Anyone who knows even a little bit about technology will tell you that liquid and electricity don’t mix. It’s often one of the first home safety lessons most of us learn. However, accidents happen, and while most of us probably won’t be taking our controllers or mixers into the shower with us, spilling liquids across expensive DJ tech is a nightmare that sadly comes true pretty often. Modern DJ gear is more protective and easier to manage and maintain than you might think – but if you don’t know how to bounce back from a spillage, you could be at risk of losing your tech for good.
Mixing water with electricity is just a bad idea, full stop. Therefore, it’s so important that you try and keep your mixers, your controllers and your laptops away from anything that’s likely to knock over and drench them. However, gigs are social occasions. People will be drinking, and that means if you’re not careful, the wrong bottle of beer could get knocked into your faders and you’ll wave goodbye to a solid investment.
This doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, water isn’t the death sentence for technology that it once was. However, that doesn’t mean you should get complacent. There are plenty of things you can do once your DJ gear takes a bath, but ultimately, you’re going to need to act with urgency.
In this guide, we’ll take a general look at what you need to do when the worst happens – when any kind of liquid spills over your tech, and you risk losing your mixers, controllers or laptop for good. Read on for the full lowdown.
Why is This Such a Risk?
It’s easy to say that you’re safe around your DJ tech, but, as discussed, accidents happen. It might not even be you that causes an accident. You could turn your back on your decks for a matter of minutes, and the next thing you know, everything starts fizzing. There are plenty of nooks and crannies on DJ tech, meaning that any slight gaps where liquid is likely to travel are going to be your worst enemy.
Here’s a quick science lesson. Electricity depends on positively-charged ions. It’s these particles that help ensure electrical items work internally. Water, however, is a master dissolver. Introduce water molecules to ions, and they will split them apart, rendering the ions useless and free-moving. Therefore, water stands a chance of destroying any internal electricity your equipment depends on, meaning that a big enough splash will completely destroy them. We’re not here to panic you – it’s the simple facts!
The science, of course, goes a bit deeper than this, but we’re here to help you fix your tech. Let’s jump to it and leave the ion talk to the classroom.
Step One – TAKE ACTION
Noticed something spilling onto your tech? Whether or not you see sparks, or smell or hear fizzing, don’t stand around. The slower you react, the less time you have to fix everything. This applies to all types of DJ tech, making this step an essential catch-all move. You need to act as soon as you know liquid has come into contact with any kind of electrical item. Switch everything off and pull out all your cables.
Failure to react quickly means you could be giving your tech a one-way ticket to the bin. Unplug and get ready to dry things off – but how? Let’s break things down item by item.
What To Do if You Spill Liquid on Your Laptop
Your laptop is a complex piece of tech, which means it’s full of all kinds of complex components. Water is going to risk destroying those parts, so get it unplugged and free from any kind of connection. This means USBs, audio cables, power supplies, the works. You must also ensure it is switched off. Even if this means basing your PC without shutting down properly, just do it. Time is short.
Then, flip it over. This is where you’ll need to let the inner components of your laptop drain water away in case there’s anything in the top. Get a cloth and dab away at any external ports and entry points, venting and your keyboard – soak up everything you can. You should also consider using a towel to soak things up completely.
It may also be a good idea to crack into your laptop and to remove your battery. If you have a screwdriver handy, get the backplate off and salvage your power supply. Is there anything damp inside? Dab this off, too.
Depending on the size of your laptop and the size of the accident, you might have to leave your computer to drain and dry for hours at a time. You might even want to leave it overnight, in some cases, just to make sure it is bone dry before you take to the next step. However, around five hours should normally be enough.
Then, you need to brace yourself for the moment of truth – once everything is COMPLETELY dry, you can feel free to plug in and switch back on. However, there’s no guarantee too much damage has already taken place.
Salvaging Your Laptop
Laptops are often more complex than your average mixer or controller, which means while you can probably take a closer look at the inner workings of other DJ equipment yourself, it’s often the best idea to let a computing expert or repair shop take a look at your PC. Most repair shops will know exactly what to do with water damage.
Even if your laptop seems to be working fine after drying off, you may want to be safe rather than sorry. Therefore, as an extra measure, you might do best to take it to a repair expert as soon as possible. Even if no problems are apparent, that doesn’t mean underlying issues can’t pop up in future. Get someone in the know to check it all out and hopefully give you the all-clear.
