How to Keep Your Mac Keyboard and Mouse Clean

Cleaning and Spill Recovery Tips for Your Keyboard and Mouse

Macbook Pro Laptop on the desk

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The day you unpacked and started working with your new Mac marked the day your Mac's keyboard and mouse or trackpad were working at their best. From that day forward, little bits of grime, dust, and dirt have been building up on these often-used peripherals. The buildup of gunk slowly causes your mouse to feel less responsive and may even cause your keyboard to miss a key click or two now and then.

It's fairly easy to restore a keyboard and mouse to like-new condition. All that's needed is a bit of cleaning and attention.

These instructions apply to mice, trackpads, and keyboards used with Apple computers.

Cleaning Supplies

Start by turning off your Mac and unplugging the mouse, trackpad, and keyboard if they are wired. If your keyboard, mouse, or trackpad is battery powered, remove the batteries.

Have the following items on hand:

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Can of pressurized air (with straw on nozzle)
  • Clean water (It doesn't need to be purified or distilled, just clean)
  • Cotton swabs or similar cleaning products
  • Toothpicks or similar items

Cleaning Your Mac's Mouse

No matter what type of mouse you use, the body is cleaned in a similar manner to remove any oils, such as fingerprints.

  1. Wipe the mouse body with the microfiber cloth.

  2. For stubborn spots, dip the cloth in the clean water and rub the mouse gently.

  3. Apply pressure to scrub dirty spots on the mouse. Just don't apply pressure near any scroll wheel, cover, or tracking system.

Don't apply water directly to the mouse because it may drip into the mouse's inner workings where sensitive electronics reside.

Some mouse types require additional attention.

Mighty Mouse

If you use an Apple Mighty Mouse, the scroll ball also needs to be cleaned. Slightly dampen the microfiber cloth and roll the scroll ball against the cloth. You can also use a cotton swab to clean the scroll ball.

When the scroll ball is clean, use the can of pressurized air to blow out dust and dirt from inside the well where the scroll ball sits. This also serves to dry the scroll ball after you've cleaned it.

Magic Mouse

If you have an Apple Magic Mouse, cleaning is vastly simplified. After you clean the touch surface with a wet or dry microfiber cloth, run the microfiber cloth along the two guide rails on the bottom of the Magic Mouse.

If your Magic Mouse seems to have tracking errors, that is, the mouse pointer stalls or jumps about, use the can of pressurized air to clean around the tracking sensor on the bottom of the Magic Mouse.

Other Mice

If you use a third-party mouse, follow the manufacturer's suggested cleaning instructions and clean your mouse. In general, use a microfiber cloth to clean the exterior of the mouse. If the mouse has a scroll wheel, you may find that it routinely becomes clogged with gunk. Use cotton swabs to clean the scroll wheel and the can of pressurized air to clean around the scroll wheel.

In the worst cases, you may need to open the mouse to access the optical sensor in the scroll wheel system. Not all mice are easily opened up, and some are difficult to put back together once opened. Don't perform mouse surgery unless you already have a replacement mouse available and don't mind looking for that little spring that sailed across the room.

Apple Trackpad

If you use a trackpad rather than a mouse, you'll find they are even easier to clean:

  1. Remove the batteries from a wireless trackpad. If you use a wired trackpad, unplug it. If the trackpad is built in to your laptop, turn off the laptop and unplug it if it is plugged in.

  2. Moisten a clean microfiber cloth with water and use it to clean the flat surface of the trackpad.

  3. Dry the trackpad with a dry microfiber cloth.

Don't spray any liquid on the trackpad.

Cleaning an Apple Wireless or USB Keyboard

To clean a Mac keyboard:

  1. Unplug the keyboard from your computer or remove the batteries from a wireless keyboard.

  2. Clean the keyboard surface using a microfiber cloth. Wrap a toothpick with a single layer of the microfiber cloth to clean between the keys.

  3. For stubborn surfaces, dampen the cloth with clean water, but take care not to get moisture in any openings. Never spray liquid on the keyboard.

  4. Use the can of pressurized air to blow out any additional debris from around the keys.

About Keyboard Spills

Keyboards and liquids don't get along. If you spell water or liquid on a keyboard, turn it off or unplug it immediately. Wipe off any visible liquid and flip it upside down to drain on a soft cloth for at least 24 hours before attempting to use it. You may or may not need a new keyboard.

If the spill is on a laptop keyboard, turn off the laptop immediately and take the computer to an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider for repair. The entire computer is at risk.

Cleaning a Stuck Key on a Laptop

When your MacBook or MacBook Pro keyboard has an unresponsive key or one that sticks when you press it, bring out the compressed air with the straw attached to its nozzle for precision control.

  1. Hold the laptop at an angle so the keyboard is close to vertical.

  2. Spray the keyboard (or a single stuck key) with the compressed air in a left-to-right and back zig-zag pattern.

  3. Rotate the Mac laptop 90 degrees to its right side and spray the keyboard or key with compressed air again moving in a zig-zag pattern.

  4. Rotate the laptop 180 degrees to its left side and repeat the spraying process.

This process works on any peripheral keyboard as well.

Apple recommends you take your keyboard to an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider for service if the compressed air doesn't fix the stuck-key problem.