Instructables

Clean Your Sticky Laptop Keyboard

Picture of Clean Your Sticky Laptop Keyboard
So your laptop keys stick for one reason or another. Perhaps you spilled a drink on it, or you just like to eat and surf the web at the same time.

I had the misfortune of spilling some Mountain Dew on my keyboard about two years ago, and this method has kept my keys working smoothly  ever since.  Cleaning your laptop is simple, but time consuming.  Take your time and don't try to force anything and you should have a perfectly functioning keyboard once more!

Click the "i" in the upper left hand corner of any picture to view the full resolution file.
56k beware, most of these files are 4-5 MB.

For any sticky situation, following these steps will make your keyboard work and feel like new!


 
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Step 1: Shut Down... Fast!

Picture of Shut Down... Fast!
If you just spilled something on your keyboard, shut your computer down as fast as possible!

Your first order of business is to shut down your computer and remove the battery - as quickly as possible if you spilled liquid on it. Force shut down your computer by holding the power button until it turns off. Any data loss during this process should be minimal and less costly than any shorted-out hardware.

Step 3: Initial Wipedown

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Soak up as much of any spilled liquid as you can with a paper towel or rag.  Make sure to get all surfaces of your computer, including the screen. 

It's quite possible that you splashed liquid into every deep dark crevice of your computer during your spill.  Use your cotton swabs if necessary, but don't worry about getting in between the keys, we'll get to that soon.

Step 4: Remove Keys

Before you start removing keys, take a high resolution picture of your key layout.  Alternatively you can draw the layout or use a friend or family member's computer as a reference.  The layout of certain keys can differ slightly among computer brands and models.

Your keys were basically snapped onto your keyboard at the factory... and therefore can be unsnapped.

Grab onto a corner of a key and firmly lift up.  You may be required to pry on more than one corner at a time to unsnap each key.  If a key (especially larger ones) prove difficult, wiggle a flathead screwdriver underneath the key and rotate the blade in several places to "persuade" it to let go.

If you spilled liquid on your keyboard, it will probably be necessary to remove the key carriers as well.  My carriers are white and rotate to allow the keys to move up and down.  These snap off similar to the keys, but yours may differ slightly.

This process will take some time, be patient and don't rush this part... that's a sure way to break something important.

Step 5: Clean Keys

The next step is to give your keys a soak in some dish soap (or other mild detergent) and warm water.  Fill your cup or container and drop in your keys.

I let my keys soak for about an hour.

Some of your larger keys may have one or several metal guide bars on their underside.  These bars slide into slots on your keyboard, so make sure not to bend the bars or their slots on your computer.

Step 6: Clean Keyboard

As you can see, I did not remove every key on my computer since only a few of them were sticking.

Dip your cotton swab into the rubbing alcohol and begin to clean around each key post.  Remember if any liquid made its way under your keys to remove the key carriers as well and soak them with the keys.

I found that some areas of the keyboard chewed up the cotton swabs fairly quickly.  If this happens, remember to remove any cotton snagged off the swab before replacing your keys.

Flip your computer upside-down on a towel and give it about an hour to completely dry.  If you are cleaning up from a liquid spill, let it dry at least overnight in case any liquid made it past your keyboard and into your computer case.

Step 7: Clean Keys... Again

Once your keys are done soaking, lay them out and pat them down with a paper towel or clean rag.  Allow them time to completely dry, usually an hour or two.

Although it may not be necessary, I recommend going over the backs of your keys and your key carriers with rubbing alcohol the same way you cleaned your keyboard.  Remove any guide bars and clean under these as well.  Replace the guide bars when you are finished.

Step 8: Reattach Everything

You're almost done!

After allowing time four your computer and keys to completely dry, reattach everything in reverse order that you removed it.  Key carriers, keys, and battery.  Test each key for function after you attach it.  If a key still appears to stick a little, repeat steps 5-7 as needed.

Refer to the picture or drawing you made in step 4 when reattaching your keys.  The keys and carriers just snap back into place, but make sure everything is aligned before applying any real pressure.  Again, take your time and don't rush this part, you can still snap part of a key or try to force a key into the wrong place.

Boot up your computer and test out your keys on a word processing program.  Make sure the letter you press on your keyboard is what shows up on your screen, it's very easy to switch two keys even if you were paying very close attention to their placement.

Step 9: Done!

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Now you're done!  Enjoy your revitalized keyboard! 

