The larger of Apple's MacBook Air laptops featuring dual microphones and 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity.

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If I don't use my laptop, will water damage corrode it slowly?

Hi,

Background:

I just got my new Macbook Air around 4 months ago. So I'm pretty sad about my carelessness.

I spilled around 6 ounces of filtered water on my laptop right on the keyboard and hinge while it was running (not plugged in). Basically as soon as the water hit the laptop, it turned off.

I put it in rice and after 48 hours I turned it on and it works perfectly fine from what I can tell except the battery. The battery reads "Repair now" and the laptop doesn't work when not plugged in.

I brought it in to the Apple store with little hope that they would fix it. When they ran their MRI diagnostic test on it, the battery was the only part that returned a negative result. And one sensor that the Apple employee said was related to the battery.

When they went to replace the battery they said there was liquid residue on the logic board, the battery, and the top case and that I would have to replace them all for 750+ dollars.

I asked him if they could just replace the battery since it seemed like that was the only actually damaged part. He said that in liquid damage cases they replace everything in case the other parts are damaged and cause the battery to short.

I asked him what liquid residue looks like. He said corrosion. The reason I asked was because I was curious if for my laptop it was actually being corroded or if there were just mineral deposits left over after the water dried.

I also asked him if he cleaned out the water that was left in the body if any and he said yes, and they also cleaned out any rice they found in it.

Question:

I have several questions but my main one is:

I want to crack open the back and see the damage for myself. I feel like I might be able to just replace the battery and clean the rest with isopropyl alcohol. But I don't have time right now (exam season) but I will in about a week.

If I leave it as is, will it continue to erode? (The Apple guy said that they cleaned out the rest of the water, so I'm just wondering if the mineral deposits or existing corrosion will continue damaging the machine).

My other questions are:

  • Since it immediately turned off when the water hit it, is it likely that only the battery is damaged?
  • Will I be able to tell if it's just mineral deposits or actual corrosion? Or will it for sure just be corrosion?
  • If I replace the battery only, will that be fine? Or is what the Apple employee said true--that I have to replace everything in case they cause the battery to short?

Next Steps:

  • Invest in a water bottle designed for the clumsy (one that requires you to suck out the water).
  • Order the right screwdriver to open my mba up.
  • Check out the damage. Google a bunch / search ifixit to help diagnose what corrosion looks like.
  • Clean corrosion with isopropyl alcohol. Let it dry
  • Put all the parts back into the laptop.
  • Run computer to see if it works as it did before I cleaned it.
  • Order battery and replace the battery.

Thanks a bunch!

Grace

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Comments:

@oldturkey03: Why would placing it in the fridge in a plastic bag help slow down corrosion?

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@Grace, because of the factors that cause corrosion. These are Temperature, Humidity, and Corrosive elements. By keeping the item in the fridge, you will have a more controlled environment (i.e. decreased humidity) that will slow down (not halt) the process of corrosion. ..:-)

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Just throwing this out there, if it was really purified water, I don't believe it would leave residue.

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Since this was "filtered" water it will still have dissolved minerals in it that will be conductive. Even if the water was distilled just being in contact with metals on the circuit board will allow conductive ions to dissolve in the water. The presence of electricity on the circuit board will exacerbate the problem through galvanic action.

References:

http://www.tc-11.com/understanding_corro...

Soft start - this is a pdf from TI but it will serve to show you that the soft start voltage runs throughout the circuits. Search "soft":

http://www.ti.com/lit/sl/slyy016a/slyy01...

A final note if the battery is left connected after a liquid incident the severity of the damage depends on where the liquid is touches the logic board. I managed to save my daughters iPhone after it went through the washing machine but I got it 20 minutes after it came out. Another one I couldn't save I got 3 weeks after the fact.

Read through my earlier post.

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Here's my standard blurb about a water incident:

"Whenever a liquid spill occurs the first thing that has to happen is the laptop should be shut down immediately. All power must be removed as soon as possible.

It is especially important that the battery be disconnected. The quicker this is done the more chance there is of saving your Mac.

No attempt should be made to start/restart the computer since this could potentially damage the logic board beyond all repair.

The logic board should be run in an cycling ultrasonic cleaner.

Liquid can wick under the large chips on the board and cause havoc for weeks if not months.

The logic board should be placed in a drying/dehumidifying oven for at least 4 hours. After that the board should be washed with anhydrous alcohol 99% and dried in a drying oven for around 8 hours. The keyboard is an entirely separate matter!"

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Deck the Halls
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Grace, yes it will continue to corrode until all the humidity is removed. For now I suggest that you place the MBA in a plastic bag in your fridge, not your freezer. This will slow down to rate of corrosion until you have time to repair/look at it. Yes it is possible that it is only your battery, but anything for now is strictly academic. you will have to open it up and clean it properly. You are on the right track with your next steps. Only thing I would suggest is that you switch the last two steps. Get a new battery first, then run the computer. Until you have it cleaned, do not try to start it up etc. Minimize the potential to further damage your computer. Hope this helps, good luck on your exams :-).

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Okay. I have read on several forums that it will continue to corrode, BUT I asked an honest apple "genius" yesterday about this same issue. I, too, spilled water directly on the keyboard, and she was adamant that if it was just water and all of it dried, then nothing would corrode or not at an irregular pace or anything.

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Whenever a liquid spill occurs the first thing that has to happen is the laptop should be shut down immediately. All power must be removed as soon as possible. 

It is especially important that the battery be disconnected and removed. The quicker this is done the more chance there is of saving your Mac.

No attempt should be made to start/restart the computer since this could potentially damage the logic board beyond all repair or at the very least increase the number of components that need replacement. Read that as $$$$..

All affected parts must be removed from the laptop and carefully and closely inspected. Any involved area should be marked for special treatment.

All affected parts would be washed in deionized water in an cycling ultrasonic cleaner and blown dry with compressed air. .

This is especially true of the large chips on the logic board. Liquid can wick under them and cause havoc for weeks if not months and years after the incident, depends on the liquid. In the case of something sweet, sugars are hydroscopic (I.E. attract water out of the air.) so corrosion of delicate connections will continue until the substance is removed completely.

The logic board should be placed in a drying/dehumidifying oven for at least 8 hours. Longer depending on the spill.The keyboard is a separate matter.

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Hi, Grace how was your computer? did the corrosion continue? I have a similar issue with a iphone 6, I will appreciate any help, sorry for my bad english, thanks.

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Grace will be eternally grateful.
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