So you've spilled liquid on your MacBook Air/Pro and it turned off almost instantly. Not sure what to do now? Follow the instructions in this guide to minimize the liquid damage and increase the survival chance of your liquid damaged MacBook until you can get into your nearest Mobilebarn® store.
This is the very first thing you must do if you spilled liquid on your Macbook Air or Pro. Hold down the power button for at least five seconds until the power is off and then release the button. Do not touch the button again; otherwise, you may accidentally turn it on again. Forget about any unsaved documents, the sooner you cut off the power, the safer your MacBook will be as well as your priceless data in it.
If the water-damaged MacBook cannot be turned off by holding the power button, it means the MacBook keyboard has already stopped functioning. The keyboard cannot send the software-level “Force Shutdown" command to the MacBook logic board. Don’t panic, you still have other methods to shut down the Mac laptop.
Quickly use tissues to absorb the liquid that you can see on the surface of the MacBook keyboard, touchpad and screen, then close the lid straight away. By doing so you effectively activate the hardware-level sleep sensor. When the logic board detects the sleep sensor signal, it will cut off the power to the CPU, screen, SSD drive and most of supporting circuits.
The MacBook then enters into sleep mode. In the sleep mode, the memory chips are still receiving power. This design enables the laptop to be wakeup fast in normal use. Keep the lid closed for a while the MacBook will automatically enter into deep sleep mode. In deep sleep mode, the logic board cuts off the power to the memory chips. Your CPU, screen, SSD drive and RAM are all at safe hand now. Don't open the lid to wake up (power-up) the laptop again.
If the MacBook screen is still on (you can see the light) even you close the lid, your MacBook’s logic board is failing and out of control. But most of the time the damage is minor. Now if you can quickly unplug the charger and disconnect the battery from the logic board, your MacBook still has a good chance of survival.
Unplug the charger if it’s still connected to the water-damaged MacBook.
This step is less critical than the first one. Unplugging the charger alone will NOT cut off the power to the CPU and other important components. The internal MacBook battery is still powering the Mac laptop at full speed if you did not shut down the laptop by holding the power button. By unplugging the charger, you turn off the charging circuit of the logic board. Even though water damage to the charging circuit is nearly 100% repairable, the circuit’s higher voltage ( 14.5V for MacBook Air, 20V for MacBook Pro Retina ) is still a great threat. So unplug the charger now.
Prevent water from dripping into the vent holes
You should try to block the water from dropping into the vent holes located between the keyboard and the screen. The vent holes are designed for transferring heat out of the logic board to the open air. Protecting the logic board is the most crucial step minimising damage from spilled water on a MacBook.
There is nothing between the vent holes and the logic board as shown in the picture below. If you can prevent water from reaching the vent holes, you minimise the damage. Unplug any connected external USB drive and any other adapters.
Our data shows that in the majority of MacBook liquid damage cases, water had reached to the logic board from the vent holes. This is why blocking the water from the vent holes is first priority. Water also can enter from the gaps of the touchpad, USB ports, charging port, Thunderbolt port and HDMI port. Since these gaps are very small, the water entered is limited.
The MacBook keyboard has an air-tight mechanism with two layers of plastic sheets. The backlight layer of the keyboard also provides extra protection by sealing the keyboard from underneath. It is almost impossible for the water entering directly from the MacBook keyboard to the logic board.
Drain the MacBook while waiting for professional MacBook water damage repair.
You will need to remove the back cover to assist in draining. Turn over the MacBook, you may use a pentagon screwdriver to open the back case cover, or a Phillip screwdriver to open the older models.
There are two methods of draining a water damage MacBook.
The first method is to place the MacBook in the “tent" position. If your Mac laptop is a pre-2018 MacBook Air or a Pre-2013 MacBook Pro with a non-retina screen, this method will work for you. This method is easy and effective on those older MacBook models as the screens are watertight. There is a front aluminium frame ( in MacBook Air ) or a front protective glass ( in MacBook Pro with a non-retina screen) to prevent the water from entering into inside the screen.
However, if you have a MacBook with retina screen, don’t use the “tent" method. In order to make the new retina screens thinner, lighter and maximise the viewable section, Apple got rid of the bulky aluminium frame and protective glass. The new retina screens are NOT water-resistant. If you put this type of screen in “tent" position, you may help to distribute the water from the bottom edge to the optical (reflective) film inside the screen. The affected screen may still be functional, but the watermarks on the background heavily affect the image quality as shown in the photo below. We have seen this done more frequently to water-damaged MacBooks with retina screen, particularly the latest touch bar model. A new retina screen costs between $500 to $1200. So if you have a retina screen, don’t use the “tent" method.
The second method we discuss below can be used for all type of MacBook screens. It will guaranty the water not getting into inside the screen.
Open MacBook lid at an angle of 90 degrees. Place it on the edge of a benchtop with the MacBook screen facing down to the bench and keyboard section hanging over the edge as shown in the photo below. Since the screen lays flat on the table, the water will not move into inside the screen and will be dried up quicker. Protect the screen by putting a kitchen paper towel under the MacBook screen panel and prevent the MacBook from falling over the benchtop.
All mac laptops follow this design layout: the logic board is under the keyboard and the battery is under the touchpad. The gravity will pull the remaining water from the keyboard towards the touchpad section, and finally off the MacBook case. Any water that has already got into the logic board will also be pulled into a less vulnerable section. With the bottom cover removed, the water damage MacBook should be dried within 24 hours.
Warning: If you spilled water on MacBook Air 2018 or MacBook Pro 2016 onwards models, do not open the lid. Once you open the lid, the MacBook will automatically power up again unless you have already disconnected the battery from the logic board. This “automatic powering up" is the new feature of the latest MacBook design. Follow the same procedure to shut down the laptop if you accidentally open it. Disconnecting the internal battery from these new MacBook models is a bit complicated and is beyond the ability of a non-technical person. If you are in this situation, the best thing you can do is just letting the MacBook lie flat with the lid closed and getting it serviced as soon as possible.
Do not shake the water damaged MacBook, particularly if the water is already in the hinge section. Doing this will only spread the water around and force the water into dedicate components such as the BGA balls of the CPU or the backlight film of the screen.
A word on the hairdryer and the legend of using rice.
It has been popular to use uncooked rice and hairdryers to remedy a water-damaged MacBook. We have found rice almost every week in the liquid-damaged MacBooks sent to our store for repair!
There is nothing wrong with using a hairdryer or rice to dry the MacBook, even though it is very inefficient and unnecessary most of the time. The real damage of these legends lies in the idea of turning on the laptop without proper treatment after the drying process.
Get into your nearest store for a complete liquid damage treatment!
If you spilled liquid on your MacBook, we recommend taking it to your nearest Mobilebarn® store ASAP. The longer you wait the less chance you have for the repair of your device.