If for any reason a key starts to stick again, repeat this process until it functions smoothly.

Thanks for looking.

BarbH1yesterday

this does not work. the keys do not click back into the slot. there are 3 pieces to each key and you don't show how they go together. so now i have to take this laptop in somewhere and get it fixed, not too happy

johnapaz made it!1 month ago

Thanks for the instructions!

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JoAnn77PL3 months ago

Thanks so much for this post! Several days ago (before Easter) I spilled, well actually my ferret spilled a glass of Coke on my laptop. I obviously switched it off, patted it well and dried. But alt, shift and 'n' keys were so stuck with 'sugar-free' drink underneath that it was impossible to write anything. You gave me back my laptop technically :) Although shift still doesn't work perfectly, I hope that after repeat of procedure it will be ideal back again. THANKS!

bsaul18 months ago
I have the same problem but I think is more advanced in my case.
My laptop ( hp DV7) totally blocks - no answer from the keyboard, mouse or anything else. The only solution is to turn it off from the button. I tried to repair it, I have reinstalled the windows, drivers, I have cleaned up the cooler. Is till have the problem on a fresh installed OS. It still blocks all the time.
If the problem is still exsit,buying a a new keyboard is the best suggestion
http://www.keyboardfast.com/
all night for me. i only attempted this AFTER ordering a replacement for $10.50. those carriers are flimsy, but only one shot across the room - i found it. maybe 10% came apart. a few seemed a little mis-shaped from removal. I had to do they whole keyboard cuz the previous owner spilled a sugary coffee all over it. I found this out after taking the keyboard out to replace the cmos battery. "What's that brown stuff? Lick finger, rub, sniff... mmm, sweet coffee!"
Step 2: Spend $10 on a new one.
Believe it or not, the computer shop i worked for had a dishwasher in the back. We used it for computer panels and keyboards! It worked great, they came out looking brand new in most cases...
I inherited an old, "well loved" laptop that was born back in 2003 and after ripping the thing apart to change the CMOS battery, which required the removal of nearly eight thousand screws, and cleaning up an interior spill, of which I could only assume was soda (I hope it was soda!), I was dismayed to discover all my arrow keys, the right shift, end, alt and ctrl keys were all pretty dang sticky as well. I was terrified of snapping off the keys only to find I wouldn't be able to get them back on.

Your guide was extremely helpful and I'm happy to say my keys are nearly good as new and still work! I've been having a lot of issues with random BSODs and general flibbity jibbitness while trying to beat this thing back into shape and it occurred to me that a ctrl key that may be stuck partially down while trying to install things could throw a wrench into the works.

I'm sure the machine is just gasping its last breath but I'm going to continue to do CPR until there's nothing left to be done. What's ironic is after I delicately beat this thing back into shape, I'm going to be handing it over to a five year old to play educational games on since those will run just fine on an older machine. I'm thinking she'll turn it back into poo in less than a month.

Anyhow. Thanks for the guide! Very helpful!!
awarby2 years ago
Thanks so much! I got my computer back from having the keyboard replaced(under warranty) and found that they'd wiped my whole hard drive...and then the very next night I spilled part of a drink on it....there is a slight amount of liquid damage on the screen, but mostly just sticky keys. I think I can save her...but can I save me from my klutzy self ! HA! I shall try it!
THANKS for this instructable! My "p" key was sticking, and you gave me the courage and info to just pop it off and check it out. A little "goober" is now outta the way and I can use the p key to my heart's content.
THanks!
Good Instruc-- IS THAT YOUR THUMB? Holy mackerel, that mother is freaking LONG! Is that even natural? Jesus help us all! But yeah, good Instructable. Fortunately, I've not had to use it yet, as I take extra care when nomming around the computer.
admiral0014 years ago
Good Instructable, very thorough. If you forget to map your keyboard beforehand, you can also bring up the on screen keyboard. It also has the added benefit of lighting up the key on the screen when pushed on the keyboard for easy double checking.
babushkin4 years ago
dude thanks for this. I spilled coke on my new laptop and I used your guide to clean it up. The spacebar is still a little sticky, but otherwise, your methods worked beautifully. Took me over 6 hours from disassembling it to assembling it back lol
J-Five4 years ago
Prevention is the best method dont drink or eat at the computer.
karossii4 years ago
Pretty decent instructable. I wonder how long it will take for the 'sticky keyboard' porn jokes to commence?

Assuming my comment isn't considered one...