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RobinJI

Getting a bad smell out of a Laptop.

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Ok, I know this is a bit strange, but I need to do something about it! 

I work for a company that imports, installs, maintains and sometimes manufactures waste management equipment. I'm a design engineer, so 90% of my time's in the office drawing machines for squishing, squeezing or mashing stuff, but on Friday I had to go and help with an installation. Sadly this one happened to be in a biogas generating plant. These places are basically swimming in decomposing food waste, they're foul, the smells wretch-inducingly bad, and it lingers. Most of the stuff we used can be wiped down, or thrown in the washing machine and everything's fine again, you'd never know you'd been there. However it came to light that the guys didn't really have enough in the way of drawings of the kit we were fitting, and with the clock ticking I had to resort to loading the CAD model up on my laptop so we could get the info we needed as we went. Stupidly, to save a lot of time, I did this in the back of our truck, inside the foul smelling building, and as a result my nice one month old design work-station took a few gulps of stinky air now has a distinctive aroma of rancid food waste. 

I've wiped down all the wipe-able surfaces with disinfectant, but I can't really wipe down the insides. I've tried leaving it next to a curry I was cooking with it rendering something complex so the fans were at full-pelt, and it was breathing in a load of curry smell, but it hasn't shifted the stench. 

All I can think to do is spray something like oust or fabreeze through it, but I'm a bit cautious about spraying anything into a fair bit of money's worth of nearly new laptop. Does anyone know is these kind of products could cause any harm to the insides of a laptop? 

 

TLDR: I took a laptop somewhere smelly, now it smells, how do I get the stink out of it without taking it apart or risking causing any corrosion. 

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I wouldn't want to go using a particulate spray like Febreeze, but cans of compressed air are often used for cleaning out computers (mainly of dust mind) so get the compressor rigged up and give it a blow through - ideally at lowish pressures and without an inline oiler/similar though (Y)

Edit; In terms of my qualifications to advise on this sort of thing, I've never had shitparticles infiltrating a machine, but back during nuclear course I got blackout drunk and woke up to find about a litre of mixed drinks flooding the insides of my laptop. Took it apart, rinsed through with distilled water, thoroughly dried it out and I'm writing this from it a couple of years later so I do have some experience of getting shit out of them :lol:

Edited by Luke Rainbird
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How dusty is the heat sink likely to be? Any build up on there and the fan will hold onto the smell.

Try dusting bicarb through the vents with the fan running, leave it to stand for a while and blast / hoover it out. I would strip it to check you get it all out.

Working in sewage treatment stuff does get smelly but normally stops fairly quickly when cleaned. Possibly try spraying with ipa whilst stripped?

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The laptop's literally a month old, which is why I'm cautious to do anything like take it apart. Usually that's the first thing I'd do, and I've stripped down my old personal laptop a couple of times to clear out dust and replace heat-transfer paste, but I'm more hesitant with one that's brand new and 5 times the price! I don't want to do anything that could invalidate the warranty. 

The heat sinks are quite easy to see down and they look perfectly clear (it's a dell Precision 7720.) The place we were working was very damp with a lot of moisture in the air, which I'm sure is what has carried the smell into it, and cooked it onto the heat sinks. (the model was from a supplier and they'd exported it in about the most memory-hungry way imaginable, so the laptop was working hardish). It's got better over the last few days with some use, but I'd still like to find a safe way to deal with this smell if anyone knows one. 

Luke, I'll definitely blow the air line through it at low pressure next time I head to the workshop. I can't really think of anything else that isn't a risk! 

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Don't blow it out with an airline, compressed air is often static charged which is the last thing you want near your laptop. Buy a can of compressed air cleaner and blow it through with that :)

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Ah, fair enough, I won't do that then! 

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I use a inflatable bed pump to blow out the rads and case on my pc, always have through-out my pc building life. You can take it apart and wash it in isopropyl alcohol, ive tried resurrecting a motherboard and gpu after a pint of pepsi spilt into my pc, which saved the motherboard (kind of) but not the gpu, you can use cottonwall to rub down all the parts and then let it evaporate overnight, rebuild and voila. Chances are, is a fabric filter or keybaord membrane holding the smell.

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Just hang a car air freshener over the screen...

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Shame you couldn't take the screen off and leave it in the freezer for a few days.

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Thanks for the extra tips guys. I'm happy to say that time's done its job and the laptop's lost it's stench all by its self. I'll be well armed next time I have to take it to a food waste site though! 

JT, smelling the way it did there would have been no chance of me putting it anywhere near a container meant for food! :lol:

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