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How To Clean Sticky Keyboard Keys on MacBook [10 Steps to Fix]


Sticky keyboard keys are a common problem with laptops, usually resulting from drink spillage, food crumbs, or other substances gumming up the keys. Fortunately, with this guide, it is an easy fix.

If cleaning your keyboard doesn’t work fix your issue, iFixit does sell replacement keyboards, upper cases and such for Macs.


6. Remap Keys

This is not a solution to fix the keys not working on the Mac, but a temporary workaround to get things done. Using the macOS keyboard settings, you can remap frequently used keys on the MacBook. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Click on the little Apple icon at the upper left corner.

Step 2: Open System Preferences menu.

Step 3: Select Keyboard from the following menu.

Step 4: Click on Modified Keys at the bottom.

Step 4: Click on Modified Keys at the bottom.

Step 5: Select the keyboard at the top and then remap keys from the bottom menu.

How can I fix my keyboard?

Before we go any further, the number one thing you should do is recall when your laptop was purchased from Apple. Was it less than four years ago? Then congratulations: Your keyboard can be fixed free of charge.


About the butterfly keyboard repair program

Because of the many, many complaints from butterfly keyboard victims (and an impending lawsuit claiming Apple knowingly sold faulty keyboards), Apple implemented a repair program; so long as your MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro with a butterfly keyboard was purchased less than four years ago, Apple will cover the costs of repair.


While that’s certainly good news—and a course of action you should absolutely take if available to you—it’s not all peachy. You’re still getting the same faulty keyboard, after all, so there’s no guarantee that it won’t fail on you down the road.

It really is the same keyboard, by the way. If your computer didn’t come with the slightly better membrane keyboard, you won’t get one in your repair. And while the program does last longer than Apple’s three-year AppleCare+ coverage, once you’re outside that four-year window, you’re on the hook for any charges related to fixing your keyboard.


What if I don’t qualify for the butterfly keyboard repair program?

For the rest of us whose butterfly keyboards are older than four years, we have a slew of “do-it-yourself” options. You could go get your keyboard replaced, but that can be a costly affair. Rossman Repair Group, for example, quotes this repair at $350, and warns you not to ask them to “fix this lemon.” Instead, you might want to consider some workarounds the Apple community has tried for fixing these keys.


One popular option is the condensed air trick: Grab a can of condensed air, then hold your MacBook up at a 75˚ angle (that’s Apple’s very specific advice, by the way). Then spray the condensed air left to right over the whole keyboard, or just over the keys that are giving you trouble. Rotate the computer to its right side and repeat, then rotate it one more time to its left side and repeat.

You can open up the keys yourself, but that’s an extremely risky maneuver, as the keys need to be removed both carefully and specifically based on their unique latch designs, and you can risk breaking either the keys or the components underneath. If you try to remove the space bar the same way you remove the “G” key, for example, you might end up breaking it.

3. Check USB Connection

If you are using a third-party keyboard with Mac, it’s time to recheck the USB connection on both sides. Make sure that the USB cable is connected correctly on both sides.

Why Do Keys Get Sticky on a Mechanical Keyboard? 

There can be several issues that can cause sticky keys on a mechanical keyboard. One of the prime reasons can be that you have spilled something accidentally on the keys. If you are someone who loves to eat and surf at the same time, you would definitely find your keys getting stuck. Before we can find how to fix sticky keys on mechanical keyboard, we will understand what causes a mechanical keyboard stuck key

Some of the reasons that a sticky key on a mechanical keyboard can include the following scenarios: 

The environment around your work area is home to dust and dirt. You will not realize the issues until you come across a mechanical keyboard stuck key. The sticky key on a mechanical keyboard can result due to the accumulation of dust particles inside the switches, and thus make them show symptoms such as sticky or repeated keystrokes. 

We love eating and drinking while at work. The food crumbs and liquid spills on the keyboard can make some of the keys get sticky due to the accumulation of the food items. Keeping a safe distance between the keyboard and your foodstuff can largely be helpful in avoiding sticky keys on a mechanical keyboard. 

How To Know That Sticky Keys is Working

By default, OS X will play a sound when enabling or disabling Sticky Keys and when a modifier key is pressed. Further, an overlay icon will be shown for each modifier key that is pressed. If the option to Show Universal Access status in the menu bar is enabled in the Universal Access system preferences, a marquee will appear next to the Universal Access icon in the menu bar stating that Sticky keys is on (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Sticky Keys Marquee.

Figure 2. Sticky Keys Marquee.

FAQs On Sticky Mechanical Keyboards

Q: How Do You Clean Sticky Keyboard Keys?

The best way to clean a sticky on a mechanical keyboard is to use rubbing alcohol and Instead of removing the keys directly, it may be a good option to use a combination of compressed air and rubbing alcohol to clean the sticky keys. 

Q: How to fix a repeating key? 

Repeating key can be a software issue. You can use control panel option for the keyboard and adjust the Repeat Delay rate to find if it solves the issue. You can follow the same steps in Mac as well. If the software is not a culprit, you can follow the other means of physically cleaning the keyboard. 

Q: How often should you clean the mechanical keyboard? 

You should ideally clean your keyboard at least once every week. You can simply wipe down the surface of the keyboard a couple of times. Make sure you are using a damp microfiber cloth. 

What you shouldn’t do

Never spray liquid of any kind onto your keyboard. This can cause water damage and leave you with a worse situation than sticking keys. Instead, use a damp cotton swab to gently clean the keys or an electronic cleaning wipe.

If you’ve got a butterfly keyboard, don’t ruthlessly pry the keys off because it can cause damage to the butterfly clip mounts. Instead, place a thin flat tool underneath the edge of the key and gently lift up.

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