this could frett into parts or connection lines. This should not be an issue with coffee, but for example with solder residues.
  • If something sticky dries in, dust is likely to collect more easily.
  • If water remained between parts it could leed to parasitic capacities that interfere with the regular functions of the board.

For cleaning, water should be sufficient. If you want to play it safe, use distilled water, isopropy alcohol, or a mixture of both.

For drying, it's not that important to get it hot (don't get it too hot, max. 80°C), but to have it long enough in an area of low relative humidity. Hot air can carry more water, which results in a lower relative humidity of the same air sample at higher temperatures. So make sure you have some air exchange when drying. An electric oven on lowest temperature (50°C) and opend door for some hours should do.

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As long as you thoroughly dry the motherboard you should be OK. You said you dried it with paper towels, thats good. I would open it back up and have a fan blow on it for a couple hours to make sure all the moisture is gone. As for the sugar, it shouldnt be an issue as it is not conductive.

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  • I dried it with paper towels after I open it. There was coffee in most parts (around and on top of motherboard). I disassembled it and left it in a warm room with little moisture at around 35 degrees Celsius (around 95F) for about 12Hours, then in room temperature for another 24. I worry if remaining stuff (sugar etc) can rust it or do it faulty in general.
    – Odys
    May 20, 2014 at 21:44
  • Sugar isnt conductive or an oxidizer. You are fine.
    – Keltari
    May 20, 2014 at 21:51
  • That answers my question. I'll wait a few days in case there is a more comprehensive answer before marking this one.
    – Odys
    May 20, 2014 at 22:02
  • @Keltari I had a simillar exposure to liquid, tea without sugar. I made hp laptop dried in the service. Unfortunately, approximately one month afterwards, system failed to start due to main board error. I had to replaced my laptop. May 21, 2014 at 7:08
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If you can, rinse the motherboard thoroughly with distilled water, or a dedicated electrical cleaning fluid, this will remove the sugar, but the motherboard must be rinsed well, and then allowed to dry FULLY before being powered up.

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