Dear Computer Lady,
Love your newsletter and the good information. This is kind of an unusual question: A couple of keys stick on my keyboard. I don’t know what to do other than buy a new keyboard. Is there anything I can use to clean it and how would I go about it?
Your computer keyboard can take a lot of abuse from dust and dirt, it is a good idea to clean it on a regular basis, and there are some things you can try when you get stuck keys like you have.
Before you begin though, you might want to consider just purchasing a new keyboard. You can get them at any office store, and basic models are under $20. You should also be prepared to purchase a new keyboard if cleaning the stuck keys doesn’t work, or in the event that you can’t get the keys back on the keyboard when you are done cleaning them.
First, collect your cleaning supplies. Get some canned compressed air, lint-free cloth, mild liquid dishwashing detergent, a small screwdriver (for removing keys), cotton swabs, and 90 percent isopropyl alcohol. Before you begin cleaning your keyboard, you need to shut down your computer and unplug the keyboard from the back of your computer. Never plug or unplug your keyboard or mouse while the computer is running, you can damage the port on the computer.
Start by shaking out any loose debris. Put a large piece of old newspaper on a table, turn the keyboard over, and holding it a few inches above the paper, shake out any loose debris.
Now, take your can of compressed air and use it to loosen and remove dirt by directing the air stream between the keys. Alternate the air with repeated shaking over the paper again.
To remove oils from your hands, dried on spills and other dirt from the surface of the keys, put a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent in warm water. Use a cloth dampened in this solution to gently clean off the key surfaces, and wipe the keys with a dry cloth.
If you are cleaning the keys on your laptop computer, or if your keyboard is mechanical (makes a clicking noise when you press the keys) you have done all the cleaning you can do. Only continue with the following steps if you have a membrane keyboard with stuck keys.
Take your screwdriver and gently pry off the stuck keys. Don’t forget which key goes where, and don’t try to take off the larger keys like “Enter”, “Shift” or “Tab” they can be hard to get back on and often have extra parts keeping them in place.
Use a cotton swab to clean out under the key, and the underside of the key itself. Use the alcohol only if you need to, and when you have gotten everything nice and clean and dry, replace the key and see if it will work freely.
Once your keyboard is completely reassembled and dry, plug it back into your computer, turn the computer on and see how it works.