How to Clean a Sticky Keyboard Without Removing the Keys

By Ameera Mills. Updated: January 21, 2021
How to Clean a Sticky Keyboard Without Removing the Keys

Typing on a sticky keyboard can be very frustrating. You make typos, you can't type in passwords and some become so stuck you can't press them at all. As part of maintaining your computer and laptop, you should clean your keyboard regularly. If you don't, you will let dirt build up and you will end up with sticky keys. Similarly, if you drink when working, spilled soda on a laptop keyboard causes sticky keys. Many suggest removing all the keys to clean a mechanical keyboard, but there are ways to do it without this labor intensive method.

Keep reading here at oneHOWTO for more about how to clean a computer or laptop keyboard without removing the keys. There are different ways to fix sticky keys, so see which is the best one for you.

You may also be interested in: How to Type the Euro Symbol on a PC and Mac

How to clean a sticky USB keyboard without removing the keys

A mechanical desktop computer keyboard is easier to clean as it can be disconnected from the USB port. Cleaning a laptop keyboard is a little trickier, so we show you how to do that below. Unplugging a mechanical USB keyboard allows us to handle it with more ease and move it around, which is not the case with a laptop or MAC. Follow these tips on how to clean a mechanical keyboard:

  • Turn it over: the easiest method of cleaning a mechanical keyboard is to flip it over and shake it lightly. This should force all of the crumbs, food scraps, lint, etc. inside of the keyboard to fall out. After turning it over, you can wipe it with a damp cloth to remove any remaining dust.
  • Vacuum the keyboard: you can clean a mechanical keyboard using a small keyboard vacuum. If you don’t have one, you can use a small sofa vacuum on its lowest power program to suck up any dust remnants.
  • Brush between the keys: if your keyboard is not very dirty, you can dust it with a keyboard cleaning brush. You can also opt to wipe it lightly with a microfiber cloth.

  • Use an air spray: you can find aerosols with just air inside designed to clean hard to reach places. They are ideal for cleaning keyboards without removing the keys as you can just put the nozzle in the spaces between them. The force of the air should remove any loose dirt, although it may not be effective with dried on stains such as spilled soda.
  • Clean the keyboard with alcohol: the above keyboard cleaning methods are effective if your keyboard is not very dirty and has loose dirt. However, they are not always the best with sticky keys. You can use isopropyl to get rid of grease on a sticky keyboard. Apply the alcohol (diluted in a little water) onto a cloth or cotton swab and carefully clean each key individually. This is the best cleaning method when it comes to effectively disinfecting a keyboard. Dip a cotton bud in the solution to clean between the keys.

  • Antibacterial wipe: one of the most effective ways to clean soda spills or other sticky keys on a keyboard is to use an antibacterial wipe. It won't be wet enough to damage the keyboard, but you can press down on the keys and use it to get in between them and remove stains effectively.

For more, we recommend reading our article where discuss how to clean a computer screen.

How to Clean a Sticky Keyboard Without Removing the Keys - How to clean a sticky USB keyboard without removing the keys

How to clean a laptop keyboard without removing the keys

Cleaning a laptop or laptop keyboard is more or less the same as cleaning a mechanical keyboard. However, the keys are usually much flatter and harder to get in between. This means you likely won't be able to shake the dirt clean. Cleaning dirt particles with compressed air will also be trickier, although you should give it a try.

Although difficult, you can clean a laptop keyboard without removing the keys. You may need to employ a little more patience.

Firstly, turn the laptop off a remove it from the mains adaptor. Lightly moisten a toothpick with water and remove any obvious dirt particles between the keys. As soon as you’ve finished doing this, make sure to dry off any moisture with a dry cloth to avoid computer damage. Don't forget to do this before plugging it in again, otherwise you could short the machine.

You can also clean your laptop keyboard by removing the keycap with a wire keycap puller tool. Be careful when choosing this option as it means you will have to then replace the keycap.

How to Clean a Sticky Keyboard Without Removing the Keys - How to clean a laptop keyboard without removing the keys

How to clean a sticky keyboard: from inside

Unfortunately, the above methods don't always work. This is especially the case if you have spilled soda or another liquid which has seeped under the keys. In these cases, it is very difficult to get rid of the sticky substances. You may have to remove all the keys one by one. It is labor intensive, but it is also one of the most effective ways of cleaning a keyboard.

The best way to do it is clean the keyboard from the inside, especially in the case of a mechanical keyboard. In laptops this is more complicated because you’ll have to open the laptop, which is not recommended if you’ve never done it before.

How to clean a mechanical keyboard from the inside

  1. Unplug the USB plug.
  2. Take off the back part of the keyboard with a screwdriver (make sure not to lose the screws!).
  3. Remove the keys, place them in a strainer and rinse with water. Make sure you dry keycap individually after.
  4. Clean the empty faceplate lightly with little isopropyl alcohol and water and dry well.
  5. Replace the dry keys.
  6. Close the keyboard again and screw well.

For any doubts, you can also consult a laptop technician at your local tech store.

For more tech cleaning tips and tech related hygiene, you may be interested in reading how to protect skin from technology.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Clean a Sticky Keyboard Without Removing the Keys, we recommend you visit our Computers category.

Write a comment

What did you think of this article?
1 comment
Does this work for how to clean a sticky keyboard mac computer
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Lauren
Yes, these cleaning keyboard techniques can be applied to various different keyboard types.
How to Clean a Sticky Keyboard Without Removing the Keys
1 of 3
How to Clean a Sticky Keyboard Without Removing the Keys

Back to top