How to clean your MacBook keyboard

MacBook Air 2022 lifestyle photos
(Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / iMore)

Whether you own a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, there's one thing you already know: it's an essential tool in your life. Unfortunately, when its keyboard gets dirty, strange things start to happen. Perhaps, for example, a key or two starts to stick or suddenly stops working altogether. Maybe the keys have simply gotten crummy through regular use. Regardless of the situation, in times like these, it's imperative that you clean the laptop's keyboard properly. Here are some recommendations. 

What you shouldn't use to clean your MacBook keyboard

When cleaning your MacBook keyboard, you should avoid certain chemicals, including any liquid that contains acetone or hydrogen peroxide. Window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, ammonia, and abrasives that contain either of those chemicals shouldn't be used near your Mac laptop. Also, never spray a liquid directly on the keyboard, as it could drip below the keys and cause significant damage.

Cleaning your MacBook keyboard: best practices

Apple suggests cleaning a MacBook keyboard with compressed air. This is a terrific place to start if you think an object has dropped underneath and is causing problems. For example, a tiny piece of paper or food. 

To use compressed air, Apple recommends:

  1. Holding your Mac notebook at a 75-degree angle so it's not in the vertical position. 
  2. Using the compressed air, spray the keyboard, or just the affected keys, in a left-to-right motion.
  3. Next, rotate your Mac notebook to its right side and spray the keyboard again, from left to right.
  4. Repeat the action, this time with your Mac notebook rotated to its left side.

MacBook Pro keyboard

(Image credit: iMore)

Keyboards are notorious for collecting or hiding tiny particles; they also like to grab hold of fingerprints and finger oils. When this happens, a can of air isn't going to help. In this case, you should use a mild cleaner. 

We recently explained how to clean a MacBook screen. You can use the same tools to clean a MacBook screen. When COVID-19 arrived in 2020, Apple added a significant disclaimer to its website that noted it was okay to move beyond simply using a damp cloth for cleaning. 

The disclaimer reads:

"Is it OK to use a disinfectant on my Apple product? 

Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe, 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipe, or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces. Don't use products containing bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don't submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents. Don't use on fabric or leather surfaces."

When using an acceptable wipe to clean the keyboard, go over each key individually. and make sure there's no excess liquid that could leak below.

Cleaning your MacBook keyboard: gear to buy

Check the essential tools you need to clean your MacBook Air or MacBook. Our list includes sprays, sanitary wipes, microfiber cloths, and more. You can use these important tools on all the best MacBooks, including the 2022 MacBook Air

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.