Fascinating Factoid: Spilled Coffee Pools on Keyboard Keys

coffeecoveredkeyboard.jpg
I just spilled coffee all over my computer keyboard. While horrified at the damage, I was fascinated to see how the coffee pooled in the middle of the keys.

I’ve never seen the like before.

It’s an Apple keyboard. The keys have a glossy finish and are slightly depressed in the center. Of course, most of the coffee drained off the keys and collected in the keyboard’s base, which is made of transparent plastic. I wish i’d got a picture of that. It looked like one of those paperweights filled with oil and water, but in this case, it was a muddy brown liquid. But the coffee drained out when I turned it over.

I shall run the keyboard through the dishwasher to see if that myth works.

Related
  • Nick

    wow that is funny…I spilt an energy drink all over my Apple keyboard at work yesterday and had to go out at lunch and buy a new keyboard on lunch. Thinking about it now, I believe I got the little pools on the keys too. Time to get used to the new Apple keyboard I suppose

  • Chris Burke

    same thing happened to me a while ago, my cat knocked over a bottle of Dr Pepper… i was unaware of this myth but have looked into it… seems to work. what did I do to fix my apple keyboard? took it apart piece for piece (ALL OF IT, circuit board and everything) soaked it all in water, cleaned it, dried it, and it worked perfect, so i cant see why it wouldnt work..make sure you post to let us know if it worked…

  • Beschizza

    Exact same thing happened to me, but with tea.

    Dishwasher killed it — I suspect because of the USB hub component.

  • Thom

    The dishwasher seems a little drastic – the water can get very hot.

    Try running it under a tap for a while, and then simply dry it on a radiator for a couple of days. It worked last time I spilled a full cup of sweet tea on mine.

    Also, it was a good excuse for cleaning out all the fluff etc which build up and makes the keyboard look gross.

  • AaronS

    You can run it through the dish washer: http://www.coudal.com/keywashe

  • Tim

    I second the hand-washing. It really shouldn’t take more than a quick rinse with warm water to get the sugary coffee off the important surfaces of your keyboard, and you could minimize the extra water going into places you don’t want it to go. I think it’s at least worth trying the first method before you go with the dishwasher. Then again, maybe you just needed a good excuse to upgrade your keyboard.

  • timh

    I’ve also done this, but with beer instead. I agree the dishwasher sounds much too hot and wet (get yer mind out of the gutter!) . Rinsing under the tap and drying with a hairdryer worked for me.

  • angus Shangus

    slow mac night huh????

    How about a guess on iphone/ipod touch firmware 1.1.3′s release if a coffee stained keyboard are all u can come up with? ;-)

  • Tim

    AaronS, your link doesn’t really provide an overwhelming amount of evidence for being able to wash any old keyboard in the dishwasher. It does point out that keyboards made to get wet can be dishwashed, but then it has comments from Microsoft saying that they do not recommend throwing the thing in the dishwasher. I think the overwhelming response has been to not dishwash it, so I guess it’s just up to Leander to decide what he wants to do.

  • peter

    ive had this happen twice before, the first time my brand new pizmo, a friend spilled a beer on it the first day but had the presence of mind to grab his vacuum. one whole beer and alot of vacuuming later it worked. i copied him later after i spilled coffee on my new macbook. yes, if you get on it fast enough and spend a great deal of time vacuuming it you too will succeed.

  • imajoebob

    Avoid the dishwasher. It’s (too) hot – these things have their own water heaters built-in – and isn’t gentle, even on the gentle cycle. Run it under warm tap water, then air dry. Take your time if you use cream and sugar (extra sticky). Use a can of air to blow out between the keys and under the bottom. If water splashes up, you’re (obviously) not done. If you’re really paranoid, do a final rinse in alcohol, which will evaporate residual moisture from the boards.

  • Fardd

    Fascinating… I’m fascinated…
    Is it true that a brand new Keyboard will be released in January 2008???
    Fardd
    http://www.middle-empire.com

  • Peter

    Had a similar incident with kids and milk over the keys; water rinsing, hot-air drying followed by two days of slow drying had the keyboard working – for a few days… and then the asterix key went nuts. I replaced it with the new Apple keyboard and now I wish I had spilled stuff over the old keyboard sooner. The new one is *very* nice.

  • Clifford

    I stuck one of the black key / transparent underneath keyboards that came with the last of the G4 towers in the bathtub for a few minutes after I spilled coffee on it, then let it dry out really well. Everything works except for the left hand side command key.

