How to clean your laptop keyboard

How to clean your laptop keyboard

With the pandemic likely making you more conscious of germs and maybe even viruses, are you wondering how you can clean your laptop keyboard? Even if you’re not that serious about cleanliness, maybe one specific keycap got stuck and isn’t working, or perhaps your keyboard is feeling sticky and full of oils and debris.

The good news is that cleaning your laptop keyboard is actually very easy. There are a couple of different ways you can tidy it up. We’ll cover basic methods involving a simple wipedown, to more sophisticated methods like removing keys. We have your back with this guide, but we do have a warning first. Please, always make sure you unplug your laptop from power and turn the device off before proceeding with any of these steps. You don’t want to risk damage to your laptop.

XDA VIDEO OF THE DAY

What you’ll need

Compressed air – A compressed air can will help blow away debris that might be lodged under the keys. It’s also safe for your laptop’s keyboard. You can find this online, or at an office supplies store.

A damp microfiber cloth – Microfiber is a soft type of cloth that is typically used in cleaning electronics. It can pick up dust and debris that could be in between your keys. Be sure to lightly dampen the cloth with water (not soak it) so it’ll be extra easy to pick up dust.

Isopropyl alcohol – This agent is great for disinfecting surfaces and killing germs. It can also remove the sticky feeling from a dirty keyboard. It’s also safer than water on electronics. Make sure it’s rated at 70%, which is safe for electronics at the surface level.

Cottom ball or cotton swabs – You can use these in combination with the alcohol to swab down spots on your keyboard. Make sure to not soak them through, and just lightly dip these materials in the liquid.

A smartphone camera – If you end up removing keys, the camera will be useful for taking a picture and knowing how to put them back.

Step 1: A simple clean

To begin the process of cleaning your laptop keyboard, we suggest a simpler clean. This involves unplugging the laptop from any power, turning it over, and shaking it. Here’s more on the process.

  1. Turn your laptop off and make sure it’s disconnected from any power source
  2. Hold the laptop in both your hands in the air and shake it around, this will dislodge bigger materials or debris that might be trapped inside your device’s keyboard.

Usually, shaking the laptop around with it turned on the side should help remove whatever is trapped in the keyboard. If that doesn’t work and you can still see things under the keycaps, or feel sticky keys, then you can move on to the next step.

Step 2: Use compressed air

This second step is one that addresses a dirty keyboard or stuck keys. In fact, Apple suggested this as a workaround for stuck keys on the butterfly keyboard on older MacBook models. You’ll be using compressed air which can blow debris or dust out of your keyboard’s keycaps.  Just be careful to not spray the can upside down.

  1. Insert the straw into the compressed air can
  2. Hold the compressed air can up close to your laptop keyboard, pull or press on the trigger to activate the can (depending on the model of the can), and point it towards the region under the keycaps on your keyboard.
  3. In a swift motion, keep spraying and releasing the air, and make your way around the keyboard deck until you’ve covered all areas

Once you use the compressed air, any large pieces of debris and dust should be removed from your keyboard. You can now move to the next step and focus on cleaning the keycaps.

Step 3: Clean the keycaps and keyboard deck with a damp microfiber cloth

Another step in the cleaning process involves cleaning down the keyboard with a damp microfiber cloth. This will remove oils and residue, and smaller dust particles that the compressed air might have missed.

  1. Lightly dampen the microfiber cloth with water. Do not soak the cloth, make sure the flow of water coming out of the faucet isn’t strong.
  2. Take the cloth and lightly rub down your keyboard deck. Make sure the cloth is getting in between the keycaps, in addition to the keycaps themselves.
  3. Repeat the process, and keep rubbing the keys. Then when finished, let your laptop dry.

Now that you’ve wiped down the keyboard deck, most of the dust and debris should be gone. But we still have a suggestion for even deeper cleaning.

Step 4: Use Isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs or cotton balls

In this step, you’ll be using some additional tools like isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs or cotton balls. This will truly remove germs and oils from your keyboard and also leave it feeling nice and clean.

  1. Lightly dip the cotton swab or cotton ball in the alcohol solution. It should not be fully soaked, but just lightly wet.
  2. Rub the swab or ball all around the keyboard deck, covering the sides of the keys, while also making sure that it’s covering all of the surfaces.
  3. When done, let the keyboard dry a bit.

This should generally be the last step in cleaning. It should have cleaned the keyboard and the keycaps, but if your keyboard still isn’t clean, move on to the last step.

Step 5 (Optional:) Remove Keys to clean if your keyboard allows for it

This last step isn’t for everyone which is why we saved for last. It’s only for advanced users and in a worst-case scenario. Also, not all keyboard keycaps can be removed. So it’s best to check with your laptop maker first and search for the process online before going to this step.

  1. Take a picture of your keyboard so you know where to put the keys back
  2. Gently pry up on the keys using your fingernails or a flat tool to remove them.
  3. Place the keycaps on a surface in the same order that you took them out.
  4. Wipe down the surface of the keyboard deck using a microfiber cloth, or cotton swabs or cotton balls dipped in alcohol as we described above. This is the area with the rubber keycap domes exposed. Let the surface dry after wiping
  5. When done, replace the keycaps, making sure that they snap into place.

Again, this is a very extreme step which we do not suggest you get to at all. Usually, following steps one through four should be enough.

Conclusion

Following all these steps should leave you with a clean and working keyboard. If all else fails, you can contact the maker of your laptop for support. Keyboard damage or failure isn’t typically covered under warranty, but they might be able to help guide you through a cleaning process just like we did.

About author

Arif Bacchus
Arif Bacchus

I have over six years of experience covering Microsoft, Surface, Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS news and rumors for sites like Digital Trends and OnMSFT. I also write laptop reviews and how-to guides. I am a Microsoft fan and I have a drawer full of PCs and other devices. You can follow and interact with me on Twitter if you want to chat!

We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.