If you have noticed that you have to press hard on the keyboard of your MacBook ($ 490 with Amazon) for it to work, you may have sticky key syndrome. This happens when dust, crumbs or other sludge gets stuck under a key and prevents it from being pressed easily. It is annoying and ensures that you cannot work as efficiently as you could.
If your first instinct is to reach for a can of compressed air to clean under those keys, you are on the right track. But you don't just want to aim and shoot because you might miss a part of the hidden debris or put it further under the key.
We will show you a technique that works well and helps you to prevent emptying a whole can of air for nothing. However, if you find that there is no slurry underneath, you may have a dead key, which is a bigger problem for you as Apple needs to replace the keys (which can take a few days). Here's how to find out.
1. Ensure that the straw is properly attached
When you purchase a can of compressed air, a thin straw is stuck to the side of the can. Make sure you click it into the mouthpiece before you start and make sure it fits properly. If it fails while you start, you have to place it again.
2. Turn off your laptop and unplug the power cord
Before you begin spraying your keyboard with compressed air, ensure that the laptop is turned off and disconnected. You do not want to accidentally press buttons that can delete important documents or type some random characters if you disturb the keys during cleaning. You also don't want that cable to get in your way.
3. Turn your laptop upside down
To remove loose debris or crumbs, turn your laptop upside down and tap the bottom lightly. That means less work that the compressed air has to do.
4. Position your MacBook correctly
Make sure you hold your MacBook at a 70-degree angle instead of vertically. This is so that the dirt can neatly fall out and away from your keyboard. The last thing you want to do is let the gunk fly under a different key.
5. Start spraying
Continuously press the mouthpiece for an even flow and slowly spray the compressed air over your keyboard in a methodical zigzag pattern. Save the short bursts for on-site inspection after you have performed a thorough cleaning. Start with the key on the top left and stop at the last key on the bottom right so that you don't miss a spot.
6. Place your MacBook on the left
Use the same zigzag pattern and spray the keys again. This time you start with the fn (function) key.
7. Turn your MacBook to the right side
Use the zigzag pattern again to spray your keyboard with compressed air. Start with the top right key – this varies depending on the MacBook model you use. It can be the on / off key or remove the key.
8. Wipe away or vacuum off any remaining pieces
If visible crumbs are still on your keyboard, use a small vacuum tool to remove them. Once you've done that, wipe your keys well with an electronic cleaning cloth. Ditto the floor or surface on which the slurry has fallen.
9. What not to do
Never spray liquid on your keyboard. This can cause water damage and cause you a worse situation than the keys. Use a damp cotton swab instead to gently clean the keys or an electronic cleaning cloth.
If you have a butterfly keyboard, do not relentlessly pry the keys, as this can damage the butterfly clip mounts. Instead, place a thin, flat tool under the edge of the key and carefully lift it up.
10. No luck? Visit the nearest Apple Store
If your keys still do not work after cleaning from all directions, there may be a much larger problem that may prevent your keyboard from working. Make an appointment to visit your nearest Apple Store to have your MacBook serviced by the Genius Bar. Apple employees can determine if the key needs to be replaced and can give you the estimated time required for this.
If you do not live near an Apple Store, you can email your MacBook to the Apple Repair Center. Apple maintains your MacBook keyboard for free if it is one of the eligible models that are known to have sticky keys.
Do you want to know how to properly clean your other electronic devices? See.