    Actually… come to think of it, I’ve done it to that keyboard twice! Worked perfectly the first time.

  • Fery

    Mi son one time droped soda on it and did nothing when i got home i had a very sticky keyboard, thinking it was fried and since i have no dish washer i washed mi pro keybard in my washing machine, thats correct, washing machine, i first let it rest with warm sopy water, after a couple of hours with the lid open and with one hand on the keyboard and the other on the switch of the washer presed, 10 minutes later, whala, good as new, i have done this 3 times
    before the key boer died, honest.

  • Gary

    As an IT guy at a notoriously cheap publishing company in NYC, I had to try everything to resurrect any broken component. The best luck I had with sticky keyboards, and I had a lot, was to dunk then completely in lukewarm water (except the wire, of course). Just swish it around a few times, drain it, and let air dry for a couple of days until you are sure it is completely dry before plugging it back in. A dishwasher seems far too harsh, especially on the connector.

  • Jeff

    My keyboards wear “condoms” (ProtecT Covers) for safe typing…and the occasional “accident.”

    Ever since Apple had the hairbrained, albeit beautiful idea with the “breast” iMac—all white—I think everyone who reads a newspaper or magazine, and then uses their unprotected keyboards, most certainly have ink buildup that maybe even the dishwasher might have trouble with. Unless you added some bleach?

  • AJ

    Why was this worth writing about? Why did you need to tell everyone that liquid pooled in concave keys? did that surprise you THAT much? I can understand a short post on ruining the keyboard and then an update on trying to fix it with the dishwasher method (which worked for me on a wireless non-apple keyboard BTW) but this is a worthless post! i thought you might have something cool or actually fascinating about how your keyboard wasnt ruined because the concave design kept the liquid out, but no, i clicked through to a useless blog post and got so pissed i wrote this rant that no one will care about. jeez, don’t waste your readers time in the future.

  • David

    Leander’s post was 128 words. AJ’s rant (above) about what a waste of time Leander’s post was is 122 words. I guess a comment 95% as long as the post is not a waste of time in AJ’s eyes.

  • Andrew DK

    I don’t know if this will help but I accidentally put my (working) Apple remote through the washing machine and it still works perfectly fine.

  • leigh

    Dishwasher ought to be fine. Do **NOT** use detergent. That stuff is caustic and will cause some of the circuits to oxidize.

  • miss_lain

    I have the exact keyboard I use with my iMac, but in awesome bluetooth. Love it. Luckily, no spills so far. I use a keyboard condom on my other keyboards, but this one is too nice to cover.

  • wrk

    Don’t want to seem like an english-nazi here, but you didn’t use the word factoid correctly. A factoid is something that isn’t true, but is repeated so much that it is taken to be true. The whole “small interesting bit of knowledge” definition that so many people come to use is incorrect. So in some ways, the usage of factoid is itself kind of a factoid!

  • anna

    I spelled on mine too – that keyboard ended up becoming a wallet, an earring holder, blank keys for an Apple pro daskeyboard, and the transparent part is a stand for laptop – looks better and works better than iCurve. I still have the silicone cones from under the keys to use them with something…
    (random projects of one keyboard http://flickr.com/photos/zisa/

  • Robert

    Had the same thing happened. Immediately flushed with rubbing alcohol. Flipped upside down and let dry 24 hrs.

    Good as new.

    Alcohol evaporated much faster and does not promote rust.

  • That Guy

    A dishwasher? Are you kidding? How lazy are you? Don’t you know that most modern dishwashers have a heating coil that can fry a lot of plastic that is not rated “dishwasher safe”? Just take it apart and wash it with soapy water or even better 91% isopropyl alcohol (available at any pharmacy store like CVS or Walgreens). Then let dry completely before reassembling and reattaching. This will work in all cases where the circuitry has not already been fried due to the device not being removed from its power source quickly enough after the initial spill, or corroded by the initial spill (unlikely). The big mistake most people make is reconnecting their gear before it has been completely dried (which might take several days, depending upon the circumstances), or not cleaning their gear completely (which might require a level of disassembly uncomfortable to most folks) before reconnecting it. I’ve spilled a lot of liquids on a lot of gear over the past two decades, and I’ve never lost a piece of equipment other then when I ignored my own advice (posted above).

About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in Hardware |