How to Clean a Mac Keyboard

Maintain that keyboard and you'll be able to use it for years

Apple extended keyboard.

 Apple

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A clean keyboard is a happy keyboard. But keeping the keys clean and their action snappy can be a bit of a hassle. Whether you’re inheriting someone else’s keyboard, or you’re doing a stem-to-stern deep clean of your work area, here are the best ways to clean your Mac or MacBook keyboard.

Mac laptop
Eric Vega/Getty Images

We’ve provided instructions for doing a quick, surfaces-only cleaning, and a deeper cleaning to get at “the big chunks” that can interfere with the physical action of your keys.

Cleaning a spill? STOP here.

If you're attempting to clean a mess caused by a liquid spill into your keyboard or Macbook, STOP. Unplug the keyboard or shut down your laptop and take it to your friendly neighborhood Apple store or Apple Authorized service center. Liquid messes are beyond the scope of this How To, and powering up your expensive computer before it’s been cleaned by a specialist is a surefire way to short out something very expensive.

Start by gathering up all your gear.

  • Canister or shop-vac with soft brush attachment
  • Old pantyhose (optional)
  • Lint-free cloth or paper towels
  • Cotton ear swabs
  • Isopropyl alcohol - 99% (available at most pharmacies)
  • Canned air (NOTE: take care and read the instructions when using canned air; tipping the can in use may result in propellant spraying out of the can rather than air and harm delicate electronics)
  • Cloth or paper towels to lay down on your work surface

Quickly Clean Surface Grime From Your Mac or Macbook Keyboard

Getting rid of the dirt and oils that accumulate over time keeps your keyboard or laptop looking new, and keeps the grunge from creeping down into your keyboard's switches where it can do real damage.

  1. Start by unplugging your keyboard or shutting down your Macbook.

  2. Turn the keyboard or laptop key-side down and give it a good shake.  To dislodge any loose debris from in between the keys, tap on the edges of the keyboard or your laptop,  too.

  3. Dampen a small area of a dry, clean lint-free cloth or paper towel and gently wipe away the surface dirt and oils that have accumulated on the keys, in between them, on the spacebar, and the trackpad. Turn your cloth or paper towel frequently so that you're removing dirt rather than simply pushing it around.

  4. Use a alcohol-dampened cotton swab to get at corners, small spaces, or loosen stubborn grime.

  5. When using a liquid like isopropyl alcohol, less is definitely more here. Alcohol evaporates quickly, so if you’ve kept your swaps and paper towels damp, you should not need to dry anything off.

Deep Clean The Keyboard For Your Mac, Macbook, or MacBook Pro

Doing a deep cleaning, because keys are sticking, or you can tell that debris has become lodged under a key, is more involved but is easy to do.

Special Warning for MacBook (2015 - 2017 models) & MacBook Pro (2016 - 2017 models)

The ultra-low profile key design on these laptop models create numerous challenges for cleaning debris from under the keys. If your Macbook or Macbook Pro’s keyboard is acting weird — repeating letters, sticky keys, etc. — you should have it serviced under Apple’s Keyboard Service Program.

  1. Start by unplugging your keyboard or shutting down your laptop.

  2. Press each key to ensure that the key caps themselves are all properly seated and snapped in place. This is also a great way to ensure that the action on your keys is consistent, and that key travel isn't being hindered by hidden debris.

  3. Turn your laptop or Macbook key-side down and give it a good shake. To dislodge any loose debris from in between the keys, tap on the edges of the keyboard or laptop too. The object is to shake out as much of the dry, loose crud as possible.

  4. Holding the keyboard at an angle (Apple recommends 75 degrees for laptops), spray your canned air in short bursts in the space between along each row of keys, working left to right, top to bottom.

    Canned air being used to clean a MacBook keyboard.
    Apple
  5. Now turn your keyboard to the right, and blow compressed air in short bursts from edge to edge.

    MacBook turn on its side, being cleaned with short bursts of canned air.
    Apple
  6. Use your canister or shop vac with soft brush attachment and gently brush along your keyboard or laptop to remove any remaining debris.

    A Panty Hose in Time Saves 9

    If any of your keys are loose, or have fallen off previously, cut the foot out of a pair of panty hose and slip it over the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner before turning the vacuum cleaner on. This way, in case a key cap comes loose from the suction of the vacuum cleaner, it will be caught before travelling deep into the recesses of a vacuum bag. And trust us, tearing open a full vacuum cleaner bag to retrieve your 9 key (or any other) creates a much bigger mess that you want to deal with.

  7. Now remove surface dirt and grime using the instructions above.

How Do I Clean My Mac's Bluetooth Keyboard?

Your Mac's no-cable Bluetooth keyboard is near indestructible, and will last for years with just a little preventative maintenance and cleaning. Here's what you need to know.

Apple's wireless Bluettoth peripherals, including Magic Keyboard, Magic Extended Keyboard, Mouse, and Magic Mouse
apple.com 

Before you start, remove your Bluetooth peripheral's batteries.

There's no danger to you, but if the keyboard's batteries are removeable, consider removing the batteries ensures you don't accidentally power up the keyboard up as you're cleaning it. Apple's Magic Keyboards don't have removable batteries, but they do have proper on/off switches, so just switch off the keyboards so you don't wake the keyboard or your Mac.

  1. Similar to cleaning a Macbook keyboard, hold your keyboard sideways (short side up) at an angle and use short bursts of compressed air to blow debris away from the keys. Move from top to bottom.

  2. Clean the key caps, Magic Mouse touchpad, or mouse base with a soft cloth dampened with a small amount of isopropyl alcohol. Take care to keep any moisture from entering any opening.

Are Clean Keyboards Necessary?

It hasn't been proven, and maybe it's just us, but a computer with a clean keyboard just seems to run faster in the same way freshly washed car feels peppier.

Spending a few minutes of preventative cleaning time can make a big difference in the performance of this essential part of your digital technology empire.