How to Fix Sticky Keyboard Keys

Three Methods:Cleaning the KeysCleaning Under the KeysFixing Hardware and Software Issues

Stuck keyboard keys are almost always the result of liquid or debris hampering the key's movement. It's important to repair this using keyboard safe cleaning materials and not to apply any liquid directly. Occasionally, a loose connection or software issue can cause issues with keystroke recognition.

Method 1
Cleaning the Keys

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    Disconnect from power. Before you begin, unplug the keyboard or remove the batteries. If using a laptop, shut it down and unplug it.
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    Spray with compressed air. Pick a can up from an office supply store and spray around the base of each stuck key to dislodge dust and debris.
    • If you don't have compressed air, turn the keyboard upside down and tap the back while shaking gently.
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    Wipe with isopropyl alcohol. Dampen a cotton swab or clean cloth with isopropyl alcohol. Run it around the edge of each key to remove grease and dried liquid.[1]
    • Some people have reported success with baby oil, but it can remain in your keyboard, so use at your own risk.
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    Pick at gunk with a toothpick or paper clip. If you can see the debris underneath the key, use the toothpick or straightened paper clip to dislodge it.

Method 2
Cleaning Under the Keys

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    Photograph the keyboard. If you need to remove more than a few keys, take a photograph first so you remember which key goes where.
    • Before you continue, unplug the keyboard, remove batteries from a wireless keyboard, or shut down and unplug the laptop.
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    Refer to manufacturer instructions for laptops. Most laptops have keys that are difficult or impossible to remove. In these cases, you'll need a guide or advice specific to your laptop model, or you'll need to have your laptop professionally repaired.
    • Macbook keys from 2012 or later can be pried up by pulling the top left corner.[2]
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    Pry up the stuck keys. On desktop keyboards, the outer key covering can usually be pried up easily with a flat-head screwdriver.
    • Most debris is found in the letters and numbers. Other keys tend to be less dirty and more difficult to replace after removal, especially the space bar.[3]
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    Clean under the keys. Use compressed air to remove exposed dust and debris, and a cloth dampened with isopropyl alcohol to remove stickiness and stains.
    • For laptop keyboards and other keyboards with delicate internal parts, use gentle swabbing only.
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    Wash and dry the keys. If the underside of your keys are discolored or dirty, put them in a colander and run water over them, or rub them in a bucket of soapy water. Let them air dry completely on a paper towel.
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    Clean a laptop key hinge. Try this technique if your laptop key raises or lowers extra slowly. After removing the key, look for a square plastic object around the button. Remove this gently by pushing the corners sideways with a toothpick. Rinse this in water to clean the hinge, then let air dry.
    • On a Macbook, the catch that holds these hinges in place are on the lower left and right.[4]
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    Let dry before using. Let all the keys dry, then push them down over the buttons to reattach them. Let the keyboard dry overnight before you use it.

Method 3
Fixing Hardware and Software Issues

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    Test a different program. If you only have keyboard problems when using a single application, you'll need to look for help fixing that software issue.
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    Check the keyboard plug or battery. Inconsistent results from keystrokes can be caused by low battery power. USB keyboards work best when plugged directly into the computer, not into a hub, keylogger, or other device.[5]
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    Shut down the computer before reconnecting PS/2 keyboards. Keyboards with a circular, six-pin PS/2 plug sometimes encounter errors if they are connected while the computer is on. Shut down the computer, disconnect the keyboard, and reconnect it again.[6]
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    Repair internal laptop connections. If some of your laptop keys don't register when pressed, there could be a loose internal connection. Unless you have a guide for your model and are comfortable disassembling your laptop yourself, you should take it to a professional.


  • If all else fails, take the laptop or keyboard to a computer store. The store clerks usually have a special cleaning tool and/or experience removing keys.
  • If your keys move up and down normally, but sometimes characters don't appear on your screen, it could be a wiring problem. This is most common with recently disassembled laptops. Disassemble again and reattach loose connections, or take it to a computer store.
  • If you spill something on your keyboard, immediately remove the power source and turn it upside down. Wipe up as much as you can with a dry cloth, let it dry overnight, then clean as described above.[7]


  • Be very careful when removing keys or prying at debris beneath them to avoid breaking them.
  • Do not use cleaning sprays or cleaners that contain hydrogen peroxide. Do not apply liquids directly; use a damp cloth or cotton swab instead.[8]

Article Info

Categories: Maintenance and Repair