This is why it’s so important to insure equipment such as laptops! Many insurance policies for gadgets will cover for emergency, accidental water damage. It’s a very common issue. Before this problem ever occurs – if at all – set up a policy.
What To Do If You Spill Liquid on Your Mixer or Controller
For the rest of this guide, we’ll focus on mixers and controllers. These are, naturally, going to be a bit different to laptops, however, the process of salvaging tech might actually seem a little similar. Mixers and controllers are complex beasts, perhaps more than we give them credit for being – and that means you, again, need to act fast.
Unplug everything. That means audio cables, inputs, outputs, the lot. Water damage can travel, which means even connected devices might be at risk if you don’t act fast. Unplug power cables first, and then make sure your mixer is nowhere near the circuit you’ve built for yourself. Take out any other power supplies, too, if you use them.
Then, as with a laptop, flip it upside down. This, again, will make sure that everything can drain out and away from your mixer’s inner circuits. You’re then going to need to grab that towel, and to dry everything off, externally, and leave it to drain for a while. Unfortunately, again, at this stage, it’s touch and go whether or not your mixer is going to survive the ordeal. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up and leave it to perish. It’s worth saving!
Salvaging Your Mixer
It’s time to see if you can save your mixer from its unwanted dip. Once it’s completely dry – again, five, six hours might be enough – you’re going to need to look in the internals. However, doing this could void your warranty or any other kind of product protection you have in place. If your insurance or warranty cover you for water damage – and some might – leave the internal bits and pieces well alone. Otherwise, you might not have a choice.
Get your mixer and controller to a dry, fabric-free zone, and prepare a screwdriver. As we’ve seen in some of our previous guides, a phillips screwdriver is probably going to be the most useful tool you’ll need, but not all tech uses the same screws. Before you do that, in any case, you should be ready to remove anything like caps or faders on the surface. Keep them to one side, and always be gentle. Take photos of parts and where they go if you need to, as otherwise, you might find yourself stuck in a puzzle you can’t solve.
Your equipment may still be wet inside; however, you need to make sure you take anything close to a battery or other kind of power source out of the equation. If you spill beer or any other liquid which is likely to dry sticky, you should take care to remove parts from your mixer or controller and to gently clean them with water. This may not seem like a good idea, but it will ensure that nothing is left to dry or gunk up. Crucially, this is the best step to take to prevent further damage being done further down the line.
Regardless of whether you are handling a mixer or a controller here, it’s time to dry off. Use a gentle hair dryer or similar unit to make sure that all components are dry before you even think about putting anything back together. Then, once you are CERTAIN everything is dry, make sure to carefully reassemble your tech. If you have been smart about this, you will have kept all your parts together and will know where everything goes.
Fixing back up and closing your equipment should be fairly simple. Once everything is dry and reattached, make sure to test your mixer or controller by plugging in. There’s a chance it might have survived the ordeal – if not, you at least did everything you could.
One of the best things we can advise you do is simply protect your devices against anything like this ever occurring again, if at all. It’s not always as easy to do as say. However, you must be vigilant.
Take out gadget insurance. It’s not always likely that manufacturer warranties will cover you for water damage, so shop around. Most gadget insurers know the risks of accidental damage. However, water damage is sometimes hard to prove for being accidental, which is why you won’t always find it covered. However, it’s worth looking around – never say never. An insurance policy – a good one – will request a small excess fee from you if your equipment breaks down, and they may replace it outright. Use an insurance comparison engine if you’re really unsure of what to do for the best.
Otherwise, use cases, unplug your equipment when not in use, and take good care of your tech, here is a complete cleaning guide for your DJ gear and another for cleaning your headphones. If you can avoid it, don’t drink near your mixers or controllers, and certainly keep laptops offer communal or social areas. These devices are big investments, and while they are fantastic when they work well, they are extremely sensitive. It really isn’t worth risking all that internal magic, is it?
Once again, accidents happen. Spilling beer over a DJ controller or laptop can be a nightmare situation. You need to think fast, act fast, and be ready to embrace some bad news. However, liquid spillage won’t always kill tech off for good. You might get lucky – in which case, isn’t it best to try and salvage your gear?
To summarise, here’s what you need to do when you spill beer or liquid on any kind of technology – unplug, power off, grab a towel, drain and dry completely, plug in, unplug, check internal components, and take to a repair shop. There’s no point in panicking – in fact, getting in a flap will likely only make the problems worse! Take it from us – swift action is paramount.