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How to Clean a Laptop Keyboard

written by: Jesma•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/9/2009

The web is filled with hundreds of suggestions for how to clean your laptop's keyboard. Some of them work, and some of them will destroy your laptop! I've compiled the best, proven suggestions and now present them for your consideration.

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    Basic Cleaning

    Keyboards have an uncanny knack for becoming filled with all manner of undesirable knack. Most of it, disgustingly enough, comes off of our own hands. In addition dust and hair tend to find their way into every knook and cranny on a keyboard. You may not know it, but your laptop that you forgot to close the lid on overnight is the perfect place for cats to snooze the night away. In addition to all that, most of us are guilty of eating and drinking while using our laptops and crumbs and drips will inevitably find their way into the keyboard. It's Murphy's Law. As a result of all this, even a relatively new laptop can quickly get sticky and unresponsive keys.

    There are very simple and uninvasive methods you can use to clean your laptop's keyboard. Regardless of what kind of laptop you have, a can of compressed air and a soft lint-free rag will solve most of your keyboard troubles.

    Step One: Hold your laptop, carefully, over a trash can. Better yet, have a friend hold it for you!

    Step Two: From 3-4 inches away, use the compressed air to blow the loose dust and hair out of the keyboard. Holding the can at an angle to the keyboard works best. Be sure not to hold the can upside down as doing so will release yucky chemicals into the air, and worse yet, into your laptop.

    Step Three: Get your soft, lint-free cloth very slightly wet. It should be dry enough that, were you to wipe it across glass, the streaks it leaves would only last a couple of seconds.

    Step Four: With your laptop now on a flat surface, run your cloth across the keys, cleaning the tops of them, as well as depressing each key and cleaning around them to the best of your ability.

    Step Five (optional): If your keyboard is especially dirty, particularly between the keys, you can use a q-tip dampened with a small amount of isopropal alcohol to clean around and under the keys.

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    Variations and Additional Steps

    An alternative, and slightly more effective method, involves removing the keys on your laptop and cleaning underneath them. There is a problem with this, however. Not all laptops are created equally. Some of them have keyboards with keys that can be safely and easily removed. Others don't. Only attempt to remove the keys if you know you can get them back on.

    Step One: Pry off the smaller letter keys with a little flat screwdriver. It is not recommened that you attempt to remove the larger keys. Put all the keys into a container.

    Step Two: Usually there will be a small piece of rubber either under the keys, or lightly attached to the bottom side of the keys. If at all possible, these should be removed and placed in a separate container.

    Step Three: Use a very slightly damp, lint free cloth to clean the keyboard. As an alternative to water you can use a small amount of isopropal alcohol, or a solution of it, instead.

    Step Four: Run the rubber pads under warm water. If they are particularly dirty, you can use a very small amount of normal dish detergent. It is recommended that you plug your sink and use a strainer (collander).

    Step Five: Using a cotton swab, q-tip, or soft cloth, clean each key thoroughly with isopropal alcohol. Be sure not to leave any lint or fuzz behind.

    Step Six: After ensuring that everything is dry and clean, reattach the keys to the keyboard.