Cola Spills on Laptop Keyboards – What to Do

Although not directly related to legal research, this post is related to technology and a phenomena I am surprised, in retrospect, did not happen to me earlier. Last week, I spilled a glass of cola on my keyboard and sort of panicked. Set out below is what I learned after the fact that I should have done in response to the spill. In case this information might benefit someone else, read on if interested.

I compiled the ideas below from various Internet searches after the fact; if someone knows of better techniques, please comment.

1) First step, once the spill occurs, immediately unplug the A/C power.

2) Next step, invert the laptop into an “A” frame-type pyramid. This allows liquid to drip down away from underneath the keyboard; this also prevents liquid from being “sucked up” underneath the laptop (in my case, the laptop was on a smooth table and I had not realized how much liquid was underneath it).

3) Pop the battery out or do a hard shutdown. The operating system will not like this but the integrated circuits and electronic hardware will be less likely to short circuit.

4) Next, take out the hard disk drive, CD-ROM drive and any other peripherals that can be easily removed.

Ideally, steps 1 to 4 above should occur in a matter of seconds (it did not for me).

5) Mop off the laptop with paper towels.

6) Next, and this step is not likely recommended by your laptop manufacturer, consider blow drying your laptop with cool air to dry up some of the liquid.

7) Finally, do not be impatient; wait at least 24 hours before trying to re-boot it (I didn’t).

My first mistake was to panic and run around looking for paper towels, leaving the laptop in the “on” mode soaking up all of the liquid.

My laptop did reboot the next day, albeit grudgingly, but the keys were very sticky and not realistically usable, so I sent it off to Dell for a cleaning (or keyboard replacement).


  1. I suggest everyone print out these tips, laminate them, and post them close at hand to the laptop!

    Ted, I could have used this about a couple months ago! I was almost crying over my spilled milk after dumping a whole glass into my beloved Toshiba Tecra laptop. My first reaction was to immediately invert it (completely upside down, not in the “A” configuration) and dump all the milk back out. Then I dried it immediately with compressed air of which I happened to have a can close at hand. I was lucky not to have any short circuiting since I didn’t even think to unplug it or pop out the battery. However, some of the keys were wonky, typing several characters at once.

    I thought for sure I would be shelling out for a whole new laptop, but fortunately my local shop was able to order a new keyboard only. A few days later they were able to pop out the old keyboard and pop the new one in. Cost only about $80 Cdn with parts and labour, so I was very, very lucky. I could have done the installation myself except that they had the secret password and secret URL to the top secret Toshiba instructions which told them which secret tool would get the machine open.

    Steve Matthews will recall my freaking out during the process I’m sure. I almost had him swearing off laptops permanently! I am much calmer now that my laptop is working again, Steve.